As an intern who has been working at her current company for less than a month, I still require a bit of hand-holding. This is my first time working in my industry of choice, and I have to do a lot of learning on the job. As a result, I spend much of my time following my boss around, asking her questions, and learning through trial and error. Normally this isn’t a problem — except now my boss has left to go on vacation.
When my boss told me she was leaving the office to go on vacation in Europe I was both terrified and excited. I knew this was going to be a challenge for me because part of my support system would be missing. I also recognized this occasion as an opportunity, however, to prove to my boss that I could handle things on my own.
The absence of your boss (whether for a short period or forever) can be a stressful experience no matter what position you’re in. Even if you’re higher up on the totem pole at your job, you might feel a little lost when your boss is out of office. It’s best to have a strong game plan to take advantage of the situation rather than fall apart.
First, before my boss left, I asked her exactly what she wanted me to do while she was gone. This is a seemingly obvious step, but you shouldn’t take it lightly! If you run into your boss in the elevator and ask what they want done while they’re gone without taking any notes, chances are, you won’t get the best information. Instead, you should formally set up a time to meet and discuss your boss’ expectations for their time of absence.
In addition to taking note of everything your boss wants done while they’re gone, you should take note of everything that gets done (or said) while they’re away. When your boss returns, they’ll want a comprehensive list of everything that occurred when they were out. If you can’t remember everything that got checked off the list or you give your boss incorrect information about what happened while they were gone, it can cause problems down the road.
Sometimes, when the boss is gone, you’ll find you have a little less to do. The person who normally emails you and gives you more projects and work just as you finished the last task… they’re gone! This means, you should make sure that things get done really well. Everything you produce should be as flawless as possible when you have extra time to get it finished. If you have plenty of extra time on your hands, you should try to delve into any projects that tend to get tabled or pushed aside. Then, when your boss comes back to work, you’ll be able to show them a little something extra.
Of course, you can also leverage this period of time to do things that are a little more selfish in nature. For example, since your boss isn’t around to give you 8 more tasks right before 6pm, take this time to actually leave work when you’re supposed to. If you’re finished with your work for the day and it’s closing time, leave! If you want to enjoy a good work-life balance, you have to take advantage of your free time. It might seem like a good idea to stay late while the boss is away to hammer out a couple extra things, but in reality, you shouldn’t sacrifice your time in order to complete the extra projects. Those should be worked on if you have time during the day. In the evening, go to your favorite fitness class, read a book, or spend time with your family.
If your boss gives you extremely little to do while they’re away and you’ve run out of side projects, find productive ways to spend your time. In my spare time, I like to read relevant blogs for my industry (as well as a few fun ones!) and clean up my social media profiles. When was the last time you updated your “about” section on Facebook or filled out your latest job information on LinkedIn? If you have time to waste, spend some time making your social profiles more professional by setting up your privacy settings in a more strategic way. Just make sure nobody walks behind you and thinks you’re spending your whole workday scrolling on Instagram.
When your boss returns, they should feel like you’ve grown while they were gone.