Q: How can I create an exit strategy to leave a job gracefully? My time here is done. I’m not sure what comes next, and that frightens me a bit I must admit, but I can’t wait here any longer or I’ll go from the wire. I don’t want to leave here on bad terms, though, difficult and all as things have been. (FG, email ).
A: Your primary focus should be on an entrance strategy rather than an exit one – how can you find a job you’d like to chase so that you can leave your current one? Where will you enter next is a key question for you, rather than just focusing on what you are currently planning to exit.
Career movement can be tricky, and we often struggle to see the wood from the trees. Having a good idea of where you wish to go next is an essential part of any exit strategy. Even a general idea of the new direction is a help. Far too often, an exit strategy is just a jump from the frying pan to the fire.
I believe you should identify what you value in a job or career – working with people, working on your own, a hybrid of both of those models, leading new initiatives, maintaining existing projects, representing the company in public or discreetly supporting a front-of-house person in the background, and so on.
You also need to identify which skills you like using – writing, designing, programming, getting into intricate numerical detail, overseeing others, teasing out strategic opportunities, and the like.
To avoid the frying-pan-to-fire effect, familiarise yourself with your personal preferences. When you have created a list such as the one I have flagged above, you can evaluate new jobs or careers against it. To thine own self, be true.
With a clearer idea of where you want to go, you can focus much more effectively on that area. “Don’t become a wandering generality,” said Zig Ziglar, “be a meaningful specific.”
When you line up your next job, avoid burning bridges as you exit your current position. Polite, well-written emails to key people and to offer your assistance at any time in the future can bring down the curtain gracefully on your current role.
Even if the job was tricky at times, or some of the relationships didn’t work out as well as you would’ve liked, it is wise to exit in a friendly and mannerly way. The old Irish saying tell us ‘’is fada an bothar gan casadh” – it’s a long road that has no turn. People you may not have got on with in this role may turn up down the road and you want to be able to interact with them professionally.
Take your time. Walk the corridor to say the goodbyes. If there’s a ‘going away’ for you, thank people for coming along.
Thank those who need to be thanked. Make it clear you’ll always be happy to take a phone call to help if advice or contacts are needed. Draw the line under it and then move on.
Every day is school day. And every place we work forms part of that most intriguing of stories known as our life.
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