Creating an exit strategy for leaving your job

You’ve made up your mind to leave your job…now what? Many of my clients come to me because they are ready to leave their jobs. Some folks know exactly why. For others, it’s more of a feeling that it’s just not working any more. One of the things we work on is the exit strategy.

What’s the motivation to leave?

First of all, you need to know why you’re leaving; what’s going on? What are you experiencing and how is that different from before? Common reasons include:

  • Feeling stressed or burnt out
  • Conflict with a colleague
  • Bored
  • Change in working hours
  • Feeling undervalued
  • Lost direction and/or confidence
  • Change in circumstances e.g. moving to a new location

If it’s a feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on then it’s likely to be a misalignment between yours and the company’s values. That may have come about with a change in culture due to a takeover, merger or new staff. Or it may be because something has happened in your life that has changed you as a person e.g. becoming a parent, grief, or another big life event.

If you and the organisation/team no longer fit, what’s changed? Is there anything you can do to make it more enjoyable? This is an important one because you don’t want to jump into a similar position. 

Once you know this information then you can make sure any new company/role fits with your values and what makes you happy. Of course, it’s unlikely that every aspect of any role will be 100% enjoyable but we are definitely looking for an improvement and as close to 100% as possible! 

What is your plan?

If you’re sure you want to leave and you’re ready to give, or you have already handed in your notice then now it’s time to consider what you want to achieve in the final weeks/months so that you leave in the best way for you. This is the whole point of an exit strategy. Many people want to leave the company in the best way too, so they’re not left in the lurch. This is very generous and kind and would be the ideal but not at the expense of your own ideas and goals. 

The biggest dangers when it comes to an exit strategy are firstly promising to get more done than is possible and then feeling bad because you didn’t get it all done. The second is stepping off to soon and being bored/unconstructive. Here’s are my top things to consider:

Think about how you want to feel

Think about how you want to feel on your final day. Imagine you’re packing up your things; what kind of emotions are you feeling? Where are you feeling them? What’s your biggest success in this role? Is there anything you wish you had achieved? Now, take that information back into the present moment. What do you need to do to feel positive/calm/excited/{insert emotion of your choosing}?

Make a list of all your tasks

I’d encourage you to write a list of all your tasks, what’s outstanding, what else there is to do in addition to what you want to achieve in terms of feeling good about going. It could be a long list! Then if it’s too much for you think about what you can delegate and to whom. Is there someone else who’s looking for more responsibility or a challenge? Is there someone you could mentor? Could you push it back, delay it or bin it? What are your options?

What skills would you like to use?

Then think about your skills. Specifically, those which you want to use in a new role. These will most likely be the skills you’re good at, that you use most often or those you want to use more of. How are you going to use them over the time you have left?

Who can help you?

Finally, consider your network. Who do you know who can help – both right now and as you get closer to and beyond the finish line? It may be someone to help take on more work, as I described above. It might be a coach or mentor or it could be getting a new job through word of mouth. Remember that 70% of people get their new job through their network. 

This exit strategy combination allows achieving all you want to for your current team/company as well as preparing you for looking for new roles. I have written this for people who are ready to move on completely from a role but it’s also useful if you are about to go off on parental leave

Please note that you might need to leave immediately, with no plan, if your mental/physical health is suffering. If this is the case, see a GP first and take some time off. See if having space gives some perspective. Then, if you are able, take someone with you to talk to HR. If you need to then hand your notice in but please note that sometimes the uncertainty of not knowing what’s next overrides the benefits of getting out; it really depends on the person. If this sounds familiar then having someone impartial to talk to will help.

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