How to Plan an Exit Strategy From a Job

It’s too late. You’re a demotivated, shuffling, groaning shell of an employee. A full-blown work zombie.

Your relationship with your job has turned totally toxic. It’s time to breathe new life into your career and seek out a fresh challenge.

Before you give your current job the kiss of death, create a personal survival guide. Leave your job the right way.

1. Define the problem

Be clear about the itch you’re scratching. Do you dislike your role, your boss, your colleagues, your organisation, or the sector you work in? Your employer will find it much cheaper to retain you than replace you, so think hard about the possibility of doing something different where you are now.

A secondment to a new team may solve the problem instantly. Otherwise explore opportunities for career development, training, and lateral moves – before you throw yourself at the marketplace. If so, be clear about whether you’re looking for the same again or something different.

2. Stock your lifeboat before you jump ship

Don’t go anywhere near recruiters without clear evidence. Catalogue your skills, know-how, and list a couple of dozen achievement stories which showcase your strengths. Learn how to write and talk about times where you added value, created something new, or made a difference.

Keep your evidence focused – look at the top six “must-have” requirements of your target roles and make sure this evidence appears in the first half page of your CV. Learn how to summarise what you’re looking for and what you good at in a way which is memorable and authentic.

3. Stop singing the zombie blues

You may feel like the working dead, but don’t job search like a zombie. Interviewers remember enthusiasm longer than information, so rehearse your interview evidence so you sound energised.

Plan for the question “why do you want to move on?”, remembering that employers fill jobs to solve problems, not to rescue unhappy workers.

Talk about what attracts you in the new role, not what pushes you away from the old one. Research potential roles carefully so can summarise why you’re an excellent fit.

Resist the temptation to badmouth your current employer – it simply makes you look like a problem waiting to happen.

4. Look before you leap

If you want to move into a new sector, above-average research is vital. Too many candidates sound naïve and uninformed when approaching the organisations. Don’t just look at websites – ask around so you understand employer wish lists.

Interrogate job boards to identify likely job titles and to pick up the language being used to describe top performers. Don’t assume your skills are transferable; translate them into meaningful terms.

Visit organisations in person and speak to a wide range of people to show that you’re a genuine and credible career changer.

5. Gradually increase your visibility

You probably don’t want to your employer to know you’re moving on. Announcing your intentions on social media may see you eased out quicker than you’d like. Mass-mailing your CV will have a similar effect in a small industry.

But don’t hide under a rock – finding a next role will be as reliant on face-to-face conversations as any other form of job search.

Take time out to renew contacts and visit people who are performing interesting roles working in attractive organisations. Meet people out of hours if possible, but otherwise take leave as an investment in your future.

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