You dread going to work and feel stressed, stagnant, or unhappy when you’re there. You can feel in your bones it’s time to leave this job, but the thought of actually taking that leap is a daunting one. As I’ve written about before, sometimes searching for a job can feel like a full-time job itself.
An action plan is key to turning your overwhelming prospect of leaving a job into a much more manageable process. A career exit strategy means taking your dissatisfaction and creating a proactive plan for leaving your current job or career field. Having an exit strategy in place can help make a career transition smoother when the time comes—or even give you the courage to make that transition in the first place. Here are some tips on what to do before you quit your job.
Assess your current situation
Take stock of where you currently stand in your career. Consider things like:How long you’ve been in your current role and with your employerWhat you like and dislike about your current jobYour skills, strengths, and passionsYour long-term career goals and vision
This assessment will help you determine if and when you should make a career change. Be honest with yourself about whether your current job is still taking you where you want to go.
It’s important to consider whether any issues you’re facing are temporary or unlikely to change. If you’ve tried improving conditions without success, exploring new opportunities may be the right move.
Explore your options
Once you’ve decided it’s time to move on, research possible next steps. If you don’t even know where to get started, think of broad options you have:Transitioning to a new role within your current companyJoining a new company or industryGoing back to school to gain new skillsBecoming self-employed and starting your own businessTaking a career break or mini-retirement
Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of each option based on factors like your lifestyle, priorities, and financial needs.
Set target timelines
Create a roadmap for your exit that includes specific target dates—having timeline goals will help you take concrete steps to prepare. Your timeline may include:When you’ll start networking, applying, or taking classesWhen you plan to formally give notice at your current jobYour last day at your current positionWhen you’ll start a new role or take time off
Save and budget
An exit strategy takes more than planning. It also takes, well, money. Determine what financial resources you need to cover any transitional periods. Boost your savings to have adequate cash reserves. Research costs like advanced education, career coaching, or starting a business. Create a detailed budget to ensure you can afford the transition.
Update your brand
The term “personal brand” makes me want to shrivel up and pass away, but there’s no denying its usefulness. If you’re not on LinkedIn, sign up now. It’s in your best interest to be findable by prospective employers, and to look like a strong candidate when they do find you.
Freshen up your online profiles, resumes, websites and other personal branding elements. Tailor these to highlight your skills for future employers or clients. You want your brand to align with and showcase your new career direction.
Tap your network
I get it: Sometimes sending your resume via Indeed.com feels like sending your resume into an empty void. It’s your pre-existing in-person connections that you need to tap into. I’m not saying you need to make a Facebook status for the first time in eight years, but you should start putting out feelers with friends, family, family friends, friends of friends—you get the picture.
Another way to put yourself out there (and enhance your “brand”) is to publicly add to your professional skillset and connections. Enroll in courses or trainings to close any skills gaps, making sure to form relationships along the away. Take on projects that help you gain abilities useful for your future plans, and post about them. Expand your network by researching and connecting with professionals working in your desired new field.
Put all this in a handy spreadsheet
It’s no secret that I love a good spreadsheet. Taking all the sections above and laying them out in one spreadsheet can do wonders for your sense of organization and preparedness. The elements of your spreadsheet depend on your specific situation, but here are three main tabs to get started:Goal setting and preparationTracking progress (applications sent, informational interviews set, etc.)Evaluating and self check-ins
Having a purposeful and strategic career exit plan empowers you to make proactive moves and be in control of your career trajectory. Follow these steps to put together your own customized career exit strategy.