August 21, 2013

Avoiding Exit Wounds when Leaving your Job

businessman is throwing a dart to a dart boardDoes this seems like a weird topic for an article? If so, then this is evidence that you may need to read on. The transition from job-to-job is a crucial part of your career process. Just think of sport stars who are great in one team and make a bad move to another environment/team/role that doesn’t suit the person and his/her performance suffers. This can lead to a decline in the athlete’s career prospects and net worth. I call it a job exit wound.

Job transition is a crucial process in any profession or career path, and, if you are to avoid exit wounds, (such as being fired or accepting an unsuitable job as you have no alternatives) it should not be left to chance.

Where possible, leaving your job should be carefully orchestrated and should be planned months in advance of it happening as part of your long-term career strategy. The benefits of this more engineered approach to career transition include things like:

  • Being able to leave your current firm on your own terms,
  • Having the time to generate more career options and find the ideal job,
  • Being in a stronger bargaining position with potential new employers,
  • Being able to secure more favorable terms and, of course, the all important higher salary

In this article, we talk about some of the processes that you can adopt to ensure that you are able to leave your job in a way that enables it to become a stepping stone to the next stage of your career and avoid those exit wounds that can seriously hinder your future employment prospects.

Rule 1: Getting a job is easier when you have a job

Employees who are currently in a role are generally more employable than those who are between roles, so avoid leaving a job without securing a new job. This may be easier said than done as you can’t control if you are fired or laid off. Yet, there are strategies that you can adopt to help you stay more in control of your career – so you are more likely to be applying for jobs while in post—and these are:

  • Try to avoid resigning in haste, usually as a result of some workplace grievance. Try and get a transfer, try and work it out or start applying for a new job, but don’t just bail out. Hold your nerve, maintain focus and plan.
  • Also, be aware of signs that your job may be at risk, and never bury your head in the sand. Engage and ask questions during monthly company briefings. Always know the financial position of the company and, more importantly ,your department, as well as the market. If there is good evidence to suggest that the company may be in decline and there is a risk of layoff, this is the time to start considering alternative roles.
  • Be honest with yourself. If you are severely under performing you may be at risk of being fired. Don’t ignore the signs, try and understand why it isn’t working and fix it and/or start looking for a more suitable job (they are not mutually exclusive). Don’t wait until you are pushed as you will be in a worse position.

Rule 2: Don’t burn bridges, build them

If there is an acrimonious split from an employer there can be a temptation to hit out, sever  ties and effectively burn bridges. Never do this, as you could easily have to collaborate with ex-colleagues or employers in the future and it will be much better for you if they are cooperative rather than wanting to sabotage your career.

But, let’s be more positive than this, you should view your current colleagues as key members of your current and future network who can help you get other jobs or win new business. Your future success can depend on the power of your network and how well you use it.

So be proactive about your network, particularly when you know you may be leaving. Aim to settle any outstanding issues/disputes that you may have, particularly with senior staff. When you leave, write individual goodbyes and thank yous to your key contacts and a general one to the wider group and ensure it includes an invite for them to connect with you on LinkedIn. Join any ex-employee LinkedIn groups that may be available as you will find powerful allies in these groups too.

Rule 3: Organize your references

Identify potential referees and then ask them if they would be prepared to be a reference for future employment. Also, ask them if they would write a testimonial for your LinkedIn profile.

Rule 4: Avoid leaving your employer in the lurch

Always try to honor the notice period. Don’t be tempted to leave early, (unless you can negotiate it), to join a new employer as doing this while at the same time leaving your current employer in the lurch will damage your reputation and relationship with your former employer. This is something you must avoid doing if you are to build bridges with them and engender goodwill so they’ll potentially assist you in the future.



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Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.