Businesswoman standing near the entrance of labyrinthWe know that most of you are disengaged in your work, (about 87% of you to be precise according to Gallup); one in four of you don’t trust your employers (indicates this AMA study); and, most important, two-thirds of you experienced some kind of pay cut during the recession. This means that many of today’s employees have had their patience tested for too long and are now operating on the edge and primed to blow at the smallest employer infraction, which could lead to a sudden or unplanned resignation in the heat of the moment.

You can, of course, recover from a sudden and vexatious resignation, but it can seriously put the brakes on your career progression if you leave a company in haste without an exit strategy in place. For starters, it is likely to come across as impulsive or ill-judged if you have resigned in haste without a job offer in place. Potential employers could regard this as a sign of poor decision making while under pressure. You will also find yourself in a weaker negotiating position as the employer knows you have no other options and this decreases the chances of you finding a more suitable job on the right terms in a short time period. Quitting in haste and without an exit strategy will put you on the back foot from day one.

So, if you are sitting with your resignation letter in your back pocket, or you feel you simply can’t muster the energy to work at your employer any more and must resign today (without a plan/job), stop and devise your exit strategy.

A good exit strategy should take around 3-6 months to execute, probably longer for senior candidates. This gives you time to find a job, which takes about 10 weeks on average, according to recent U.S. DOL figures. It also gives you some reflective time to see if a career or at least direction change is needed and to decide which roles and/or companies will comprise the next most effective career steps. This minimizes the chance of your next move being a backward step, or a jump from the frying pan into the fire.

You’ll also want to do some planning around any service-related benefits you may have. For example, is it worth staying an extra few months so you qualify for any service-related benefits, such as shares or annual bonus payments?  It seems a shame to throw this away unless you are sure you can get it compensated for in a new job. Additionally, is it worth staying an extra few months so you can complete a full year tenure, e.g. 1 year or 2 years. It’s much better PR on your resume.

Taking 3-6 months to leave also gives you time to execute an effective networking campaign, which could involve making contacts with recruiters, hiring managers and peers in other companies to inquire about upcoming opportunities and share knowledge. You may or may not know that word-of-mouth hiring is currently the most effective way to find a job, and that studies show you are much more likely to be selected for interview and be offered a job if you are referred by an employee of a prospective employer or an influential contact. So, use your prolonged exit period to engage influencers both inside and outside the company to help find more relevant opportunities and convert them into interviews and job offers.

When you do come to leave, it’s vital to resign and honor your notice periods to ensure that you maintain strong relations with your current employer as you’ll rely on them to provide you with good references for your next job – and they may be able to help you to achieve future career or business objectives. As you can see, a job exit strategy is a crucial part of the job transitioning process that will enable you to make progressive and suitable career steps over the course of your working life.

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