Career Development: Creating a Two Part Exit Strategy

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If you are contemplating a career change may I suggest you consider an exit strategy? In the world of our careers, any time you are considering a change in careers, you would do well if you put together a strategy to pull the plug where you are in a professional way. In addition to that you should have yourself financially prepared for what will most likely be a change in your income. Both things are what I think are essential to a great exit strategy. Let’s look at what you should consider for both parts: Part 1 – Plan to pull the plug - Stay engaged – When we make a decision to leave a job we have already stepped off the mental cliff into the next job or career. It is seriously hard to stay engaged and contribute at the same level you did prior to your decision, yet you must. Don’t give your boss a reason to fire you before you’re ready to go. - Plan for completion- Your boss and your work peers will deeply appreciate you giving some thought about what shape you leave things. Examine the work you are doing and do your best to have things completed before you take your exit. If you can’t get it all done, work out a plan of delegation with your boss. That will allow you to fully educate someone else on what is needed to complete something you can’t finish. If you ever need to return, you will be remembered for how you leave as well as what you did while you were there. Leave with them all wanting you to stay. - Time your notice – If it will be a while before you leave in order to get your new gig going or pay off some bills, DO NOT TELL OTHERS at work. You have to keep this to yourself. All companies have unique personalities when it comes to learning about your departure. Some will see it as a form of disloyalty and want you out of there now. Others are fine with some lead time for giving a notice to quit. Even if you work for the latter, it’s best for your work assignments and relationships that people there don’t start viewing you as a “short timer” any sooner than necessary Part 2 – Financial Planning - Pay off any debt you have – Since you’re making a decision to completely change careers, you have to give yourself as much freedom as possible to make that decision. Some people won’t make that important change because of the burden they have financially. Even if you want to leave right now, unless you are completely assured of your new income, you have to limit your financial risk. - Get real about your living expenses – Do you really know how much you spend and on what? Most people really don’t. They know if their debt is going up or down and have only a vague idea about what is driving numbers. Begin tracking your expenses so you really have a handle on how much per month you’re spending at Starbuck’s or going out for Chinese. This will help you down the road if or when your income level changes. It will help you today if you need to build a reserve. - Build a reserve – Experts say you should have an emergency fund of around 3-6 months of expenses. If your new venture is apt to take several months to get started you would do well to be on the more conservative side of that estimate and go with 6 months. - Investment stash- If you are striking out on your own you most likely will need some capital to spend on getting your business up and running. If you are going to go to another company but will need education or certification classes, you will need to have to costs covered. In either case you may need to be investing a chunk of money on your next step. - Get family buy in – If you are not living solo, you need to review your plan with your family and get their agreement to modifying their spending habits. You can’t assume just because you told them at the dinner table you were going to start up a business that they will automatically translate that into anything that will impact them. You may also want their emotional support during the start up phase and this would be a good time to ask them. All too many people allow the financial concerns of a career change to stop them in their tracks. Although they are unhappy at work, they are overwhelmed mostly by unknowns. If you are not moving forward in making this important decision, you may want to start out by creating an exit strategy to give you a better picture of how you could move forward. It may take a couple of years to put everything into place. It may be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.

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