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Job Exit Planning Strategy

I feel somehow sad today (Aug 31, 2011) to see one of my colleagues “laid-off”. I put quotation mark around “laid-off” because he is a contractor (same as myself), so it is not, strictly speaking, the real laid-off, however, this “laid-off” was a bit unexpected as the project we are working on is still profitable and the laid-off has nothing to do with performance either.

This makes me remember the words from a regional high-ranking IBM executive, he once told me that “The first day when I take over a position, I have already planned the day that I will leave this position”. That was in 1997.

I have to say his words have a tremendous impacts on my career planning and I have followed his words ever since.

The market is so volatile these days, companies come and go at an amazing speed. Even mature companies practice frequent laid-off during tough times. That’s why I believe a proper exit strategy / planning is good to our psychological well-being and also make us disciplined in job-related decisions.

I think a job exiting plan should include the following points

1. Why should you consider exiting your current job?
Too much office politics, no growth potential, zero tolerance with your boss / colleague, your current responsibility change? or some personal reasons, i.e reallocate to a new place with your spouse ? it is better to list some criteria here for your disciplined decision instead of a decision made when the head is overheated.

2. When should you consider exiting your current job?
There are always some indicators that should “warn” you of the potential job loss, such as company M&A, company profit loss, company restructure, project cancelled etc. With all these indicators, you may decide the best time for you to exit the job, and start to plan everything accordingly, such as engaging an agent to look for new opportunities, searching related job openings etc.

3. How should you exit your current job?
I believe a professional should exit the job (even involuntarily) with appreciation, grace and integrity. At least, when we first accept the job, we have evaluated many factors, and the job has provided us a platform to grow since we accepted the job. From this perspective, do anything that is necessary to show your appreciation and professional integrity, one of the most important is to facilitate the successor to take over the job easily and successfully, this may include documentation, demonstration and knowledge transfer. It is a small world, esp. in IT field, so always considering your professional reputation when handling job exit activities.

4. What is the B-plan?
It is not always the case that we can get what we want, so for any job exit plan, we need to come up with a B-plan, in case there is a prolonged time before we get the next ideal job. There are many things we can put into the B plan, such as financial planning, study plan for something we really want to learn but do not have time with the current work load, travel plan, gym plan etc. In short, in the B plan, we should make our non-work time worthwhile instead of simply looking everywhere for the next job and worrying about it.

For myself, I have been following my exit plan since 1998, and during these years, I benefited a lot, esp. to my emotional well-being, as I have never felt that I am unprepared for my job change. In the best scenario, I quitted my job in the morning and got my ideal job the same afternoon (unexpected).


Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 1 September 2011

Good advice and I've seen it put another way. Always consider yourself self-employed. You are working for yourself and everything else is a limited term contract.

Posted by -- Cranfield on 1 September 2011

My reasons for jumping about have been the following.  I have been fortunate never to be laid off but seem to get itchy feet after a few years at every job..

Left first job at family business to pursue a career in COBOL programming...

Left 1st IT job at an insurer after a year to go to London with my girlfriend.

Left DBA position at a Japanese Bank after 2 years after being offered a job at Microsoft! Who could refuse? - Less pay but fantastic opportunity..

Left Microsoft after 3 years to return to my country of birth – South Africa (homesick).

Left DBA job at Gaming Company after 2 years to start my own business which failed after a year :(

Moved back to London to recoup finances and got a DBA job with NYSE Euronext.

Left NYSE Euronext after 3 years after offered DBA job with Microsoft in Shanghai, China  I’m still here. Who knows when they’ll pull the plug on this one...

United States next perhaps... if thye'll let me in!

I suppose we’ll have to settle down soon but the kids are still young and we like the adventure.

See this link I wrote when I left my last job in London..

www.mssqltips.com/.../leaving-a-sql-server-dba-job-gracefully

Posted by Jeffrey Yao on 2 September 2011

Alan Cranfield, I am amazed at your "job-hopping" experience, and esp. feel glad to know you are in Shanghai, which is very close to my birth city, WuXi, we may have a drink if I am in ShangHai next year (hope you are still there at the time)

Thanks for your comments.

Jeff

Posted by tlockwood on 2 September 2011

I especially like #4 ‘What is the B-plan?’.  I left the workforce in 1986 to raise the kids and this kind of planning was useful in preparation for my return 17 years later.  In effect, I had to come up with a re-entry plan instead of an exit plan.  It has worked out well, and after a few job hops I am in a position that is interesting work, allows me to grow, and doesn’t consume me 24/7.

Posted by alan_cranfield on 3 September 2011

Hi Jeffrey - of course please contact me when you are in Shanghai for a drink.  Also, there are man jobs going at Microsoft and elsewhere here in China... How about a move back?

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