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).

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