With the employment picture showing some signs of life, you may be weighing the pros and cons of looking for a new job. As exciting as the prospect of leaving might be — just be sure you don't head for a cliff! You want your job exit strategy to resemble more of the calculated leap of a leopard — not haphazard frog leaps to ill-fated jobs, as you're caught in the allure of long-awaited freedom.
Examine Why You Want to Cut and Run
Problems can reappear in the next job if you don't take the time to first examine what's wrong with your current position, not the least of which is how you "manage up" with your boss.
There are some practical risks associated with quitting. For example, seniority has its merits: it's harder for an employer to let go of someone who's been trained in a specific skills set, company culture and who is integral to the team. You may be able to leverage these advantages by asking for more responsibility and compensation — assuming most other aspects are palatable.
If the boss is the problem, examine how you’re relating to him or her. Early in my own career, I observed how difficult it was for both boss and employee to come to the table and talk through conflict — which ultimately became my passion. Time after time, I found that by taking the initiative I could break the communications barrier, making all the difference in the world — with not only supervisors, but peers and other team members, too.
Before you leap into the abyss of the great unknown, make sure you’re not bringing some recurring issues with you. Here are some steps to consider:
• Examine the pro’s and con’s of leaving.
• Create a list of what can be done to improve your situation.
• Make a list of your skills sets, and determine which additional ones would be useful in your current position.
• Consider what's right with your current job, not just the "wrongs.”
• Ensure that you’ve confronted problems directly and uncovered every possible communications avenue, with everyone involved.
If you’ve done everything possible and find your situation untenable, then start looking for greener pastures. But try to avoid leaving before you have accepted your next solid offer.
Exit Strategies Count
There are "memorable" ways to quit - and then there are more acceptable, professional approaches.
Remember the JetBlue flight attendant who yelled over the plane’s address system that he quit, grabbed two beers, pulled the emergency evacuation slide and slid into the media spotlight? Dramatic, but definitely not a career building block. Ideally, you’ll ramp down the fed-up feeling instead — and develop a more forward-thinking plan. Your departure may not buzz the Twitter universe — but your professionalism will be long remembered. Strong references will help you build your reputation and career for years.
If you’ve decided that the grass is greener over yonder, then follow the DO’s...and stay away from these DON’Ts!
Give Passive – Aggressive Hints That You’re Leaving. Set your ringtone to the country classic, “Take This Job and Shove It”; change your screensaver to an animation of your boss skipping across your screen setting fires to desks; and record an outgoing voice mail that says, “I’m sorry I'm not here right now, but I won't be returning...EVER!"
Generate a Checklist of "To Do's." For example: “Update resume; create list of solid references; schedule interviews; update your social networking profiles on such sites as LinkedIn and Facebook. Do this on your own time, e.g., at home or at lunch on your personal laptop.
Become Jaded. Every time your boss passes by, pretend to shiver and say, “Please Mr. Scrooge, just one more piece of coal for the fire?” Or, “May this humble servant get more ice for your castle, my Queen?”
Check Out a Prospective Boss’s Reputation. Make sure you're not going from the frying pan into the fire. Through job interviews, social media and other sources, become a sleuth: try to determine how your prospective new boss and employer operate; the culture; and management style. You don’t want to go from Mr. Scrooge to Mr. Freeze.
Make a Dramatic Exit. Enter dressed in a top hat and tails with two lively tap-dancing assistants who sing: “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone.” Then take it to the hallway. (Just make sure the duo can quickly haul your personal items to the car as you make your final exit.)
Stay Enthusiastic. As hard as it may be, until you walk out the door (and beyond) — remain on good terms with your boss, peers and the company in general. Remain a team player and offer to help during the transition (within reason). Stay visible and focused on the job at hand until it’s time to go.
Remember, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your work/life choices. This is the time to examine what you really want. The big leap may be to the next job, or right before you at your own position.
Whatever you do, stay clear of airplane address systems.