We all have a career plan, but it’s also wise to have an exit strategy. “The exit plan is a launching platform and just as important as a job search,” says workplace culture strategist Steve Langerud.
Preparing for a time when you will leave a company is a wise move. “It is simply savvy business sense to have an exit strategy. Exit strategies help to protect the standard of living for you and your family. Reasons to have an exit strategy include gaining varied or deeper experience than someone can get in their current position, more money or more balance in their lives,” explains Aoife Quinn of Quinn HR Consulting.
What exactly is an exit strategy? “An exit strategy is knowing directionally where to head if circumstances require it. You’re not in the details of moving in that direction yet, because you don’t want to waste your time on false starts. It’s being well grounded in who you are, what you are seeking, and what trades you’re willing to make to get what you are seeking. It’s using your imagination to create options so that even if you don’t control what’s going on around you, you can control what you do in the face of it,” says leadership, business team, and transition Coach Tyler Parris, author of “Chief of Staff: The Strategic Partner Who Will Revolutionize Your Organization.”
Take steps to organize your exit strategy. Parris explains, “Think in terms of scenarios. If x (and y, and z) happens, what organizations are most likely to have needs that I can meet with my skills and strengths? Who would I reach out to for more info? At a high level, what would be some of the tradeoffs in those organizations?”
Think about your future work desires. “The first step to creating a truly successful exit plan is to truly understand yourself and your vision for the future. This will help you to decide which stepping stone you want to put your foot on for the next phase in your career. We all have a brand–the way someone sees us,” says Quinn. “And, you must also understand your own brand before you can market to others. Other steps include reviewing your personal financial needs and the needs of your family. You should then take steps to fill skill gaps with training and to strategically network with peers and leaders in the industry you wish to pursue.”
Also, have an exit strategy for an unexpected exit. “Have money set aside to allow for a rapid exit. Prepare your confidants for your transition. Let them know you will be needing help; clear your files and workspace for an easy exit; create an interim experience even if it is volunteering to smooth the transition and keep you engaged; and tell your your partner or family what is about to happen,” advises Langerud.
There’s nothing wrong with figuring out your exit strategy soon after you take a job. “We must keep an eye in the sideview mirror to understand what is coming up on our left or right and we must embrace change because the world is in a constant mode of rewiring, reorganizing and changing,” offers Quinn. “I recommend creating a resume very shortly after someone begins a new job. This is not with the intention of leaving but an exercise to determine what they want to get out of their current job and what they need to obtain to lay the foundation for the next phase of their career.”