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So You Want to Quit Your Job

That’s it! You’ve had it! This is the last time you ever want to deal with your jerk boss/snide coworkers/negative culture, etc. You have made up your mind that you cannot spend even another day in your job. But soon your emotions calm down, your rational mind takes over and the cold realization sets in that you don’t really know how to quit your job and find something better. Your hopes dashed, you convince yourself there is no hope and you are destined to be stuck in your dead-end job forever.

Sound familiar? I bet it does. Feeling demotivated and frustrated in your career is perfectly normal, but changing jobs (especially changing companies) can be very stressful. I should know: I have switched companies twice during my career and each company had a radically different culture. Importantly, we live in an increasingly connected world so how you quit is becoming more important as you will want to manage and minimize any negative fallout.

Below are my suggestions on how to effectively change jobs:

  1. Assess the situation. The last thing you want to do is leave a job because of a bad situation only to start a new job and, well, end up in the same bad situation. You can avoid this by spending some time soul searching. Ask yourself what you like about your current job that you want to find in a new job? What do you dislike that you want to avoid? I also strongly recommend you spend some time with the Ikigai model [Here] to understand the type of job that will not only help you achieve your financial goals, but will help you find a sense of purpose.
  2. Identify whether your dissatisfaction is situation, company, industry or function specific.
    1. If the source of your dissatisfaction is tied to a specific situation (don’t like your boss, coworkers, etc.) but you like the company you work for, consider trying to find a new job within the company. There are lots of benefits to doing this including maintaining existing benefits, networks, etc.
    2. If the issues you have are company specific (slow career progression, poor culture) you will likely want to switch companies. Although leaving your company presents higher risks (you will likely have to walk away from unvested equity/401k, etc.) the benefits can be great if you find a better fit for your skills.
    3. If you are struggling with your function (e.g. you are in Accounting but think your passion lies in Marketing) you may have the opportunity to stay with or leave your current company.
    4. Finally, if your issues are industry specific (e.g. you are in the Automotive industry but want to be in the Construction industry) you will likely need to change companies unless you work in a multi-sector conglomerate.
  3. Develop an Action Plan. Once you have identified what you are looking for, you will need to develop an action plan to bring structure and focus to your job search.
    1. If you want to stay with your existing company, your likely next step will be to have a conversation with your manager and HR. Even if your manager is your source of dissatisfaction, it is important to start with him/her to avoid any perception that you are trying to deceive them. Tell your manager that you are ready for a new role in the company and ask for their support. After the meeting with your manager you will want to schedule some time with HR for their advice on how to proceed. If you don’t already have a strong internal network, start setting up informational interviews and looking for positions on the internal job boards. Resist the urge to apply for every available job- this will look like you are desperate to find a role. Your goal should be to quickly identify your top 1-2 positions of interest, network with people close to those roles (hiring manager, colleagues, etc.) and interview well.
    2. If you want to leave your company, your next step should be external networking and reaching out to recruiters. Ensure your resume and LinkedIn profiles are up to date (and clean up your Facebook and other social media profiles!) and check external job postings. When possible, leverage your network to set up informational interviews with target companies. Any foot in the door is valuable, and be sure to focus on company culture during your research. Websites like Glassdoor are very valuable for corporate insight, but make sure you also read some analyst reports to prepare for any interviews you receive.
    3. If you want to switch functions and stay with your current company you will likely need to work with your management to identify a career broadening opportunity (M&A Integration Manager or an International Assignment are great options) that gives you exposure to other functions. If you want to switch functions and leave your current company you may want to consider pursuing an MBA  if you think you can benefit from the program and the costs (time and money) do not turn you off. It will be difficult (though not impossible) to function-switch while moving to a new company, but the risks are high for both you and the hiring company. As such, I strongly recommend you try to switch functions with your current employer to get at least 2 years of experience before trying to move to new company.
    4. Unless you work for a multi-industry conglomerate, you will likely have to switch companies to enter a new industry (note: if you DO work for a conglomerate, follow the “stay with your company advice” in #1 above…). If you want to pursue a new company in a different industry, you will have to start networking and using recruiters in the examples above. Importantly, you will need a strong “story” as to why you want to switch industries, so start crafting your elevator pitch.
  4. Understand the financial implications of a change. If you leave your role, will you walk away from any accrued bonuses? If you leave the company, will you lose any benefits or equity? Many people walk away from bad jobs into bad financial situations, so do some research and understand the impact of any change to your bank account.
  5. Keep your search quiet. This part can be tricky: you will want to leverage your network to find new opportunities but (especially if you are switching companies) you will NOT want anyone to know you are looking for a new job. Don’t apply for jobs while at work, update your LinkedIn profile but do not state on it you are looking for a new job, and don’t tell your colleagues anything you wouldn’t want your management to hear (its shocking how much gossip I overhear every single day).
  6. Be patient. Job searches, when done right, take a lot of time. The bigger your title, the longer it will likely take to find a new job. I am currently a Vice President at a Fortune 500 company. If I decided to find a new lateral (ie. no promotion) job starting tomorrow, I would expect my search to take 12-18 months. Yes, months. That is a very long time, so you need to be mentally prepared to run this marathon. More importantly, expect a good deal of rejection, which brings me to my next point…
  7.  Ensure any new job is a good fit. Because job searches can take a lot of time and you will likely have your hopes dashed at least a couple of times during this process, its critically important you do not automatically accept the first job offer you receive. This is a common mistake. Remember that finding a job is about FIT and the position needs to be right for both you and the employer. If it doesn’t feel right or isn’t a good fit, trust your intuition. The last thing you want to do is leave a bad situation only to end up in another bad (or even worse) situation.
  8. Leave respectfully. Two very important points here:
    1. Give your resignation notice ONLY after you have cleared every hurdle and accepted the new position. I cannot stress this enough and I know horror stories of candidates receiving verbal offers, quitting their current jobs, then never receiving a formal offer, having the offer rescinded, issues with drug tests/background tests, etc. I will repeat again: DO NOT quit your current job until you have the new job 100% lined up with a start date and any other logistics complete.
    2. The world feels like a big place, but the corporate world is a very small place (especially with social media). One year ago I left one company in the Midwest to join another 1000 miles away in another country (Montreal, Canada) in completely different industries and we recently hired someone from my old company. I have also run into former colleagues multiple times. As such NEVER BURN BRIDGES! Even if you are leaving due to a boss or coworker you cannot stand, resist the urge to “tell them off.” Do not disparage your old company and colleagues even if you had a negative experience. Realize you were not a good fit for the company and culture and move on. This goes for social media as well.
  9. Leave Professionally. Leave in a way that minimizes any potential damage to the business. Finish or hand off important projects to colleagues, turn in all IT or other company assets, and go out of your way to care until you walk out the door for the last time. Ensure you get contact information from colleagues so you can keep in touch and build your network. Be generous in your final days and send “thank you” notes to mentors and other people who supported you  during your tenure.
  10. Focus on a new beginning. Don’t be surprised if you become emotional during your last few days at your old job. Changing jobs is a big deal and can likely be more emotional than you expect. This is all normal. Try to focus on being successful at your new job and focus your energy on looking forward, not backward.

Switching jobs can be both an intensely stressful and rewarding experience. If you follow the steps above you will avoid common mistakes to ensure your transition to a new role is as smooth and successful as possible.

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