Site icon Maureen Mitchell

Facing Career Transition, and Coming Out Ahead

Facing Professional Change and Coming Out Ahead

Is it time for a change?

A few years ago the trajectory of my career collided with several key events in my life: the upcoming birth of my first grandchild, the sale of the business I was actively engaged in, and the death of a close friend after a long illness. Suddenly, the importance of time, and of flexibility, came into sharp focus.

I had an abiding sense of how fast the clock was ticking, and I knew that I wanted — I needed — to make changes in my life.

As I pondered my decisions, I recalled the many times throughout my career when I had coached colleagues and others grappling with similar issues of transition. While each person facing professional change has their own unique circumstances, there are nonetheless some broad themes and questions that inevitably arise when you reach some kind of professional or personal inflection point. Questions like the following:

What’s really happening here, beneath the turmoil? What’s my best move? Is it time to leave? What if I get fired? Should I try to ride out the storm?

I decided to share some of the principles I learned through my own transition — and offer them in the hope that they might help you separate the practical issues you must navigate from the distortions we all feel when our emotions are engaged. (And let’s face it: how could they not be, when so much is up in the air, and our professional reputation and livelihood are at stake?)

Knowing when to leave your job

Stepping back, taking stock, and assessing our careers and the type of professional life we enjoy are of critical importance throughout our careers. (And never more so than in our mid- to late-stage career years, when it’s all too easy to get “stuck” — precisely when time is most precious.)

So how do you decide it’s time to leave? Ask yourself the following questions:

The decision on whether to leave can be as murky as it is fraught. But remind yourself: if we are brutally honest, take stock, and ask ourselves the right questions, the answer will be right there, in front of us. In fact, there are often flashing red lights that we miss. For instance:

These are clear signs coming from the outside that there is a growing disconnect between your professional expectations and how you are actually being seen and valued.

But perhaps the most significant signal that it’s time to leave is internal: a realization that the work is no longer compelling, you are no longer learning and growing, and you’ve lost the passion you once had for it.

Negotiating your exit strategy

Let’s assume you have decided that, yes, it is time to leave. There are some specific do’s and don’ts you should follow in negotiating your way out. You will find that these negotiations are every bit as crucial as the ones you had when you first were hired — so try to keep these guidelines in mind at all times:

If you manage to follow these key principles, you will not burn any bridges, you will maintain relationships often built over long periods of time — and you will ensure a more positive path forward.

You might even (as I did) find, in time, that this change was the best thing that could have happened to you.

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