Career Planning

Are you prepared for change? Have an exit plan...

When you hate your job, you often think about leaving it. But when you are happy with your work putting an exit plan into place seems somewhat bizarre. Nevertheless, smart employees should always be prepared to quit their job tomorrow.

The reason is that the future is always unknowable. Just because your job satisfaction is sky-high today doesn’t mean that tomorrow your company won’t announce mass layoffs, or hire a horrible new boss, or commit an ethical transgression that you do not wish to comply with.

An exit plan is about giving yourself options. Our jobs are usually the only means we have of paying rent, buying groceries and supporting ourselves and our families. Job-hunting is tough and can take a long time. Being unprepared, therefore, means risking getting stuck at a workplace you’ve suddenly found you hate.

Convinced of the need for an exit plan but confused about its practicalities? Here’s what yours should look like:

Have Unemployment Savings

The majority of us – 63% – are one paycheck away from homelessness. The reason? A lack of savings; one-quarter of workers save nothing at all each month. For those in steady employment, this might not seem like a big deal. But what if you were made redundant tomorrow?

Make it a personal goal to have a savings account that would allow you and your dependents to survive several months of unemployment. How much you need to save depends both on your necessary outgoings (rent, bills, etc.) and the average length of time it takes someone of your position and industry to find a new job.

Quitting a job without another source of income guaranteed is rarely a good idea, but sometimes circumstances may force your hand. Knowing that you have emergency savings to fall back will alleviate some of the stress of these situations and give you enough time to get fully back on your feet.

Network, Network, Network

The widespread statistic that 85% of jobs are filled by networking may be an exaggeration, but the power of personal connections is indisputable. Professional contacts can alert you to industry openings, put in a good word for you with their employer, hire you on a freelance or contract basis, provide references and recommendations, and generally smooth your job hunting process considerably.

You don’t have to be actively looking for a job to be actively sourcing, building and maintaining these relationships. Keep in touch with useful business contacts. Attend relevant conferences and industry meets. Be ready to provide assistance and favors to people who could be useful to you in the future. Expand your network by soliciting introduction to new contacts from current ones.

In short, build a reputation as a competent, friendly and dynamic person that people want to hire and work with.

Do Your Freelance Prep

Thanks to the twin forces of globalization and digitization, many jobs can now be performed on a freelance or contractor basis. If that is applicable to your job, it’s worthwhile investing some time in figuring out how it would work and laying some groundwork. That could mean building good relationships with potential clients, making sure your LinkedIn page and other websites are top-notch, and gathering together suitable examples for a portfolio.

It may even be appropriate to dip your toe in the freelance waters by taking on some side-projects (assuming your company doesn’t prohibit this). The idea is to get everything in a place where you could easily ramp it up if necessary.

The same logic should apply to any side-projects you’ve got an interest in doing. If you enjoy spending your weekends making jewelry or writing science-related blog posts, explore the ways you could turn it into a money-spinner if needed. Personal businesses always require some initial capital to get going; whether for printing business cards or buying a website domain name. Covering those initial costs while employed means you wouldn’t have to worry about multiple out-of-pocket expenses when you’re not.

Keep Your Skills Polished

There are undoubtedly specific skills that help you do your job well; invest time and effort into ensuring they’re consistently honed, updated and expanded upon. Research the attributes that would be required for a job at the level above you, and start working on them now, whether in work or outside of it.

The internet is filled with free online courses that can teach you everything from coding to Adobe Photoshop. Take advantage of them. Not only will it benefit you in your current position, it’ll ensure your CV is kept up-to-scratch should you need to pull it out in a hurry.

In Conclusion…

It may be that you never need to use your exit plan at all. Great! You’ll benefit from the strong network, polished skills and rainy-day funds regardless. You’ll also be able to enjoy your awesome job in security and confidence, and be better placed to tackle any arising issues or rough patches with the mindset that working through it is a choice, not a requirement.

Exit plans are there to give you relief if things go wrong in the future, but they will also make you a better, happier and more confident employee in the present.

Are you happy with your career?

Studies show that lifelong careers are not the norm anymore and statistics prove that an individual is expected change careers three times during their professional lives. Therefore, if you are not satisfied with your current career, below are four tips to help you find your career purpose.

  • Find out What Makes You Happy: Nobody can do something that they don’t enjoy for at least 40 hours a week for 25-30 years. Therefore, the first thing you should do is finding out what you truly enjoy doing. Maybe you started your current career thinking that this is what you are going to do for the rest of your life but as you get into the details of the job or as you have worked throughout the years, you’ve lost your passion and interest. Therefore, you are no longer enjoying what you are doing. These things can happen. The best way in this situation is identifying your new passion and taking steps towards changing your career.

  • Don’t Make Money Your First Priority: While everybody wants to earn money, this should not be your first priority. At first, earning money from your current career may seem attractive but as the time passes, you may feel that making more money doesn’t satisfy you anymore and you want to do something more meaningful. Then, try to choose a job based on your abilities and interests. Don’t limit your options because of the paycheck. Even if you need to start over and accept a job for less money, do it because you can make up for it in a few years as you progress and get promoted later on.

  • Keep in Mind What You are Good At: Maybe you don’t have passion for any type of career. In this case, think about what you are good at. For example; if you are good with numbers, then you can work in finance. If you are good at using computers, then you can think of a career in information technologies. Think about your skills and abilities, then, identify your strengths. Try to match these with job descriptions so you can figure out what you want to do. You can even try to take a career assessment test to help you figure out your possible careers.

  • Make a Plan for the Rest of Your Career: Think of your career as a marathon, it will be long and challenging. Also, it won’t be linear. There will always be ups and downs to it. If you see your career as stepping stones, it will be easier for you to identify your next steps and as a result, make a plan for your future.

Tips for career growth and development...

Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, vice president and managing director of Apollo Research Institute and visiting scholar in Stanford University's Media X program, recommends five additional career management strategies.

  1. Set goals and create a plan to achieve them. Could your career development and management use help to gain momentum? People who are the most successful and satisfied in their careers have proactively determined what they want from work.

  2. Develop a timeline, including milestones. Bringing your boss and their sponsorship and mentoring into the picture will ensure that you have an internal mentor who will help you manage your career.

  3. Utilize company programs. Some companies have formal programs to help employees develop their careers. In others, you will need to informally pursue your career development. Companies with programs generally focus energy on helping employees develop and follow a career path.

  4. Own your career path. A career path can be discussed at several bi-annual meetings with your boss. Some companies demonstrate a deep commitment to their employees by assisting where possible with resources of time and dollars. However, remember that it is your career path.

  5. Write it down. Career paths are recommended for the same reason that goals are recommended. They are the written plan that can help each employee take charge of what is most important to his or her fulfillment and success. Without a plan, you can feel rudderless and you have no benchmark against which you can measure your progress.

What is a career path?

A career path is a series of jobs that help you progress towards your goals and objectives...

Your career path includes the jobs you’ll need to hit your ultimate career goal, but it doesn’t need to follow a straight line. There’s no blueprint or timetable for climbing the career ladder.

Career paths traditionally imply vertical growth or advancement to higher-level positions, but they can also include lateral (sideways) movement within or across industries.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of baby boomers found that they had an average of 12.3 jobs from ages 18 to 52. Changing jobs is expected, and sometimes those changes will involve different types of positions in various industries. Some career paths have a few ups and downs and some people even plan a move down the career ladder.

You might move down the career ladder by asking your company for a transfer to a position with fewer responsibilities and less stress. Or you might apply for a position with a company that you're passionate about working with, but the only available positions are lower level ones.