Voluntary Exits

What if everything’s going well for you at your organization except for your feeling of inertia as you slump into an email trance?

How about that time when you had to onboard a lot of new people, only to end up managing the same discussions, the same issues, and sluggish projects and dragged yourself home exhausted and depressed?

Or maybe there were red blinking lights all around you and blaring sirens telling you the company was imploding and you best exit stage left?

Voluntary exits without another job in sight can be almost as unsettling as involuntary exits, especially when there’s no one to rage against.  It’s your choice.  

These kinds of exits test your appetite for risk.  How much uncertainty can you withstand to be happier?

A Sign of Growth

As I say in my book,  the idea that you’ve outgrown the old corporate culture, the goals you used to have and the routines that were so important at one time is somehow inspiring and threatening at the same time.  The first thing to do:  acknowledge you can’t squeeze back into a role that no longer fits.

Our growth doesn’t always align with having a next job lined up.  The average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The Harvard Business Review found that leaders have an average of 13.5 transitions during their professional careers, whether it’s a new role, a new company, or a new industry.

There’s comfort in numbers but we’re talking about you and how you manage your psychological comfort while you embark on a new path, sometimes without a safety net.

What Lies Outside the Gates 

In the community of your company, it’s easy to lose perspective of your individuality and unique value.  You’re insulated behind the gates of conformity.  The community is fenced in with marketing materials and slogans and bonded by teams and company retreats.  

Outside the gates, it’s an open frontier.  When you walk away, you become your own company and write your own marketing materials.  To strengthen your resolve, here are some tactics:

“Reflect on your work history and connect the dots to show you’ve already pivoted from one related area to the next.” (Jenny Blake, Pivot).  In other words, give yourself credit for the changes you’ve already made.  This exploration becomes the draft for your new narrative.

 Make a list of your top 3-5 skills, values, and differentiators.  These are the building blocks of your elevator pitch.  “Rewrite your Success” is a workshop I co-host with Maria Rosati, CEO of Eminence Communications, to help people be proactive in newly defining themselves.  The best part of the day is when they “pitch” their new selves to each other so they see and hear themselves differently.

Jump forward in your understanding and appreciation of the new marketplace.  If you’re older than a millennial, you’ve grown up marketing yourself to fit into prescribed roles rather than creating roles that maximize your value.  The pandemic kicked up a lot of dust in the market, and more and more people are opting for portfolio careers and fractional roles.  These allow them to flex their skills and not be 100% dependent on a paycheck from one employer. 

If you’ve had a career spanning three or more decades, finding your next role comes from leveraging your value and your network to create new opportunities.  Be proactive to find the people who can help you write your next chapter.

Invest in upskilling, recertification and new certifications that pique your interest and make inertia a thing of the past.

What’s the Title of Your New Chapter?

An involuntary exit is traumatic and usually involves a deep grieving process after you’re suddenly separated from your company.  A voluntary exit also involves mourning; it’s about what could have been, except… it wouldn’t have been what you wanted.  As we rise in our careers and seek more meaning and purpose, voluntary exits typically come at an inflection point for us.  We realize that happiness is the real get.

One of the women I interviewed for my book summed up the benefits of leaving the gated corporate community and stepping into the light.   “I’m the perfect CEO,” she reasoned.  “If I had stayed with one organization for many years, I would been way too insular and less willing to take risks.  Now I’m where I want to be.”  Her new chapter title:  Living My Passions Every Day.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.