If you read books on investment or business, you’ll know that all the experts tell you to develop an “exit strategy” for your investments or your business, even while writing the business plan. Without using a bunch of financial jargon, basically you set up a plan to make sure you get the MOST out of your assets when you sell or close the business or investments.
So how does this relate to you? Developing an exit strategy should be an essential part of EVERYONE’S career plan. Why? YOU ARE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ASSET! Think of yourself as Me, Inc. You are your own CEO. You want to be in control of your own career, on your own terms (relax if you’re not quite there yet, you will be soon!). In your current position, you’ve probably invested a lot of time and effort to get where you are, to know what you know. You’ve accomplished quite a few things.
Think about the following scenarios:
- There have been rumblings at work about more layoffs. One day, the dreaded news comes in that your department is getting downsized. Do you have an escape plan?
- Your great boss leaves the company for a better opportunity. A terrific position opens up at her new company, and she calls YOU to send your resume and come in for an interview with key management. Is your resume updated with all your recent accomplishments? Are you prepared for a job interview? Or would you scramble around trying to get your resume ready, and worry about how you’ll perform at the interview?
- Your boss leaves the company, and now there’s an open management position. You’d really like the opportunity to be a manager. Have you positioned yourself to replace your manager? Does your resume reflect the accomplishments necessary to show someone that you’re the best candidate? Have you practiced interviewing for a management position?
You should be in control of your destiny at all times, just in case anything happens, good or bad. How can you turn all your useful knowledge and experience into a “what-if” plan?
Common sense tells us that being prepared is the best form of crisis prevention. For example, you probably have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in your home, right? Not because you think there’s going to be a fire, but because you want to be prepared, JUST IN CASE.
Your career exit strategy works the same way. You should have a plan in place, just in case something happens. Unfortunately, we’ve seen far too many companies downsize or completely go under in recent years (remember Enron, and WorldCom?). You certainly don’t want to be at the mercy of the company you work for.
Okay, you get the picture. So what can you do?
Here’s a simple plan to follow to put your exit strategy in place. Putting this into action won’t be done overnight, so it might be easier to break it up into smaller chunks.
1) Document at Least 3-5 Accomplishments or Challenges You Overcome Each Week
This is probably best done on Friday, but it’s really up to you. Try to be as specific as possible, and also in line with your personal, team or company goals.
TIP: To make the most of these accomplishments, send them to your immediate manager each week. This helps you at performance review time, because you have a specific list of accomplishments, and will help you get the most out of any merit pay increases. Also, this is the information that you will use to update your resume. When you’re ready for a new position, you simply select the accomplishments that are in line with the requirements of your new position, and presto! You have an amazing resume!
2) Stay Positive
AVOID the negative rumor mill at all costs. You know what I’m talking about – the people who love to instill fear in everyone by the “latest” they heard from “someone” about “something bad” that’s going to happen in the company (impending layoffs, bankruptcy, personal gossip, etc.). IGNORE!
3) Know What You Want to Learn and Set Goals
Is there a particular skill or some type of software you need to learn in order to get you where you want to be? What will help you be successful here is setting specific, attainable goals (heard of SMART goals? Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Tangible) and not trying to do too many things at a time. Many companies have e-learning and live training courses you can attend. See if you can take advantage of some of these opportunities.
4) Follow Industry Trends
Stay current on what’s going on in the industry or field you’re in. This will help you to know what you need to learn, and will give you clues as to which companies are the movers and shakers. Also try to keep up with the latest technology in your industry, if possible.
5) Keep Your Resume Updated
Don’t be the person who works somewhere for 5 years, and then tries to figure out what to put on their resume when they’re desperately trying to find a new job or get a promotion.
TIP: If you’ve been with a company for a while, and haven’t been tracking your accomplishments, refer to your past performance reviews for ideas. Keep copies of all your performance reviews!
6) Know How Your Company Performs Financially
It’s important to know if your company is doing well financially, or headed for bankruptcy. Many companies keep employees updated with quarterly financial reports and overall performance. Don’t be the person who deletes these emails without reading them! If your company doesn’t send you this information, all publicly traded companies have to report their financial statements. Yahoo’s Finance page is a great tool to use. All you need is your company’s stock symbol. If you’re not sure how to read a financial statement, there are plenty of free tools out there to help. Just type in “how to read a financial statement” in your favorite browser, and you’ll get a lot of choices. Why is knowing how your company performs important? This will help you make decisions about whether to stay or seek employment elsewhere in the future. If the company is deeply in debt, and getting a lot of bad press, you may want to consider moving on. If you work for a private company, or a very small business, chances are good that you won’t have any way of knowing the financial situation of the company. There are some resources that will provide limited financial information on private companies (like Hoovers, Dun and Bradstreet), but you usually have to pay to access this information. I wouldn’t recommend paying for this information. You’ll know when things start going bad (for example, your boss can’t pay you this week because he doesn’t have enough money…uugghh!!).
7) Practice Interviewing
Even if you’re not planning to leave the company you’re with, or pursue another opportunity right now, keeping your interviewing skills up to date will help you continue to build your confidence. Rather than being afraid and nervous about a potential interview, you’ll be prepared and you’ll know yourself and your skills inside and out.
8) Stay in Touch
Have a great boss or co-worker that left for a better opportunity? Make sure you get their contact information and stay in touch with them. You never know when you may need to call them to see if they know of, or know someone who might know of, an available job opportunity. Or better yet, when they will call you for a great opportunity that just opened up!
Kristen Hudson has written numerous articles to help people find happy, meaningful careers. She has worked in several industries, and has interviewed, hired and mentored hundreds of employees. Find out more about her unique approach to career success on her website.