Laying the Foundation for Leaving Your Job

April 2015

Imagine you are standing on the edge of an elevated platform, just like the man above. Below you is a landing too far down for you to jump safely. Twenty feet in front of you there is a landing spot you hope to arrive at sometime soon. You look ahead and see on that landing either a clear or a partial image of your next job and next organization. You are pulled towards that new opportunity, even if it is not clear what it might be. At the same time, you are being pushed forward by your dissatisfaction. You are excited about moving toward future possibilities, but frightened by the risks immediately in front of you.

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You don’t want to make a false move and end up like the free falling Don Draper in the opening credits of Mad Men. Perhaps you are feeling frozen and you are stuck. You could stay where you are, but you know you need to take that next step. The fear of making a bad decision, possibly falling into a financial, career or emotional hole, weighs heavily on you. Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, it’s time to start laying the foundation for moving on.

To get to that preferred destination, over the chasm of fear and risk, you need to lay down a collection of platforms to get you there safely and successfully. You will need to build your transition base from above with whatever time and energy you can spare for this task.

To get started, I suggest you employ the Ronnie Brooks method. Brooks is one of the founders of the Wilder Foundation’s Shannon Institute, and has taught this method for many years. Here is my interpretation of her model. You’ll need to build a platform leading to your preferred future by laying down the same elements as those prescribed for individuals already in transition, but you will need to build your foundation differently. Brooks suggests that you imagine a steadily growing platform of mattresses you toss down from above.

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Step by step you will be building a foundation that leads to your exit and a new start as you create this transition bridge. While this process might seem laborious and time consuming, it will make your career transition more methodical and less risky. Even with just the first three mattresses tossed down, a softer, safer landing becomes much more likely.

I have numbered the eight career transition platforms in the order they typically need to be completed, starting with self assessment. You might be tempted to take an early leap, but be careful not to just take a job if it might lead you to a quick, but not a good, fix. Lay down at least your first three platforms before seriously considering taking that leap. Rediscover your talents and preferences. Identify and research your preferred job, industry and company options. Ideally, you should be able to clearly articulate your talents, focus and filters before taking the leap.

If you need help with the self assessment process, you can start with my June, 2012 blog: “Living life forward, understanding it backwards.” For help creating your job, organizational and personal focus and filters, take a look at my October, 2013 blog: “Evaluating an opportunity.”

The blog you are reading now marks my forty-eighth monthly entry about career transition and transformation. To learn strategies for building the eight platforms listed above, go to my monthly blog posting site and select the entries that will be most helpful to you now.

Remember that this is not just about getting another job in a new company. It’s about getting the right job within the right organization. Commitment, courage, executing a logical developmental and strategic approach, and perhaps enlisting a coach and/or group to support you will help make this a more successful and satisfying transition. Lay down a strong foundation, and you’ll have solid ground beneath your feet, reduced risk, and a cushion if you decide (or need) to jump earlier than you had planned. Is it time to start tossing down those mattresses?