Updated on June 23rd, 2020
Dear Seasoned and Successful Corporate Professional:
Has your job or career become a straitjacket? Do you ever wonder what else you’d discover in life, if you had the time to actually explore it? Or what it would be like to work at your pace, or do your thing?
If you’ve been thinking, dreaming, fantasizing, even talking about leaving the corporate world – yet have never done anything about it: Here are 11 practices that will help you leave. For real.
You’ve loved your career. You’ve been successful. You’ve enjoyed being part of a corporation, or having a high-powered job and responsibility. And the title and prestige that goes with it.
But of late, you’ve been feeling like you’re…
Falling out of love with corporate
You can’t shake that “Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.” feeling. Work feels like a rut. Perhaps you’ve turned 40, or 50, and your priorities are shifting: You’ve been wondering what else you could do in life, if your time and energy wasn’t mainly taken up by work.
You might feel increasingly worn down by corporate life: The relentless pace. The political power play. The pressures of it.
And if you’re honest, you know your love of corporate has met its natural end.
So you’ve been thinking about leaving
You’ve wondered if you could work in a different way, or do something else altogether.
Perhaps you’ve even been talking about it for a while now, and nothing’s actually happened. You feel yourself getting increasingly frustrated, perhaps even despondent.
Well, don’t beat yourself up.
In Italy we have a saying:
Fra il dire e il fare, c’è di mezzo il mare.
It means that intentions are good, but when it comes to doing something about them, it’s a different thing altogether: There’s a big difference between saying things and following through on them.
Maybe you’ve not really made your leaving decision yet. You’re paralyzed by fear, doubt and lack of belief or confidence. Or you don’t feel ready to actually walk your talk.
Leaving is a process
I myself have left a successful, international, ten-year corporate career as Executive Consultant in Change Management. (It took me three years to follow through on my dreaming and talking about it!)
Happily, I’m still here to tell the tale – the world hasn’t ended, and there definitely is a life after corporate. 🙂
Some of the clients I help today to find their next direction in life are successful corporate professionals, too. Some of them I help take the leap out of corporate and into a life they love (again).
Leaving is rarely done in an instant. All leaving is a process.
So if you’re toying with the idea of ending your time in corporate, know that this might take time.
And if you want to move your leaving process forward? Below are my…
11 practices for getting ready to leave corporate
They will help you go from talking the talk to actually walking the talk! Here goes:
1 Know why you want to leave corporate
Be very honest with yourself.
You might find that your job – or the corporate environment altogether – isn’t right for you (anymore). Perhaps you’ve outlived it. Or you really want a significant change.
But you might have other reasons: Wanting to work less, or differently. To travel or commute less. To work at a slower pace. To get away from a difficult boss or colleague.
In order to resolve those desires, you might not need to leave the corporate world altogether. You might be able to tweak your working conditions where you are. Take a sabbatical, or start working part time. Transfer between departments. Or join a different corporation.
Be as specific as you can about what it is you want to change. And if you find that it actually doesn’t require you to leave the corporate world – stay!
2 Have a life vision – and know your next step
OK. Time for the deep questions:
Think about your current corporate work: Is it taking you in the direction you want to go? Does it fill the place of work in your life, in the way you want it to?
If your answer is yes: Great – you probably don’t really want to leave then. You might just have to tweak your working conditions, in order to feel happier.
And if your answer is no: What is your best next step that would take you towards that vision? What is it you’ll do when you leave corporate? Knowing this, and holding on to your life vision, will be a great motivator, and make it easier to leave when the time is right for you.
3 Get financial clarity
Fear of losing that regular and often substantial paycheck is one of the big reasons for not leaving a corporate job, even when we want to.
So look your financial situation in the eye: Income. Insurances. Pension. How much money do you need to cover the basics for you and your dependants? How much of a pay cut are you willing and able to take – if need be? What savings or other sources of income have you got to get through any transition phase into your next work? And when do you need to be earning again?
We all have different attitudes to (financial) risk – but if you’re not leaving a corporate job that grinds you down because of fears around money, getting clarity about your financial situation, and how to support your leaving, will help you.
4 List all your excuses – until you run out
Making excuses for not making a change that you know is right for you, just shows your fear and discomfort with that change. It’s very human – we all do it! The trick is not to let it stop you.
So check out my 5 Surefire Ways to Conquer Your Excuses. Or discover practical strategies to overcome over 40 typical excuses in my book What’s Your Excuse for not Living a Life You Love?
I also really like what one of my clients did: She listed all her excuses for why she couldn’t leave, until she ran out. And when she saw that she had no more excuses, she was able to leave her corporate work.
5 Have a post-corporate plan or structure
Another client of mine worried about falling into a hole after leaving corporate. ‘What would I do all day? How would I fill my time?’ he wondered.
I reminded him that his post-corporate plans included setting up his own enterprise. And that he’d probably be quite busy with detailing his business plan. Networking and making contacts. And setting up.
Whatever it is you want to do to after corporate – having a plan, and a structure for your life (or at least an idea for what that could be) will help you avoid falling into a hole.
This will involve you to call the shots on how and how much you want to work, and what else you want to fill your time with – according to your life vision. When you’re used to a corporate structure keeping you going, this might seem a challenging thought. But it will also give you the freedom you probably crave!
6 Map out your leaving process
What are the steps for you to leave your corporate job? What procedures and timelines will you need to adhere to? Who will need to know about your plans, and when? Which are the informal bits of the process, which the formal ones? And what’s your best timing?
Mapping out your leaving process will make it more real for you. It will move you on emotionally towards actually taking the steps. You might feel sadness or grief as the end of your corporate era becomes more real, but also relief or even joy at the prospect to freeing yourself up for something else. Just allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, and give yourself a great, loving ‘inner hug’ (or talk to someone friendly and compassionate) if those feelings are difficult.
Mapping out your leaving process will also reassure you that you’re not forgetting about anything. And it will make you feel empowered, as you take control of shaping how you want to leave – creating a leaving experience that’s as positive as it can be, rather than feeling powerless and or afraid about what leaving might be like.
7 Get used to the thought of leaping
No matter how much (emotional and practical) preparation work you do – you’ll come the point where you’ll actually have to really leave. Which might still feel like a leap to you.
This leap is a leap of faith. A leap of courage. A leap of knowing you have come as far as you can, and it’s your time to go for your next thing. And like any leap, no matter how well prepared, it will involve a risk.
Don’t be put off by that. Trust your preparation. Build up your faith that it can go well. And that, if for any reason it doesn’t, you’ll be able to adjust. Tap into your courage – it’s there! And hang on to your vision and your reason why you want to leave.
You can visualise yourself leaping – literally or metaphorically – and imagining being comfortable with it. Remind yourself of other leaps you’ve successfully taken in your past. Or get inspired by watching others take their leap.
8 Talk to someone you trust
Talking about leaving to someone you trust – a neutral friend, a coach, a mentor – will help you get clear, figure out the practicalities, make it feasible.
So by all means do that.
But beware of endlessly talking about leaving, yet never moving it forward. I’ve read somewhere that if you do that more than three times, you don’t really want to manifest your intention, you just want attention… There’s some truth in that!
9 Do a mock-resignation
Write your resignation letter. Practice your resignation conversation with your boss. Communicate your leaving to your company. For yourself, at first. Without sending anything out, nor arranging real meetings.
See how you feel. Can you see yourself doing all this for real? Does it feel like the right thing to do?
If it does, it will hopefully give you the confidence to go through with it. And if it doesn’t – what do you need to do? Strengthen your resolve more? Get help in overcoming any fears or excuses? Or revisit your reasons for leaving altogether?
10 Commit to leave – or to stay
(Don’t stay in limbo)
So you’ve thought and talked about leaving, considered all the pros and cons, prepared and planned… Eventually, you’ll either have to commit to leave or to stay. Because having this unmade decision hanging over you like an un-ticked box will just keep you in a frustrating limbo.
Therefore: Commit to leaving, and start your process, knowing you’ve done all you can to prepare. Or commit to staying, and put the to-ing and fro-ing behind you.
If you need a last minute test, ask yourself: What if I leave? And what if I don’t leave (or don’t fully leave)? And notice your reactions.
One of my clients told me that, when she did this test, each and every cell in her body rebelled at the thought of not leaving – despite the fear she was still feeling about leaving. She took that as her cue to take her leap. (And it all went swimmingly well – beyond her most hopeful expectations!)
11 Create space
This is for your final days (or, even better: week end) before you really hand in your resignation and set the process in motion.
Create some space: Step away from the thinking. Get plenty of sleep. Go for walks. Do your last-minute test (see point 10). Practice your mock-resignation.
Other ideas for creating space are here.
Let it all sink in and see how you feel.
And if, deep down, you know that leaving is right for you, go for it.
I wish you the very best!
Over to you now…
Are you a corporate leaver? How did you make your decision? How did you take your leap?
Or are you thinking about leaving corporate? What’s moving you forward? What’s stopping you?
I’d love to read about your experience, please share below!