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How to Plan Your Exit and Not "Just Quit"

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If you feel trapped in a job you can't stand, you may be tempted to just quit. As understandable as this may be, it's the last thing you want to do as this will haunt you when you need a reference. There are formal references which usually have to adhere to a company's policy and then there are the "off the record" types that are not given in an official capacity. The bottom line is it's too risky.
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So, how do you deal with a job that you can barely tolerate?

Think strategically about the issues: When you think about your job the issues may seem like a big black cloud hovering over your head. You know what the issues are but if you're like most people, you haven't evaluated them dispassionately, because emotions get in the way. Just as you would address any business problem, think about the issues strategically and organize them on paper. What are the main sources of frustration? It could be a number of things from a boss that drives you crazy to an irritating co-worker or a workload that's too heavy. Or maybe you just hate the work. Make a list of what the major issues are.

Fix what you can: Step back and take an objective look at the situation and see how you can address it differently. For example, if you have a boss that drives you crazy, what does that specifically mean? Does it mean that your boss gives you unrealistic times lines, or sets an impossible bar to reach? Is s/he incompetent, hypercritical or incredibly rude? Once you've identified what the specifics are then you can start developing a plan to address them.
Here's help on dealing with a difficult boss, irritating co-workers or delegating if you're overworked.

Cope with what you can't fix: If the situation can't be improved then look for ways to make it more tolerable. On a day-to-day basis you have to figure out some mechanisms to help you maintain your level of performance while reducing your stress level. Think of something you can change about yourself. For example, if you typically go into defensive mode with your boss, changing that can lower your stress level. Are you reacting negatively to an action just because of the person who's doing it? In this case, separate the action from the person and focus on what the request is, not who's delivering it.

One of the best things you can do is to remind yourself that you do have control. You have options outside of this position (some may be internal). If you know you can only hold on for a short period then you need to start looking for a job right away. Think of your current position as a project with an end date. This will help, knowing relief is in sight.

Look for another job: Make it a priority after work to put energy against finding a new job. Even if you can only dedicate an hour a day, you'll be making progress. Start by updating your resume and then identifying companies you want to work for. Here's a plan to help you find a job. Just looking for a job will give you a sense of greater control and reduce your stress.

There's a right way and a wrong way to leave your job. While you can't control all the circumstances that are making you unhappy, you can control how you manage your exit.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success