09/09/2014 11:35 am ET Updated Nov 09, 2014

Business Etiquette: Why You Need an Exit Strategy

It's hard to think about an exit strategy when your current job is a professional dream come true. Many people find themselves out of work for reasons that have nothing to do with their performance. Downsizing, relocating the business, or a new boss coming in can quickly lead to eliminations and restructuring. It pays to be ready for change while things are calm and stable. Here are a few steps for developing a professional exit strategy so you will be prepared in the event of a company upheaval.

  • Update your online profiles regularly. Make sure your online presence is fresh and up-to-date. This small effort not only benefits you if your current job status changes, it can also benefit your present company by letting others know of the services you offer in your current position. An exit strategy is not the only reason for your professional updates, but a good reason to be ready to move quickly if needed.
  • Stay connected. It's important to cultivate strong relationships with people on your contact list during good times rather than only reaching out when you need a favor. Make a point to check in regularly with existing relationships and continuously expand your circle of professional connections.
  • Keep your resume and cover letter up-to-date. Routinely update your resume and keep a current list of references accessible, along with their latest contact information. If the professional axe does happen to fall, you will be able to dedicate yourself to finding new opportunities rather than frantically recreating your career history.
  • Make a wish list. Write out the types of skills you possess, tasks you enjoy doing, work you want to avoid, and the professionals or companies you admire. Include your long-term career goals or areas you'd like to explore in the future. List your salary requirement, important benefits, work schedule, and other considerations. If you know what you want out of your next job, you won't be tempted to accept the first mediocre job offer that comes your way.
  • Prepare targeted emails. These are notes you can quickly adapt and send to your contacts to let them know you are in the market for a new job. A well-written email will quickly bring them up to speed on your situation, what type of position you're looking for, what you have been doing, and your most recent skill sets. Before sending an email to a former boss, or others who have been instrumental in your career, personalize the email and be specific as to how they have impacted your career and why you are asking for their help. For a broad circle of contacts, keep in mind they will probably forward your email to other professionals who may be interested in talking to you. Don't forget to include your resume as an attachment.

There are no guarantees that you will keep your current job indefinitely. Being prepared with an exit strategy, even if you're not actively looking for another job, will be one less thing you have to worry about in the event you find yourself suddenly without a job. Take the time to make it happen!

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