What is your exit strategy?
An overwhelming amount of performance practitioners have been ‘shit canned’ at some point in their career. Call it what you will, but the reality is that the is a reasonable chance you will end up not being wanted by an employer at some point in your career.
Here are a few different words and phrases to describe the exact same thing…
- Not renewed
- Asked to re-apply for your own job (and not get it)
- Moved on
- Passed over
- Made redundant (the someone else is employed in that role)
When any one of these hits you, it hits like a steam train.
Trust me I know.
When I got shit canned early in my career, there was an application process put in place for the job I was already doing. It was not a requirement for the organisation to do it, and to me, it was really fishy.
But I tried to think nothing of it, I was in post and doing a good job according to the employer (face to face conversation about how I was doing and what he needed to see from me in the interview) and also according to the line manager and all other staff members. The athletes were also happy as well.
So, I prepped well, I spoke to every member of staff for advice and input, and then I got feedback immediately after the interview which was all positive. I felt confident I had done enough.
As 1, 2, 3 days went passed I started to get a really really bad feeling. Even with the growing nerves, I didn’t think it was possible to not get my own job when all my feedback was great and the results were solid. Right?
Wrong. Low and behold I was told by my line manager that I hadn’t got my own job.
I’d been shit canned.
I was broken. Totally distraught, at the time it felt like the ultimate embarrassment that I couldn’t do enough to keep my own job.
On reflection and subsequent feedback, I received years later, I was never going to get my own job, and it was a way to make changes in the setup and I wasn’t part of the plans. I would have loved to have known upfront and at least had the big boss tell me face to face, but that’s not always how it goes is it.
I fumbled my way into another job, on very poor terms, but at least I was employed.
I learnt so many valuable things from this entire situation. But one of the most important things I learnt was that I didn’t have an exit strategy and I got exposed. I was left jobless because in some ways I had taken my employment for granted and not built any sort of backup plan. I was very exposed.
My network at the time was small and not full of people who knew people. It was full of people like me scrambling for a job. It didn’t work for or with me, which is exactly what you want from your network for times like these.
So I went about making some changes to ensure that even in our cutthroat industry, I had some semblance of security and control over my pathway.
Building an exit strategy
Why you need an exit strategy
The results of these 2 small surveys speak for themselves…
Our industry can be savage, and the vast majority of practitioners I know with 10+ years of experience have been shit-canned at some point. It’s not inevitable you will be shit canned, but there will inevitably come a time in your career where you do not want to be in your current role any longer. For any one of the following reasons
- You have outgrown the role
- You are no longer stimulated by the work
- The boss’s vision does not align with yours
- You no longer feel valued
- You are not paid your worth
- You do not enjoy the job
- You no longer enjoy the environment
That is why you need to create your exit plan.
What people don’t talk about very often is the impact on your well-being of getting shit canned. It crushes your confidence, it can feel embarrassing, humiliating, humbling especially if you don’t see it coming. *
I love this next phrase but I have made a slight amendment
If you don’t like something.
If you can’t change it.
If you can’t accept it leave.
If you can’t accept it, engineer your exit
A really robust exit strategy is another one of a lot of performance practitioners blind spots
*What I will say here as a little side note, is that the personal cost of getting shit-canned is exponentially higher if you have defined yourself by your job. If your self-worth is centred around the job that you do.
How do you create an exit strategy?
Long before you ever need it that’s how
A couple of key strategies can help you build a really solid exit strategy.
- Career Periodisation
Whilst living in the present will keep you grounded and focussed on the task at hand, there needs to be a certain amount of forwarding planning to ensure that you aren’t left exposed and in the line for the jobcentre.
In an industry where a very small % of employing is actually done through an application process, your network is a must-have weapon.
Networking is very very simple. It is connecting with people who can teach you something, support you or help open doors for you. But it is not easy and it most certainly is not one-sided.
For me, there are 3 basics of networking.
- Building it
- Nurturing it
- Expanding it
a) Build it
This diagram is your one-stop-shop build your network guide.
b) Nurture it
If you don’t invest in your network it is a bit like planting a seed, not watering them or giving them sunlight and expecting a tree to grow.
It won’t happen.
A lot of people don’t know what investing in your network actually means. So I am going to spell it out here in detail.
- Understand it’s a transaction
- Never expect someone to give their time up for free. It is insulting and somewhat disrespectful
- No one owes you a thing.
- Whilst you interreacting with them may be in the top 3 of your agenda/priorities. It probably is not in theirs. You want it more than they do, prove it.
- In the early days, they don’t know you and you don’t know them. You aren’t friends (yet). You need to earn that. Go through the stages and don’t be too pushy or desperate. It’s weird.
- Offer your time to them. A mundane task, a project, build them an infographic from one of their articles, summarise an article into a 1 pager, do something unexpected or voluntarily without being asked
- Make an impact and be memorable
- Don’t take up too much of theirs
- Offer to pay.
- Offer to travel to them
- Offer a coffee
- Offer dinner
- Send them a bottle of wine or beers via UberEats as an unexpected thank you
- Find out their favourite food/drink/guilty pleasure and send them that
- Send them a gift voucher
- Use your initiative and be memorable
- Explain to them what you learnt from them, maybe in writing
- Make it personal and appeal to their emotional side. A handwritten letter
- Tag and share on social media
- Engage their egos. SM conversation with someone else ‘I spoke with Mr Big about this the other week. He shared some amazing ideas around this. Mr Big, what do you think?’
- Send cards/letters for birthdays and Christmas. Not an SM post, that’s crap and meaningless.
c) Expand it
Point 3 here could be changed to ‘make it work for you’ or something to that effect. Essentially, we are talking about engaging with your current network to have them introduce you directly to an influential person or someone you have targeted specifically
Be really clear that you can only do this once you have a solid rapport and have gone through steps 1 & 2. A couple of easy phrases you can use in two situations
Situation 1- you do not know who you want to be connected to:
‘Is there anyone you can think of that I need to be talking to about this? Who is the subject matter expert on this that you know? Would you be happy to connect me?’
Situation 2- you know who you want to connect too and your contact knows them:
‘I was thinking that Mr X would be a good person to talk to about this. Would you be able to connect me?’
You will reap the returns of your network 10 times over if you put the effort in, there will come a time that you need some help and support and having a strong network is invaluable.
2. Career Periodisation
Career Periodisation is a relatively new term used to define the simple yet difficult task of mapping out your career. This section isn’t going to go into huge detail as there will be an extensive manual and short course coming to market in early 2022.
Essentially breaking down your career into manageable chunks allows you to focus on the right areas at the right time to accelerate your development. This is exactly what we do for our athletes.
We look at a long period of time, such as an Olympic cycle and then break it down into smaller blocks of time and training focuses. Different physical qualities or skills are prioritised at different times. If you remove sport, physical qualities and skills from this equation and replace them with your own professional development you’ve got career periodisation.
The 7 Core Competencies of Our Industry
When you conduct a needs analysis of a sport you will consider the physical qualities and specific skills required to become elite and then map out their development over time. These 7 core competencies are the career development areas that you need to map out and plan.
Internships, mentoring, development opportunities
Contacts made-names, numbers, social media
Paid positions F/T and P/T
Professional qualifications (degree etc.)
- Professional development
Defined development into the dynamics of communication
- Professional reading
Focus areas, use a reading list, can include video, infographics etc.
If you approach your career planning with a micro, meso and macro approach and these core competencies in mind then you are setting yourself up for success. This system and process allow you to be targeted and specific about your development because, you can do anything, you just can’t do everything.
Whether you want to jump or you fear being pushed, having a clear and targeted plan will give you confidence and a sense of calm when the decisions are made. Ultimately you do not want to end up high and dry so managing your exit strategy, so you have somewhere to go is pivotal.
The key thing about an exit strategy is that it needs to be multi-layered and be in place before you need it. Once you have been shit-canned it is too late to be planning your exit, so get left of the bang.
What’s coming next from Career Blueprint?
In 2021 ‘The Reflective Practitioners Journal’ was launched. It has been really well received and had some fantastic feedback from practitioners in all fields with 0 years of experience up to 35 years of experience!
2022 will see the launch of 6 short courses and a whole bunch of manuals focussed specifically on areas of well-being for Performance Practitioners. It is going to be one hell of a year for driving positive change and solutions for our industries biggest problem. Your well-being.
Thank you for getting involved in driving change forward and I hope to see you in the Facebook community soon.
Thank you for reading
The Practitioner Wellness Guy