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Sometimes even the most ideal job goes south.

The boss you loved working for gets promoted to a great new position, but her replacement is the spawn of the devil.

Your company, which for decades had been known for valuing its employees, is bought by an equity fund whose only value is stakeholder profits.

The job you love is “re-engineered” into a new set of responsibilities, several (if not all) of which make you crazy….

When it’s clearly time to leave
Having personally been in each one of these situations, let me be the first to tell you that there comes a time in almost all careers when it’s undeniably time to move on. If for you that moment is now, there are several steps you want to take before delivering your resignation letter.

Yes, there’s an overwhelming, momentary joy in a defiant “I’m outta here” declaration, but your goal in this very small profession is to never burn bridges. That means that no matter how unhappy you are in your current situation, you want to leave in the most professional, mature manner possible. (Your long-term career opportunities are way more important than your current crazy-making circumstances.)

For your employer
You want to make it clear that although you’re leaving, you still have the best interests of the organization, your department, and your colleagues at heart. So start putting together a transition package of information for your replacement, including:

  • Status overviews of all the projects you’ve been working on
  • An overview of other individuals involved in the work you do, with their names, titles, and responsibilities
  • A schedule of regular communications and/or team meetings your replacement should be aware of and prepared for
  • Any upcoming reports that will be due, the nature of the reports, and examples of previous similar reports
  • A list of any key documents and where to find them on your computer or the company intranet
  • A welcome note with any other information you think will help your replacement succeed in the job

This will help create a much smoother transition, for which everyone will be grateful (and you will be greatly appreciated).

For your career
Your goal is to divert all that “this is making me nuts” energy and emotion into something much more positive and useful, specifically, the action items that will help launch you into your next opportunity. These items include:

  • Contacts.  Make sure that you’ve captured all of your contacts’ information from your office computer. Don’t neglect to include contact information for any vendors you may work with – salespeople, account managers, service reps, etc., are often goldmines for learning about other opportunities with related companies. And they can tell you which companies/libraries to avoid!
  • Work materials. Make electronic copies of any non-proprietary work you’ve done, correspondence you’ve had, papers you’ve written, etc., that you might want to have available to refer to in the future. (Note: if it’s work product, your employer owns it so you can’t re-use it or make it public, but you may want to review how you approached a topic in the future, and previous work can provide examples).
  • Network outreach. Figure out who in your network you want to let know right now that you’ll be looking for a job as of [date], and tell them what kind of help you’d appreciate from them (e.g., a contact, insight about an industry, a recommendation, an introduction, a pep talk, a resume critique, etc.).
  • Professional marketing materials. Make sure your LinkedIn profile, master resume, and master cover letter are terrific representations of you in terms of 1) work you’ve done and 2) work you’d like to do. If your network starts reaching out on your behalf, you want to make sure that all your online professional materials are ready to represent you brilliantly.
  • LinkedIn requests. Ask several people you know and trust to write LinkedIn recommendations for you, and help them out by identifying the strengths you’d particularly like them to mention. If they don’t get to it within a couple of weeks, it’s okay to send a reminder email, but if they still don’t get it done, drop the request.
  • Stay in touch. If colleagues you like are also leaving the company or library, stay in touch with the people who are departing. Let them know you’ll be following them out the door, ask them if there’s any way you can be of help to them, and ask them similarly to keep an eye out for opportunities for you.
  • Explore internal options. Think about whether you want to stay with your current employer but work for a different department, and if so, start putting feelers out for potential jobs of interest.

Take control of your focus
When you job makes you crazy, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the negatives that they become the entire focus of your time and energy. The problem is that your deep dive into being miserable does nothing to help you get to a better place.

Instead, use your breaks, lunch hours, weekends, and other down time to put together your “I’m outta here” action plan with the steps outlined above. Once completed, you’ll be in a great position to leave on a positive basis (which you definitely want to do) and also be prepared to hit the ground running toward your next opportunity.

Ideally, you’ll want to have a new job lined up before your leave your existing one, but if that’s not possible, with these actions you’ll at least be ready to leave and launch.