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I recently supported two excellent lawyers with a change in their respective careers.

The first was looking for a specific transition from practice to in-house and a role that would demand more of their commercial and strategic acumen and in return, set them on a path to directorship of an ASX listed business and perhaps NED in the future. A clear aspiration and path, with the hunger to facilitate it. The type of hunger and goal orientated drive that if they were running in the Grand National, you would put the house on them.

The second was Senior Counsel, equally competent, intelligent and articulate but had no clue about what aspect of their role they enjoyed, what stimulated and stretched them professionally or where they wanted to end up in the long game, they just simply needed to leave their job. No plan – Mainly because they had never offered themselves the time to sit down and work it out. We talked about working it backwards from the long game – do something instead of nothing. You deserve that at least.

One component was consistent with both and strongly resonated with me – how they were managing their departures with their peers, management and direct reports.

Can you guess which scenario was amicable and transparent and which one was riddled with shadowy conceit and disdain?

Lawyer 1 set themselves the goal of ensuring they left their post in a better state than they found it, to ensure their colleagues were not burdened and that their brand would be pristine when they dipped into the jobs market. They also wanted to retain any relationships that were nurtured over their tenure for future value.

Lawyer 2 mentally checked out early doors. They focused on all the negative aspects of the role and the various mannerisms of their colleagues that agitated them, culminating in an “exit at all costs” attitude and magnifying their pessimism. They cut-off anyone that transgressed them over the years in the role.

Mindset of the Departure

These two examples are so subjective and I understand that there is so many additional factors that will come in to play for each individual – it’s apples vs oranges to an extent. However, for the small things that remain in our control, I think it’s imperative we manage them positively and work on them.

There is a growing social trend in telling people to chase their dreams and if you’re not happy “get out”, but in reality – that’s not practical or realistic for everyone. People have fixed costs, debts, family commitments and general responsibilities to worry about.

It’s so important that we should view an exit from a business in the same strategic light that we utilise when seeking a new position.

Some tips

With this in mind, I have simplified and outlined a couple of thoughts below on how to approach a departure (4 to 6 months out) with some cognitive thinking instead of raw emotion.

  1. If you are in a revenue-generating / fee earner role – it will stand to you in your next position to try and get as close to your budgetary targets as possible prior to the jump. Both for consistency and momentum during the transition for yourself (selfishly), plus some recognition from leadership and peers in your former and latter firm. People definitely do talk.
  1. Stakeholder management – if you work in client services, the same applies as above. You should ensure that you have connected with all your clients within a few months of your moving on. They could prove valuable to you in the near/far future.
  1. Peer management – Whoever your relationships are with and across whatever business units, it should be a priority that you continue to foster these or if necessary, repair fractured ones. Basic housekeeping – leave the pride and ego at the door and think about the long game.
  1. If you exhausted the job market for a period of time and come up dry, it’s worth noting that standout performers generally have a viral reputation precede them – you should want to be head hunted!
  1. If you find yourself relying on someone else in the business to improve your positive mental state – change that stat. It’s your obligation, not theirs.
  1. Depending on the business you may have access to regular training and development programmes or schemes. If you have decided to move on, you should make the most of these opportunities and upskill. If they are not available in a frequent structural format – ask for them.
  1. ‘Happiness’ in your job or vocation is not a privilege : )