Record Numbers of People Are Voluntarily Leaving Their Jobs: Are You?

By Laura Berger
Executive Coach and Principal,
The Berdéo Group

Despite an unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent, record numbers of people are leaving their jobs, according to the The Bureau of Labor Statistics. In May, almost two million Americans quit their jobs voluntarily, up 35 percent from January 2010.

It seems clear that a lousy economy is no longer a good enough reason to stay in a lousy job—and a new generation of entrepreneurs is seizing this moment.

Before you jump off the corporate ladder, however, take a moment to consider some important facts:

1. Not everyone is a natural at being an entrepreneur—especially those who have spent years, or even decades, in corporate America.

Ask anyone who has run a business—especially in a down economy that doesn’t seem to have hit bottom—about how difficult the reality of this big decision can be.

That’s why so many of my clients come to me for executive coaching. Not only can coaching help the next generation of entrepreneurs better understand how to grow themselves and their businesses successfully in a time of major change, it can teach them to effectively respond to the uncertainly that will be greeting them daily.

2. While a paycheck and benefits can be a hindrance to your growth as a professional, they also provide a very real financial security blanket—one that pays the mortgage or rent, and the supermarket and doctor bills.

So be prepared to quickly learn that the allure of freedom comes with great responsibility and uncertainty.

When your previous level of certainty—perceived or real—inherent in corporate America, comes to an end, be aware of the psychological transitions that accompany this shift.

Also, pay close attention to how you are interpreting these extreme changes. Are you being reactive through emotions such as fear and loss? Are you pushing down your feelings, and finding unhealthy ways to ease the discomfort?

Don’t judge yourself. Simply be aware.

3. Knowing when to ask for help through this transitional period will likely be the difference between success and failure.

No one wants to watch their dream of entrepreneurship go up in flames. That’s why I love working with entrepreneurs—when they seek coaching, I know they are taking a brave step, and that they want to do everything possible to ensure they turn their dream into a successful reality.

When working with clients who are working their way through this important transitional period, I often use a three-stage model of transition developed by William Bridges. It prepares you for the future by helping you:

  • Understand what has ended.
  • Discover opportunity in the “neutral zone.”
  • Start developing new beginnings.

Here are some tricks of the trade to simplify your transition to entrepreneurship.

  • Build a productivity bubble. It’s obvious that your environment has shifted—morning commutes now have you traveling from the bedroom to living room or makeshift home office. There are new kinds of interruptions throughout the day—TV, laundry, children, and spouses. Stay on track and focused by establishing a “work zone” for yourself. One of my clients set up shop in her basement, which was as far away as possible in the house from her kids and husband. She established strict rules that she only be disturbed with the highest urgency. Good idea!
  • Weave a support web. Do not underestimate your vulnerability to negativity during your transition. Clear as much of it out of your life as possible, and surround yourself only with people who have genuine interest in the success of your business. These people are likely the first members of what will eventually become your “Advisory Board,” a group of people who will serve as a sounding board to you as your business progresses. They are a key component of your business, for they will be a tremendous resource for ideas, expertise, and advice—and honest feedback.
  • Develop a “no matter what” mentality. As your own boss, you have freedom, flexibility, and the ability to call all of the shots. When working for a client, it is easy to be accountable for what happens in the relationship. It is when we are our own clients that accountability becomes a fluid project plan with perpetually moving deadlines.

  • To stay on track, create a Priorities Wheel. This is a quick and easy tool that will help to keep you accountable to yourself. Notice there are only four boxes, that’s because each week you’ll need to pick your top four priorities and put them into the order of how you plan to tackle them. Ask yourself: What actions will I take to help accomplish my top priority? Create a timeline around when you will meet this goal, and also list the type of support that is required to ensure that these actions occur.
  • Build a strong infrastructure, as economically as possible. The Help Desk has vanished, and the Legal, Accounting, and IS departments all have you at the helm. Carefully evaluate the knowledge bases, and infrastructure systems, that you left behind. How much of this can you replace—for free? How much will you need to procure?
  • Define your new career path. The org chart and performance reviews have disappeared, so now it’s up to you to create a clear vision for yourself. Write it down, dream about it, and draw it on a sheet of paper. Ask yourself, what do I want my future to be? How capable am I of acting decisively while being uncertain? Once you can clearly envision it, begin to live that vision as if you are already there.

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that being a successful entrepreneur is the most rewarding professional experience there is—so long as you maintain objectivity about the realities of your new world that you can succeed. In the midst of this objectivity, an attitude of kindness to yourself in a moment when everything is new will give you the stamina to achieve your greatest dreams and aspirations. Here’s to your success!

About Laura Berger

An executive advisor and founder of The Berdéo Group, Laura Berger has 15 years of experience as a consultant advising leadership in the areas of global operations management and strategy, project and change management, and solution development and implementation. She is a confidant of CEOs and senior executives who consistently realize their potential as leaders by seeing their companies flourish.

Having worked with many Fortune 500 companies, she counts among her clients, the leaders at JPMorgan Chase, State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, General Motors, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, McDonald’s Corporation, American Hospital Association, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Starcom MediaVest Group, and Walt Disney World.

Her ease and zeal for building lasting relationships, acquaintances, and productive introductions between people is her personal trademark. She has stretched her own spirit and will to combine her passions with her professional pursuits, and she shows others how to live true to their core.

Berger exemplifies this commitment to the life path in a book she is co-writing with her husband, Glen Tibaldeo. The book chronicles the humorous side of the successes and challenges they experienced living in the remote jungles of Costa Rica.

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