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Knowing When to Walk Away and Why

I first wrote this blog several years ago, well before the Covid pandemic and it attracted much interest. However, I felt compelled to re-post and tweak it, following a spate of unexpected resignations from a number of my clients. This again was a few years pre pandemic.

I first wrote this blog several years ago, well before the Covid pandemic and it attracted much interest. However, I felt compelled to re-post and tweak it, following a spate of unexpected resignations from a number of my clients. This again was a few years pre pandemic.

Move forward a couple more years to the pandemic era and to this day my ‘Knowing When to Walk Away and Why’ blog is still the most read page on my Career Catalyst website! Why?…because I believe it resonates with many people, as we have all been there, haven’t we?

Also, the pandemic has given people time to think about what they really want from their careers and lives. So many people have posted on social media about their ‘awakenings’ and need for more meaningful and fulfilling work and a much more flexible working lifestyle. Dawning of realisation that ‘money is helpful’ but ‘health is wealth’. Therefore, less focus on all things materialistic and constantly chasing ‘the golden goose’ in favour of doing what you love, a working lifestyle of your choice and being happy! This new trend is reflected in many countries and is a big but welcome shift, I’m sure you will agree?

Having been a Career Coach for many years, working with a wide range of professionals and executives, it takes a lot to surprise me. So why was I so surprised? Because all of the clients who resigned are very different in ages, backgrounds and their career paths but they all felt an overwhelming urge to tell me what they had done, so soon into our Coaching relationship.

Although surprised, I was delighted by their amazing sense of excitement, new found confidence, positivity and self-belief about the future, even though none of them had another job lined up. Even more surprising was, despite the massive spate of redundancies/lay-offs around the globe, this trend continued into the pandemic, including the very first lockdowns of 2020 up to the present day!

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What Was the Common Theme?

In every case, having worked with me to establish their top Career Values i.e. ‘what was important to them in their career and life and why’, the realisation was that few of their key Values were actually being met in their current jobs.

I have always said that your Values are the foundation to build from to ensure you have a fulfilling job or career. They also change over time, as Values are very influenced by not just work situations but also many aspects of your personal life too, such as marriage, divorce, bereavements, starting a family or kids leaving the nest.

As a result of the Coaching, with their new found confidence, all of these clients had decided that the foundations where they were working were too shaky. They were no longer prepared to continue to compromise, or ‘bury their head in the sand’ and hope things would get better. Soon they were all even more excited, having achieved successful career changes or transitions and ensured the work they moved into met their most important key Values. In addition, they also now had the tools to undertake a Values ‘audit’ for any future job or career move they might consider.


Isn’t it interesting that at the end of a brilliant 121 coaching session, having facilitated a process, to drill down my clients top Values and Needs in their career and life and WHY, one of the revelations from my client was ‘the importance of knowing when to walk away from something’!

The analysis at the end of the exercise, helps to isolate very clearly why people have enjoyed certain jobs and not others, which triggered this light bulb moment for them. This can data also be used proactively to ‘audit’ whether a future job opportunity or any self employed or freelance project is right for you, so powerful stuff! Their revelation also got me thinking…

It is absolutely true, that knowing when to walk away from anything in your life, that isn’t right for you, is important, isn’t it?

Letting Go

I spend much time coaching clients to ‘let go’ and ‘look forward’, in order to see things from a different perspective which will open up new opportunities in their careers and lives. This is especially true as a result of redundancy, restructuring or following other key changes in people’s lives. We all tend to or try to hang onto things, which serve no benefit to us moving forward, although we may not see it this way at the time e.g. the job you loved that changed as a result of new technology, your new boss having a different way of working, a long term relationship that was heading nowhere, a personal bereavement. In reality, although some might be very painful and more difficult than others, these are all things we can eventually adapt to and move on from.

The Toxic Workplace!

The conversation then moved onto their partner and other clients and people we knew who had recently walked away from their jobs. They hated their jobs so much it was having a massive negative impact on their lives, making them extremely unhappy, stressed out and affecting their health and general well being. Interestingly a number of these people had talked about the ‘toxic work environment‘!

Why would you want to work somewhere where each day you are being poisoned?

Do You Have the Courage to Walk Away?

I mentioned how proud I was of their partner and another client who had the courage to walk away from their respective situations and how they were both relaxed, positive about the future and had the weight of the world off their shoulders. However, the reality is that many people stick in jobs or careers they hate for way too long because they are frightened of getting out of their comfort zone and facing change?

At what point do you decide that enough is enough and you must move on? How bad must it get before you do this?

I have seen many people’s relationships break up or become strained as a result of one partner’s unhappiness or the inevitable heart attack waiting to happen. Moreover, we also talked about different situations where, as a business owner, you might have ‘difficult’ clients who are causing you great stress and anxiety, either because they don’t pay their invoices without a fight or because they have unrealistic expectations. As with most things in life, you do have choice but again, do you have the courage to walk away?

Walk Away With Some Money!

Depending on your level of seniority, you may have the opportunity to walk away from your job with a healthy slug of money, which can be your cushion or ‘war chest’, if redundancy isn’t an option. A mutually beneficial ‘compromise agreement’ is often the best way to go, if it works for the employee and the employer and both parties can then part on reasonably amicable terms. It is always best to seek independent legal advice before entering into any potential compromise agreement.

Doing What is Right For You

One of my clients appears to have worked their exit brilliantly well and achieved exactly what they were looking for in terms of a compromise agreement, which has bought them breathing space to rethink their career and life. Equally I have other clients and know of many other people who have just walked away with nothing, because each day was becoming an ever more painful existence and waiting to find another job, or the right job, was no longer an option.

Ultimately, you must do what is right for you and your situation

However, this involves being honest with yourself and your partner, if you have one. Realistically you are the best person to know when it is right to walk away from your job but it often takes other people you know and trust to help you come to the right conclusion.

Money is helpful. It isn’t everything but your health and happiness surely come first, don’t they?

Can you begin to imagine now, like some of my clients and others I have eluded to, having the courage and therefore the motivation to walk away from your painful existence and revitalise your career and life? Wouldn’t that feel great?

I would love to hear about your current challenges and concerns. If you would like to have a free chat to see what’s holding you back then click the button below now and we can have a short informal chat to help you out!

Steve Preston is known as The Career Catalyst ® broadcaster of #careerchangehacks LinkedInlive stream with a quest to help professionals and executives to break free from career misery and do what you love!

A leading Career Coach to professionals and executives, the Career Coach’s Coach, MD of specialist Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd, motivational speaker, creator of Breakthrough Online Courses and Internationally acclaimed Author of Career and Personal Development books including Portfolio Careers – How to Work for Passion, Pleasure & Profit, Winning through Career Change and Winning Through Redundancy