How leaving my job made me better at it than I could ever have been if I’d stayed

by Mike Clayton  - February 11, 2015

Let’s not go into the details of why… The fact is that everyone reaches their level with their current career and some of us find, when we try to climb he next step, it is blocked.

Consultancy is a demanding career, and when your bosses believe that you have reached your level, there is no way up, so the only way is out. In my case, it was all very amicable and professionally handled – a result of one decision made by my bosses, and a second decision that I made. I knew it was time…

‘But what else can I do?’ I thought. Consulting was all I knew.

…or so I thought. In fact, consulting and programme management had taught me far more than I had ever realised. The only problem was that the choices Deloitte wanted me make if I were to stay were not the ones I wanted to make. And some of the skills they needed me to have; I didn’t.

Leaving freed me up to not make a choice I didn’t want to make. And ironically, it also freed me up to get the skills I needed but didn’t have. Because there are two features of being a busy, in demand consultant:

  1. You don’t feel like you have the time to go and learn big new skills
  2. You don’t feel the pressure to do so because, without those skills, you are still busy and in demand

A Huge Gift

gift box

No longer busy and in demand is a huge gift, if you use the time well. Now there is some real pressure and, fortunately, plenty of time.

Two years after leaving the firm that I had been privileged to work at for so long, and that I still think of as my professional ‘home’, I was a far far better consultant than I could have been, had I stayed.

I know that many people return to their former employers, round-tripping and returning at a significantly higher level. This is true at Deloitte as well as many other great firms. But most of those who do return, make the outward leg of their journey to another employed role. I didn’t: I chose to work for myself.

And like most self-employed people, I cannot see myself ever back on a payroll. So here I am, with far more skills than I left with. And very happy too!

Two Questions for Employers

But the question is – especially for those employers with busy, in demand staff – ‘what will you lose when you cannot promote them and they or you decide that they have reached the top and it’s time for them to move on?’

And if the answer worries you, then your answer to the second question will make all the difference: ‘what can you do to give them the time and the pressure to get those skills that they need, while remaining loyal to you?’

If there is a war for talent in your industry, then here is a powerful weapon.


This article was originally written as part of LinkedIn’s #careercurveballs series.

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