In the movies, no one ever seems to exit a job gracefully. The scene often includes fists being slammed onto desks, doors being slammed, and a lot of yelling.
In real life, it’s far less dramatic. For most (if not all) senior leaders, the decision to leave a position is one that’s been carefully considered, and is based on a desire to pursue a different objective.
In real life, it’s also far more complicated. There’s no script. There’s no one cueing you on when is the right time to resign, how you’re going to feel when it happens, and how to go about landing that dream job.
There are, however, individuals who have been through it; who have done the soul searching and has the difficult conversations, and are willing to share their experiences. A few weeks ago, healthsystemCIO hosted a discussion with three prominent CIOs — Julie Bonello, Michael Elley, and Aaron Miri — as part of our CIO Leadership and Career Development Webinar Series, delving into myriad issues, including the importance of transparency, common red flags to look for, and how to effectively work with recruiters.
According to the panelists, the process starts long before you even reach out to a recruiter, or browse job openings. It starts with asking yourself, ‘am I satisfied in my current role?’ For Elley, CIO at Baptist Health, it’s actually a series of questions. “Am I excited about what I’m working on, what we’re doing, and what we’re achieving? Are we driving toward change and innovation, or are we staying stagnant? What are we doing to evolve the way we care for patients, and meet consumers where they are? That’s what I’m passionate about, and as long as I’m doing that, I’m satisfied.”
Bonello, who recently took on the CIO role at Presbyterian Health Services, believes the key is feeling that you’re getting “significant value and joy” from your work, and cultivating a healthy environment.
When that’s no longer the case, perhaps it’s time to look around. But it’s critical to ensure it isn’t just a temporary frustration, and is indeed a situation that isn’t going to change, said Miri, CIO at Dell Medical School and UT Health Austin. “Just because you’re frustrated one day, it doesn’t mean it will continue. It’s important to look at the big picture: what are you trying to achieve and what are you trying to change?” If you are truly unhappy, perhaps it is time to move on.
The big question, of course, is how. Below are some of the best practices offered by the panelists.
- Identify your dream job. While Bonello was on vacation, she wrote down what she wanted in her next role, and made a list of people she could contact to “help refine my direction and provide feedback.” One of those contacts, in fact, directed her to her current job.
- Lean on your network. The more time you take to cultivate your network, the better your chances of not just being recommended for positions, but being notified by them – sometimes before they’re even posted, said Miri.
- Be honest. Bonello has always made it a point to be upfront about her intentions, and not just for her own benefit. “I do it for the good of the organization,” she noted. With change becoming the new normal, Bonello believes having open conversations with senior leadership is essential.
- Talk with recruiters — even when you’re not job hunting. Elley has made it a point to establish a trusting relationship with recruiters by “checking in with them on a regular basis” and discussing more than just current openings. “We talk about what’s happening in the industry and what I’m working on,” he said.
- Be authentic. In that same vein, it’s important to be respectful of others’ time, especially with search firms facing so much demand. “Don’t go job hunting unless you’re truly serious about wanting to leave,” noted Miri, adding that although it’s understandable to have a plan B, you need to be transparent. “Trust works both ways. If you’re sincere, they will be as well.”
- When you apply for a job, mean it. “Don’t send your resume out blindly,” he said, or worse, apply to every posting. Show you’re serious by reaching out directly to the recruiter or senior executives. Miri believes showing genuine interest in the position and the organization is the “number one predictor” in determining whether you land a job. “Be passionate, be yourself, and let your work and your story speak for you.”
- Watch out for red flags. During the interview process, take mental notes: have you been sent a schedule of meetings? Are people showing up on time and showing interest? Do they value IT’s input and include team members in the process? This will help shine a light on the organization’s culture, said Miri. Also, if individuals only want to talk about the problems within IT and how you can fix them, “that’s a red flag,” according to Elley.
- Consult your family. If you’re thinking about accepting a position that’s different from what you’ve done, or in a far-off location, make sure you solicit honest feedback from trusted sources. “Lean on your family and friends, and lean on people who are willing to call you out,” said Elley.
- Do your homework. Reach out to those who have left the organization and ask what they did and did not like. This, said Miri, will help you understand “what the environment and culture are like.”
- Don’t be afraid to say no. If, after doing the legwork, you decide an organization isn’t the right fit, have an open conversation about it. “No one wants a disingenuous person – especially in a leadership role,” he noted.
- Focus on the role, not the title. When you shoot for the title, you could end up being disappointed, particularly when it comes to leadership roles. “You need to really identify what you’re interested in, would be good at, and are willing to do, not just find the first thing that comes along,” said Elley.
- Exit with dignity. “Healthcare never forgets,” noted Miri. “How you enter an organization is just as important as how you exit. The degree of respect and partnership needs to be there, even if you decide to move on.” Be honest about your next steps, and provide assistance wherever needed.
And finally, trust your instincts. If your gut tells you that moving forward is the right decision for you and your family, listen to them. “It’s hardly ever wrong.”