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Should my daughter take a break before looking for a new job?

The Question

My daughter is a senior marketing exec for an airline but is burnt out from her poorly trained manager and deteriorating morale in her department. It's quite intolerable for her now and she finds it hard to properly present herself to recruiters.

The guideline used to say "stick with your current job until you've landed your next," but in advance of big career steps, I'm hearing more and more about people taking one- to two-months sabbaticals to focus on what they want from their next job. Is this the right action for my daughter? Or should she stick it out until she finds a new job first?

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The Answer

I commend you for being a well-intentioned mother looking out for your daughter. Does she know that you are seeking help on her behalf? If not, then I would certainly let her know so she is not surprised when she reads this column. I get many questions from well-meaning parents such as you who want to help their children. I always remind them that their children are adults and that they should be taking action on their own behalf unless they specifically ask for a parent to help or intervene.

Your daughter needs to look after her health – physically, mentally and emotionally. She needs to see her general practitioner and speak to him/her about how her job is affecting her. Her doctor may suggest short-term medication support as well as a referral to a counsellor, coach, or therapist who can help her begin to manage the stress and potential burnout. She needs to get healthy and find balance in her life in order to address what she needs to in her current position and to prepare to look for another position. If she is not coping well on the job and is not able to handle the stress then her physician may suggest that she take a stress leave.

The next step is to look at completing her current position as professionally and respectfully as possible. Even though your daughter is having a difficult time in her position she needs to consider what impression she wants to leave with her current company as well as what they will say about her in reference checks, especially if she decides to leave precipitously. Even though it may be difficult for you to accept your daughter is going to have to consider what role she played in her relationship with her manager and the morale in her department. If possible, she needs to do her best in addressing the situation in her department and repairing the relationship with her boss. These are the people that her next prospective employer will contacting in the final reference checks.

She will want to consider working with a leadership, relationship and career coach who can help her manage her current assignment, boss and team and prepare to make a conscious career transition. The coach will help her move away from blaming her boss and her team to looking at what role she has played in these key relationships and what she can do to repair them while she is looking for other career opportunities. If she is not able to do this, then there is a higher likelihood that similar challenges and issues will show up in her new workplace and professional relationships. Her goal should be to make amends with her team and help them work more effectively together while she is preparing to transition. One of the best things to do to improve morale is to express appreciation for what the team is doing right as opposed to focusing on what they are doing wrong. You daughter will want to do this with her boss and help him build his skills and confidence so that she can more easily step away when a new opportunity arises.

Concurrently, your daughter will want to start looking for new career opportunities. She will want to work with the coach to get clear on the vision for her career and her next position; build her network; identify appropriate opportunities; develop and hone her communication, interview, relationship and leadership skills; learn from her current and past positions; learn to manage fears, resistance, and obstacles; and take conscious steps to secure her next position. She will also need to do her research and due diligence on prospective companies, their leaders and their cultures to ensure that there will be a good fit for her in a new position.

Bruce Sandy, Principal of Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting and works with clients locally and internationally.

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