Making Your Future Work – Plan your exit from full-time employment.

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There are many situations in our lives where we start to realise that full-time employment is just not working for us.  It may be that we are coming into a season where we want to look after our families, we want to have children, we want to spend time with our children.  It may be that we are just exhausted by full-time employment because actually it’s not a 35-hour week or 40-hour week, it’s a 60 or 70-hour week once we take into consideration the time we spend travelling to and from work, or the time we spend working in the evenings after the working day, or the number of times we have to travel at a weekend to be the right place on Monday morning, or the number of times we have to catch up on a Saturday or Sunday.  Full time as it is defined by our current employer is no longer the right answer. 

Four-Day Week?

It has been very interesting to follow the increasing movement to a four-day week.  In fact, this has been around for ages in certain professions.  Often in the nursing profession, you do twelve-hour shifts and in effect, you do get a four-day week.  In other organisations, they have a set-up so that you can do a four-day week and then a master’s degree programme on the other day.  But now what I’m seeing is more forward-thinking organisations explore about how they can, rather than cramming a whole week’s work into four days, strategically reduce the number of hours that people work and still maintain or enhance productivity.  This means that there’s an increasing number of employers who accept you only have to be available for work four days a week. 

Flexible Working?

A four-day week may not be the right answer for you.  It may be that you want a different kind of flexible working.  For people taking responsibility for their children, it may be that you want to work each day from 9 am until 3 pm so that you can take your children to school, pick them up from school and be with them after school.  It may be that you want the flexibility to share in the care of elderly relatives.  Some of my clients want the flexibility to become a magistrate, spend more time doing pro bono charity work, become a special constable, or join the reserve forces of the military.  You may well have other reasons of your own. 

Planning your exit from full-time employment

Be clear about where you stand.  Are you in a position to sacrifice income for time?  What do you want to do with the time freedom you seek?  Is it realistic to negotiate a part-time relationship with your current employer without getting paid for fewer days but still working just as hard?

I have talked to people who work for professional organisations, that have signed up for a four-day workweek.  But all it means is that there’s one day when they’re not in the office.  However, they are still expected to be available and to deliver 40 or 50 hours of activity.  Now they paid 20% less for doing pretty much the same job. 

Perhaps your exit from full-time employment will need to be more radical and there are ways that you can make a transition that sometimes are good stepping stones to a different kind of future.

Become an interim

Almost all the interim roles that I’m aware of involve you being full-time but you are only full-time for some of the time.  You will be able to sign up to limited-term contracts. You will have space between contracts and that might be all you need.  You might find it very attractive to have a work style where you work on a nine-month contract and then you get three months off and you can time that so you can spend it in Australia in the UK winter or do some other significant thing that you want to do.  On average, interims only work for eight months of the year.  Can you afford the income sacrifice?

Become an independent contractor

This will mean that your assignments tend to be shorter, you tend to only get paid for the hours you do and you tend to be able to limit those hours.  As a contractor, if you are signed up to a 40 hour week, you know that you clock off at the end of those 40 hours and that can be just enough to free you up from the 50 to 60 hour routine that you bought into.  Often you are more able to work from home and you will have less direct management responsibility.  You may be able to access part-time contracts in the future.

Pursue your start-up dream

Perhaps you are going to build that business that you have always wanted to build.  This is a high-stakes, major transition.  Your transition from full-time employment to start-up is unlikely to free up your time.  I have worked with many start-up leaders and in the early years it can be all-consuming.  Alongside the income-generating activity, you will have to manage the finances, recruit staff, develop marketing and pursue sales.  Most start-ups need an investment of cash as well as time.  You will be betting your future on success in a world where 80% fail in their first three years.

Become a coach

At first sight, coaching looks very attractive.  You may pay £3,000 – £20,000 to get a recognised coaching qualification but then you get paid for just talking to people.  However, the reality is you talk to people and sometimes you get paid.  Building up a portfolio of valuable high-paid rewarding coaching clients is not straightforward.  When I trained as a coach, I was told that your ideal coaching relationship was a six-month assignment with two hours a month to support your client to achieve a shift from A to B.  This is the maths: to have 20 clients a month that deliver 40 hours of paid activity you have got to find 40 clients a year.  For 100 hours of paid activity, then you need to find 100 clients a year. That’s two new clients a week.  If half of the people you talk to sign up, that’s 4 trial sessions a week.  It takes five leads to get one trial session you need twenty leads a week.  You need an engine that delivers one thousand quality leads a year.  Too often the coaches that I talk to have put their rates so low that their lives only work if they are coaching 6 hours a day, every day, which is exhausting.  In between sessions they write them up and prepare for the next session.  Beware of the coaching trap!

Become an Independent Consultant

Many of the independent consultants I talk to start very well.  You draw on your existing contacts and quickly get early consulting assignments.  However, your immediate network circle can be quickly drained.  Now you are always looking for work and you are prepared to sacrifice premium rates to get the work you want.  


Planning your exit from full-time permanent employment requires very careful planning and it requires building a lifestyle plan and a business plan that you can be convinced is going to work for you.  It may be that becoming a Portfolio Executive is the most powerful transition for you.  Check out to learn more.