Reviewing your career path involves examining the factors that shape its direction. In my outplacement business, I have worked with many candidates who have persisted for years in positions that eventually got them ‘forced out’ of their organizations. Most of us stay in our jobs because of the level of comfort we have – it could be the people around us, the work we do, etc. The reality is that most of us would rather not take the risk of moving to new situations for fear of failure or having to prove ourselves from scratch, or other horrors like having to make new friends all over again.
Hence, we stay on, until one fine morning we wake up and realize that we have lost all motivation to dress up and report for work. Before you reach this stage, take a look at the factors that have shaped your career path.
Begin by asking yourself the following questions:
How did you get the job?
For each of the jobs you have held, ask yourself this question. If you have actually planned and engineered the move to each of your jobs, well done.
However, most of you will probably realize that you did not proactively seek them – they somehow came along to you. It could be a referral, an attractive job advertisement you caught in the papers or even your organization’s own doing, which moved you to fill a newly created need somewhere. In other words, you did not play a proactive role in shaping your career moves. Should this approach be continued?
Who or what influenced you?
For most of us, when we move jobs, it is usually the lure of financial gain that motivates us. As an end itself, money is a practical commodity. However, the word of caution here is: Does the move add value to your career/market worth or is it going to be detrimental to your career growth?
We have seen many cases of professionals making moves just because they cannot (or, should it be, they think they cannot?) stand working in their jobs any longer. Some moves are due to poor working relationships, others have to do with the job content or organization-culture mismatch. So, they move. Two months down the road, they realized they have made a mistake and it’s too late. Some of us move jobs solely for the monetary gain and fail to think through the implications of making the move. We fail to consider the long-term effects of the move. And this can be more damaging to our track record than you can ever imagine.
One managing director we worked with had an engineering background. His career had consistently been in the manufacturing arena. In his early 40s, he made a decision to take up a headhunter’s challenge of switching to the retail business, believing that it would be good to try something new. The employing firm had told the headhunter specifically to look for someone outside the industry, to bring in a fresh perspective and new business ideas. Good for the firm, but not so good for the individual (in hindsight). He then immersed himself totally in his new found challenge and did not work towards staying connected with his old manufacturing network, nor keep up with the fast, ever-changing developments.
When he was retrenched in his mid-40s, he realized that it was difficult finding an employer who was willing to take him back to his previous manufacturing industry as he has been out-of-touch with it for half a decade. On the other hand, most retailers found his engineering and manufacturing background inappropriate for their business and his experience in the retail industry too short. As his career consultant, I felt that the individual took the right decision then, i.e. to move out of the manufacturing industry to gain exposure in a different industry. However, two things were unfortunate: firstly, he failed to stay connected to his old industry and secondly, the involuntary termination came too soon. Fortunately, with some major mindset shifts, he is now working with an e-commerce Internet start-up firm that is aiming for a NASDAQ listing by the end of the year.
Why did you leave?
Most of us leave our jobs for a combination of reasons. These can be conveniently grouped under two categories: ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. The former would consist of reasons that exist within the organization that are pushing you out of the organization. External factors, such as the current excitement of working in dot.com startups, can result in your making that move out of the organization -these are ‘pull’ factors.
Under normal circumstances, people would not want to move out of their comfort zone. Being used to friendly colleagues, supportive bosses, and nice pay packages can be detrimental to the health of your career. This is precisely why it is so important to be committed to the task of career management, not once every ten years, but annually.