Answer: In this series, I will start with a story of a VP Corporate Communications whose career path was marked by stability and success. It was that very success and how she achieved it, that led to her being particularly vulnerable to making a career decision that would undermine her future. In the end, we came up with a grid and a checklist to quickly decide what jobs were not worth exploring and what cultures fit best. The grid and checklist will be available in future posts in this series.
As our discussion evolved, we established a grid based on a number of considerations that were “non-negotiables” and would immediately rule out a situation. Also, as I thought about why this clearly talented and excellent professional needed help to establish this grid, it occurred to me that we also needed to create a checklist. This would be about the factors, including culture and job satisfaction in her prior roles and pin down what they were. She could then determine if a new opportunity had similar cultural and stylistic qualities. That would increase the chance of succeeding, feeling comfortable and liking the new situation.
Let’s call this successful executive, Rebecca, and quickly follow her through a career that began in the early 90ties, which means that she has about 27 years of experience. She would be in her late 40ties now. She graduated college with a degree in Communications and was employed in a series of career building roles. Her experiences straddled Advertising/Copy writing and Corporate Communications including work in leisure and travel categories.
Her major career leap occurred when she transitioned from an Advertising firm as Copy Director to a Fortune 500 company’s financial division leading their internal and external communications. This was 7-years into her career and from that point on all her moves were to major corporations in a series of broader and more responsible roles.
Her most significant role establishing her credentials at the corporate VP level followed. It was a decade-long assignment with an industry-leader in the Communications industry. Ultimately in 2010, after 4 promotions she was named Vice President and Company Officer. She built their first internal communications department and led almost a dozen major acquisitions, divestitures and corporate structural initiatives. This stability in an industry driven by quarterly market changes and constant product upgrades, established her as an agile and strategic performer at the leadership level. She had earned her place through hard work, being highly effective at problem solving and delivering excellent editorial results, all while under constant pressure to perform.
She then moved on to a series of 3 VP corporate communications roles at industry leading companies involving internal and external messaging (her editorial talents were used in almost every instance.) That takes us to 2018. Her most recent assignment was with an 11+ billion retail group as Chief Communications officer reporting to the Chief Marketing Officer. She was also the advisor to the CEO and Executive team on all communication issues.
There was never a need to job hunt. The positions she accepted were offered to her. There was no need for career planning, she seemed to be offered the jobs that all were at VP levels heading up the communications function. That was about to change.