Answer: Here are 7 guiding principles.
- You are responsible for making the best career decisions for yourself. Listen to your instincts and “gut.” If you are unhappy in a job or feeling uneasy when you interview for a new position, there is usually a good reason. Figure out what it is. Don’t ignore it. What to do about it is a complex challenge depending upon risk, family needs, location, and compensation. Be thoughtful and take the time to consider your options and consequences. Until then you are not ready to consider a move.
- When you look at job opportunities either inside or outside your organization recognize that you are not “job hunting”, you are creating career path toward your final destination. If you cannot make the case for how a new job fits that trajectory, you are not ready to make a “job decision.” Stay put until you have the answer.
- Look at accepting a job as a 5-year investment. If the job you are hired to do has a life span of less than that, where is the opportunity for a promotion? Can your employer describe a path to further growth? Is that the track you wish to pursue? Or, if you are in the most senior position, do you have confidence in your ability to create opportunities?
- The most ideal time to capitalize on your work experience for a top CorpComm or IR job is with 20-25 years of experience. Look at that timeframe and work backwards. If you are not seeing a path to that role in your current organization, make a realistic decision about what to do. You can accept the situation or create a plan and start moving to position yourself for that top post.
- Balance between work and family demands is extremely difficult to achieve. As you look ahead 5 years, understand what your family needs are. During the most demanding times at work as you reach Senior Director/VP levels, you may find yourself squeezed between caring for children and caring for aging family members. Family comes first; you will not regret that decision.
- Recognize when your personal values shift. In the early phase of your career you put work first and drive to get ahead. As you achieve success, you may decide you are satisfied with your current situation and want to remain in that position for several years. The decision to “stay in place” is valid.
- The path to a VP CorpComm role in a major company is oftentimes not at that company. Major corporations offer mid-level narrow positions in specialized aspects of these functions. To get the breadth of skills and leadership experience, join a smaller company with broad responsibilities and then move to a larger company. This career path zig zag works.