Story of a Search Part 2:—What was Matthew’s background and what was his decision-making process as he defined his career goals and the price he might have to pay to make a move?

Judith Cushman All Posts by Date, Matthew's Story 0 Comments

judith cushman associates blog career advice negotiating an offer compensationAnswer:  Here is the second post in the Story of a Search almost a year after our finalist, Matthew accepted the job. Here is where we learn about the background of “Matthew,” a Senior Director, with a somewhat non-traditional career history in Silicon Valley.

In addition, we examine his decision-making process as he defined his career goals and the price he might have to pay to make a move.

He and I had connected on LinkedIn about 7-years ago. At that time, I was recruiting to fill a position for a client.  This time the conversation was exploratory.  I often arrange interviews with senior comms executives to focus on their key priorities to help define what the right next job should be. In his case, time was running out to reach his longer-term career goals and he needed help in understanding the consequences of making a risky move. He was at a turning point based on his career track and needed to understand why a high-risk situation could be disastrous.

His career in Public Relations begin more than 20+ years ago in Silicon Valley. He moved from Manager level jobs in media relations to Corporate Communications Director in a start-up during the boom/bust days of 2000-2002. He moved next to a mid-sized (less risk, more stability) software company to become a PR Director for 5.5 years. He then connected with one of the major B2B multi-billion-dollar companies in the Valley. In this organization, titles were hard won, and most new hires accepted higher salaries but lower titles and jobs with smaller scope. On the plus side, there were rotational assignments and opportunities to develop his story-telling talents through executive and internal comms assignments.

After almost 6-years with the company, he took a leave of absence to pursue personal family projects and returned over 18-months later. His career history with the organization was strong so he was rehired. Once he returned, he realized the company was no longer in a growth mode and layoffs were occurring, particularly among the more mature employees. Concurrently, more junior level (and younger) candidates were being hired

At the same time there was a CCO leadership change and his reporting lines were modified, for the worse, with promises it was temporary. That was never corrected. While his Comms leader was making headway to reorganize the corporate communication function and being effective at managing up, his ability to manage, motivate and support a large team was a weakness. Matthew was not being heard or noticed and realized it was time to quietly look for a new job.

Matthew and I discussed how important it was that he not take a financial step backwards in order to find a corporate position that provided the experience he wanted. As the breadwinner in the family, he understood that he could not ask his family to sacrifice their life style.

I think there is no reason to accept a figure that will require a loss, in any case. The only time that occurs is if the job is in an entirely new area, there is a long learning curve and a risk to the employer in the hire. Generally, if a job is in the non-profit field and the prior background is for-profit, that will take an adjustment. In this instance, none of those were considerations.

In his situation, leaving a very large company with excellent stock programs and health benefits could mean a sacrifice. Most likely it would mean those elements in a new compensation program would be less generous. It would be important to understand the differences. However, in recent months at his current employer, bonus and stock offerings had shrunk as business slumped. We reviewed all the elements in his benefit plan and any anticipated raises or stock awards. He was well prepared to explain his entire compensation program and avoid an error of omission that could cost him thousands of dollars.

He also understood that work demands would most likely increase if he were in a smaller company with fewer resources while he had broader responsibilities. He was ready to take on that additional responsibility for more comprehensive and rewarding work.

He wanted the scope of his role to not pigeon-hole him in a specialty. For example, executive communications was too narrow. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to solve problems and be recognized for his contributions. The company should be public and have a revenue stream of several billion dollars annually. He also wanted to supervise a team. He felt with those credentials he would be well qualified and on the right track to be considered for a broad communications role in a larger company. I agreed.

I also felt, considering his years of experience and maturity, that he was at a critical juncture to make the right choice. Taking a job with, for example, a high-risk start-up could undermine his career track. He would simply be too many years away from having the right experience to be considered for a corporate communications leadership position. He was on the edge of running out of time to make the leap to the next level.

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