Monday, May 12, 2008

Is Your Job Good For Your Career?

Many high-potential leaders lament that the “barrier to entry” for more senior positions, and particularly the C-suite, in their companies is daunting … there’s simply no room at the inn.

Their experience is that current residents aren’t leaving anytime soon, the company is growing flatter, few new positions are being created, and unless there’s a “divorce,” the likelihood of moving up is limited.

Not only have I heard this from functional leaders wanting to advance, but some of the best HR heads at marquee companies have voiced concern that “no room at the top” creates employee frustration and raises the probability that their next layer of talented management will exit.

A recent conversation with a top HR executive reinforces that point.

“We’ve got great leadership at the top” she told me, “the problem is we have equally great leadership in the pipeline below them and the water is starting to back up. The next level wants to move up and they want to move up now.”

Therein lies the rub. The higher up you go, the narrower the funnel gets. By virtue of its pyramid structure, there are increasingly fewer options for growth as you near the top and the number of superstars vying for those positions increases. Nothing will change that fact.

So, what does this mean for your career? If you can’t move up, is the only option to move out?

Don’t bolt for the door just yet. First, clarify what you want and where you are right now. Examine the delta between them. Identify the gap and determine the skills and accomplishments you need to fill it.

Next, look around you and decide whether your job can advance your career. Can you still expand its scope, introduce fresh ideas, forge new alliances, create alternatives and innovate? In short, can you drive your job beyond its current boundaries to acquire the skills, visibility and achievements you need to advance?

Consider it an exercise in career ROI … can you optimize this job for future rewards?

The savviest “career smart” executives are those who stay abreast of job market opportunities although they may not act upon them. Hopefully you are among that crowd. If you find that in spite of your best intentions and efforts, there is little opportunity to “grow your job”, then perhaps it is time to discretely, but aggressively, explore alternative options.

Remember, while changing jobs is not always the easiest thing to do, it’s typically the time when you can realize the greatest gains in compensation and responsibility.

Sometimes, when you can’t move up, it’s wiser to move out.

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