Career Management: Sometimes You Have To Go Out Before You Go Up

 In Career Tips


Managing Your Career PathThe ongoing path of our careers is never a straight line.  Based on opportunities and business conditions we end up zigzagging our way from one position to another.  Sometimes we even take a step back, which may or may not be in our control.  Nevertheless, there are times when we must make a decision to leave our current company and position to find a new path in a different company.

For those people who want to either find a career in a new functional area or want a promotion and a higher level position, you may want to pursue what I call a “2-Step Strategy”.  Let’s look at the circumstances for using this strategy and define the 2 steps.

Conditions for the 2-Step Strategy:

You may have pursued a career in a specific functional area for some period of time and want to make a change to a different functional area.  You know you have the transferable skills that could position you well for something else, but your company doesn’t support you in making a shift like this.  Perhaps they have “seen” you in your current role for too long and have you pigeon-holed.  Your personal brand with all the influencers does not support a change.  This type of condition literally screams for leaving your company in order to move to a new path and recreate your personal brand in a different functional area.

Another circumstance which often occurs is that you are ready to get a promotion, but based on your situation, that promo is unlikely to happen in a suitable timeframe or happen at all.  Sometimes when you have to wait too long to be given more responsibility, it won’t happen because it’s almost like missing the window of opportunity for your peak performance.  It’s similar to an athlete who must train to time their peak performance to coincide with a competitive event.  While it is good to have hope of getting that promotion where you are, you must decide how long you’re willing to wait.  Some people think that if you are on a growth path, you should get a “bump” every 2-3 years.  When the promotion doesn’t happen, they pull the plug and move on.  This can be a very effective rule of thumb, if you are willing to move in and out of various companies.

2-Step Strategy:

  1. Plan your exit.   Don’t just quit your job.  Your goal in this first step is to leave your current company and position due to going to a company where your next step exists.  Think of this as jumping from one avenue to another.  This avenue will either put you on a path for growth or be the growth position. Start doing your research to find a list of companies that are conducive to your career directions.
  2. Plan your move.  If you have selected well for your new company, you should be able to quickly see how to position yourself for the next move toward your desired position.  This 2-Step Strategy does take planning and patience; but it gives you more control than simply waiting to see if something happens in a place you know doesn’t support your goals.  As part of your plan you want to do the following things:
  • Understand the performance standards of the position for which you were hired and exceed them.
  • Understand some of the key differences between where you are and your next step.  Observe others doing the same or similar job to see what responsibilities they have so you can start training or taking on some new tasks once you have learned your job.  Don’t jump on this step too quickly; but by 6 months you should have solidified your brand and can now start the process of taking on assignments and work at that next level.
  • Engage your manager in your plan.  Again, you want to wait until you are solid in your position.
  • Reinforce your Personal Brand so people in your new company see you either at the next level or as well qualified to move into the new functional group.  Since you have no history, you can recreate yourself so you aren’t locked in.

You are in control of what direction your career takes.  Sometimes it requires some bold moves and long term planning to make it happen.  This 2-Step Strategy has worked well for many people who realized they had to go out before they could go up.


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