We are in the midst of a great recession in the U.S. Growth of all sorts has been capped as most companies have chosen to cut costs and are only investing in very strategic projects. Most companies have frozen hiring and employee attrition is down to very low single digits. As a result, among other austerity measures, most folks who are employed have had their compensation frozen with only a few star performers getting bonuses.
Most importantly, many employees are finding that their career growth prospects have been severely limited in this environment. It has become increasing difficult for employees to progress upwards or even laterally. With this as a backdrop, I recently attended an executive forum, where among other things, executives fielded many questions about career management and growth. While everyone was grateful that they were employed as opposed to the latter, their questions mainly pertained to avenues of career growth.
Some questions were –
- How can an engineer transition to the business side?
- You are an executive now, but years ago you were a supply chain guy – how did you transition out?
I guess everyone can relate to these questions. I, for one definitely can. My background is engineering and in my present role, I actively engage in strategy, marketing, supply chain management with a dose of finance among other things. I will try and summarize what the execs said in bullet points. So, here we go in no particular order.
- Know where you want to go – You need to have a goal.
- Excel at what you are doing.
- Stretch – Go over and beyond your current job. Take risks.
- Be resourceful.
- Give first and maybe, take later – volunteer yourself to other groups/people to help them and use the opportunity to show your skills.
- Get recommendations – use them effectively to get access to people and opportunities.
- Get yourself a mentor.
- Network like crazy – Get on peoples calendars, but don’t be an annoyance.
- Be aware. Learn from other’s mistakes and also learn from their successes. Adapt.
- Get yourself a commercial resume’ – don’t rely entirely on your annual performance reports.
- Keep your skills updated.
- Learn finance and accounting – seriously, this was suggested by a senior fellow. Folks laughed! But really, is this important? I think it is – especially for those not on the business side. To get grounded on the business side, Finance is important – because at the end of the day, it is a numbers game. Accounting? Not as much and I am not a big fan of accounting.
Lastly, try and transition to new jobs early in your career rather than later. That will allow you to try more disciplines and find the one that you like and excel in.
Are you in transition? If so, what’s your transition plan?