Growing Your Career: Let Your Goals Be the Rudder That Guides You There

A headhunter called this week and their client is interested in me for a CEO role. Never really thought of myself at that level. I don’t know if I should call back. I want your thoughts. Current role VP, Operating Committee member, etc.

Need to discuss this opportunity. I have a job offer but it would require me moving to Charlotte. Current situation: working as HR Manager for six plus years, no movement and none in sight.

Received a resume which showed 4-5 roles with same job title: Recruiting Manager.

This past week was career advice week. This is how it started.

Facing tough career decision

Wow, I thought sarcastically, these are real tough decision. I sure would lose a lot of sleep over all of them.

Memo to all workers: You are in charge. You are the CEO of you, and no one else! You can’t be afraid to enter the darkness of uncertainty, whether it is geography or the next progression on the career ladder. You have to take control.

If you are planning on staying in the same role for as long as they will have you, then you really need to rethink your career and how to manage it. The only way that you will increase your value proposition is to bring a varied amount of experience to a new role and expand on that.

You have to keep expanding beyond where you are at this point.

To my friend that was the VP, my question was: Where did you think your career progression should be headed if you are mid-30’s and you have already made Vice President? If you do not think you are ready for the next move, when will you be ready? If you do not think you are capable, what is missing?

You can’t, or should not want to be, a VP all your life.

Career decisions should be based on destination

To my friend with the stagnant career, my question was:  So you have been there six long years in the same role; what is your plan for year 7 and beyond? Is your plan to stay there for two more years of on the job training? Are you afraid of moving to a new climate?

His case did remind me of someone I met online a while back that asked me for a job. I reviewed his resume and what stood out was he was a recruiting manager who had moved four or five times to different companies.

The problem was, each time he moved he took the same position. Did he think that maybe he was not ready for a Director or VP of Recruiting? Better yet, did he think to even apply for these type of roles?

This morning, I had a discussion with one of our executives who told me the story of working in a dead-end job when he was offered this new opportunity with substantial increases all around. As he thought about it, he mentioned it to one of his friends, who in turn mentioned [always in confidence 🙂 ] to one of the supervisors.

When his boss found out about it, he berated him and told him if his decision were to leave, he could just leave now. So in this case, the manager helps him make the decision to leave.

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I asked him, what would have happened if his manager had not responded negatively, and he said he probably would have stayed. But on reflection, his career took on new life when he moved, and it would never have happened if he did not leave his current situation.

Career audit

Career decisions come in all shapes and sizes. We make them based on a host of reasons, and in some cases, non-reasons. To have a successful career, you have to make decisions along the way. You can’t run away from that. You have to run towards it.

Advice is good to a certain extent, but you are the only one in full control of all the variables of your life.

Each person should have a destination in sight from the time they start working. That far-off vision should act as a beacon so that whenever we are faced with a decision involving our current situation, the destination should be the overriding factor in making that decision.

You always need to ask yourself — How much closer will this take me to my goal?

Build your model early

This model will work, especially if you are just starting out or if you are in mid-career. But even if you are headed into the twilight, keep in sight the destination that you are seeking.

So many people who have been in the workplace for a while have never understood this concept. A job offer comes along and the decisive factor in the vast majority of cases is simply how much more money they would be getting.

This is a very short-sighted approach that in the end will do more damage than good.

I recall an interview with a sports agent who said that the most successful ball players are the ones who begin to plan for their exit as soon as they start playing at a professional level. They determine their destination and work towards it during the off-season. This type of positioning is a must in this career-challenged climate.

You have to prepare yourself. Let your goals be the rudder of your life. And, let that rudder guide you towards your destination.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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1 Comment on “Growing Your Career: Let Your Goals Be the Rudder That Guides You There

  1. Progression into management and executive leadership may not suit everyone as a career goal. Excellence as an individual contributor doesn’t necessarily translate into excellence a leader with authority over others. In addition, a successful VP that makes great tactical decisions may not succeed as a CEO, which requires articulating a strategic vision for an entire organization. I agree that individuals must be CEOs of their own career, but I don’t agree that all trajectories should lead to formal leadership roles. Deepening and diversifying one’s talents could mean a lateral move (or even a “step down” in the hierarchy) into a new career or industry, from an established organization to a start-up venture, from a local or regional organization to a global one, or from a private company to public service. I myself moved from HR leadership at a small organization into a business partner role at a large sophisticated one. This has allowed me to deepen and refine my capabilities and focus full-time on work I enjoy without the distraction of work I happen to not find as inspiring. And with organizations eliminating unnecessary management position, there are fewer pathways into formal leadership anyway.

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