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  • Writer's pictureKarla Trippe

4 Strategic Moves for Plotting Your Career Path

I am fortunate to work with many professionals on designing a game plan for reaching their career goals. As we begin to come out of the pandemic (and stay out of it let's hope), employees are giving serious thought as to how to move into better paying, more fulfilling positions. From my vantage point as a retired executive, I typically offer the people I counsel with four options for moving up. Think of these as moves on a board.

Moving up from your current position

Naturally, this is the best and easiest move but it requires working for a manager that cares about his/her employees. Sadly, this is not the norm any longer. If you have a manager who wants to see her people grow, sit down with her every six months and discuss what you are doing well and what needs improvement. Ask for her opinions about how to develop a career plan for the job area and industry you work in (everyone likes to be thought of as an authority).

While you might like the company you work for and feel you have found the type of position that is right for you and simply want more authority and pay but it's not happening, look around at the other people who work for your manager. Are any of them getting promotions? There is usually one favorite and rarely is this person exceptional. She may just be willing to do the grunt work and/or dirty work such as saying "no" to any requests. If you see that situation, jump ship because you are on the road to nowhere. This leads to our next options.

Move to a competitor

Sometimes this move may be lateral which isn't the best but what you are looking for is a better manager, someone who isn't cold-hearted and wants to see her people grow. The reason I recommend a competitor is that your knowledge and skills will be most appealing. Make certain you can find people who have been promoted by this manager and try talking to them about her work style and skill set. You are looking less for growth in knowledge of your specific job function than upward movement. You want a higher job ranking and pay. Don't wait more than a year for this to come. From this position, you have two career moves: stay and grow with the company you are with or try this other strategy.

Move back to your previous company at a higher level and salary

Some people really like what they are doing but sadly can't get a manager to promote them to the role, responsibilities, and pay they deserve (sorry but it's no longer your grandfather's world). Leaving and working for a competitor can give your employer a real shock and make you more valuable in her eyes. Stay in touch with people still working there and make sure it's known that you will come back for the right offer.

In the Silicon Valley, where I worked, this was a career move I saw done regularly. Some people would work in a particular industry such as security software. They would move around the different firms rising in title and pay as they went along.

Move to a different business unit

We can also call this move 2a. If you are working in an industry that is mature without a lot of competitors, sometimes the best strategy is to go to another business unit or subsidiary within your corporation. Again, you may have to make a lateral move because you are still unproven to a new manager but it will be easier for you to research her and verify this is someone who promotes her employees or is honest about the opportunities. This gives you the same opportunity to use move 3 or you may find you like the division you are at.

I used this move successfully at a large software company I worked for. I needed to get to a director title and I just couldn't get the CEO to give it to me. So, I went to a new subsidiary, got the title and pay, and within a year moved to a better job with a company that really appreciated my knowledge and skills and moved me to a VP!

As you evaluate your career, remember that 2021 is the year that you need to strategize your path. Most organizations, except maybe Zoom, has been in a holding pattern. They know employees are tired of working from home and a ready for a change. If they think anyone can fill your position, you shouldn't be working for them. They don't deserve you. Move on and move up.


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