Answers to Career Questions
Finding new challenges, interview
and tips on deciding when to take a business risk
Q: I am a national sales
manager of a medium sized company. I rose from the ranks, overcoming
every obstacle to attain my success. Yet my success is empty. I make
a wonderful salary, am respected by my peers and enjoy a fine
reputation in my industry. My next step would be to try to become
president of the company or a major officer. This is something I
definitely don’t want to do. I am 35- years-old and absolutely
bored. Close friends and family members laugh and say they wish they
had my problem. What mountains are left for me?
A: It sounds as though you
enjoy climbing the mountain a lot more than the view from the top.
Frankly, that’s not unusual. Many people experience a sense of “Is
this all there is?” once they’ve accomplished what they set out to
do. Your ennui is a signal that you need to find another challenge.
Begin by pinpointing exactly why your
career was exciting in the past. Is it because you overcame
incredible odds? Produced order from chaos? Introduced a new product
line? Penetrated a new market? Built a winning team? If you can
determine the basis for your motivation you’re more likely to
reproduce a situation where you can use it again.
Give your company the first shot at
your new sense of purpose. Propose a stimulating project that
carries only a small amount of financial risk. Your enthusiasm
(backed by your reputation and track record) may prove contagious
with higher management.
If your organization doesn’t share
your excitement after several months of gentle persuasion, look to
your industry. No doubt many of your company’s competitors would be
interested to hear your ideas.
My guess is that you will feel stale
when you see no new challenges on the horizon. If you don’t want to
take your ideas across the street, you have two other alternatives:
l. Continue to find new projects as a sales manager. 2. Start your
own company and keep it relatively small and close to your
By staying put, you’re likely to slip
into the same malaise that is common among managers who have
forgotten that work can be more than just a way to fill time and
Q: Last week I had my third in
a series of interviews for a job that is just what I’ve been looking
for. Unfortunately, the interviewer hasn’t contacted me about his
choice yet. Should I continue waiting by the phone, call to see if
he has hired anyone, -write a letter expressing my enthusiasm, or
what? This waiting is driving me nuts!
A: Your question prompts a
discussion of two points:
What should you do in your
How can you avoid this
predicament should you change jobs again?
Start by finding out exactly where
you stand right now. You’ve probably avoided calling the company
because you assume the interviewer will consider you a pest or
you’re afraid that he has decided to hire someone else. If it’s been
a week since you have last spoken, calling to check the progress of
the selection process is reasonable ( unless he specifically told
you the decision would take two to three more weeks) . In fact, your
call will display both enthusiasm and initiative, qualities that
most employers value.
Even if your interviewer has bad
news, it’s far better to know where you stand. In fact, a negative
reply can be a partial plus, if you can elicit some feedback on why
another candidate was chosen instead of you.
The interviewer probably hasn’t·
contacted you because the decision, isn’t final yet. While this new
opportunity is undoubtedly your number one priority, the interviewer
may rank it as third or fourth on his list. He may have an
unexpected crisis, an out-of-town trip or an emergency project to
handle. Consequently, you may be on a temporary hold until his
To find out where you stand, phone
him and say, “As I haven’t heard from you in a while, I’m calling to
check on whether you have filled the position yet.” Then let him
take it from there. If he says he hasn’t, ask when he will make his
final decision. Then call him that day or soon after to ask about
As you might have guessed, you must
take responsibility for contacting the employer to maintain control
over your search. To save yourself future anxiety, ask at the end of
each interview how your interviewer plans to proceed. Find out if
more interviews will be needed and how soon they will occur. If it’s
the final interview, ask when a choice probably will be made and
call if you haven’t heard from him by then. Also be sure to write a
thank you note right after all interviews.
Waiting for “the big call” is never
fun, but you can decrease your discomfort if you are willing to
assert yourself a little.
Q: I’ve been a consultant in
my own business for about four years, and while I’m making a decent
income, I’ve reached a plateau. Recently, a new opportunity has
arisen that, in the short term, will cost me a lot of time and
money, but has tremendous long term potential. I’m torn between
playing it safe and risking what I already have to build something
more. Any suggestions?
A: While we all groan when
people use clichés, there’s no denying that they do have a basis in
fact. It does take money to make money. It’s also true that the
willingness to take risks is a key ingredient in achieving success.
When you started your consulting
business, you willingly invested both time and money in a fledgling
project that had no track record. Your perseverance and expertise
brought you to your current plateau. Further expansion will-require
the courage to take a risk again.
You probably have vivid memories of
those first two years when you sweated to pay the bills some months
and sometimes longed for a nice, safe job with a salary. Do you also
recall the enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment as your business
grew from a dream into reality? Do you miss that feeling?
Moving up the ladder, whether it is
in an entrepreneurial or corporate environment, requires some
sacrifices. You trade the comfort of a familiar situation for the
thrill of a new challenge. Growth is scary and uncomfortable, yet
many people feel most alive when they’re pushing themselves beyond
their current boundaries.
Four years ago you trusted your
instincts when you began your new business. Now you have a track
record and a good deal of experience in the do’s and don’ts of
building a successful enterprise. If you decide in advance how much
time and money you’re willing to devote to your new project, and put
together a specific plan of action, you’ll minimize your risks.
However, you must ask yourself, “Will it be exciting, fun and
personally satisfying?” If you can say “Yes” with conviction, then
go for it. If you can’t, the potential rewards aren’t worth the