in a Python Syndrome
Q: I'm in my early 40's. I spent the
first few years of my career in various technical positions and
eventually, through job changes, progressed to middle management.
While nothing is wrong with my current job, there's absolutely no
room for advancement. I'm considering a change that would allow me
to move higher on the corporate ladder, but I don't know where to
start looking. How can I achieve my goal?
A: It sounds like you’re caught
in the “pig in the python” dilemma, where Baby Boomers are hanging
on to their jobs because their 401Ks and other retirement resources
have been decimated. Add to that, the increasing emphasis on leaner
organizations and automated information systems that severely
decrease the need and opportunity for mid-level managers. At the
same time, more 30-45-year-olds have moved into the professional
pool and have found themselves competing for fewer jobs.
While this may sound depressing, there
still are plenty of options for people who want to advance their
careers. If you're willing to apply hard work and political savvy
to outshine your competition, here are some suggestions that can get
your career moving again:
for a new project that will increase productivity, save money,
uncover a new market, improve your performance, etc. Taking on
responsibility beyond your job description offers a learning
experience and increases your visibility with upper-level
management. Choose a project that excites you and has genuine
benefit for the firm. Be sure to write a report summarizing
your results and recommendations, and, if possible, present it
orally to your vice president or the executive committee.
Consider enrolling in continuing education courses or studying
for an advanced degree. Engineers are encouraged to keep up with
state-of-the-art advances in their specialties. A masters degree
in your company's field might give you the expertise required to
move ahead of your fellow mid-managers.
an M.B.A. doesn't guarantee advancement, an engineering
background and business degree continue to be a favorable
combination. If your supervisory experience has been in
technical departments, some business courses could broaden your
perspective and encourage your superiors to see you as someone
who understands both the technical and bottom-line aspects of
promotion isn't possible in the near future, consider a lateral
move. Supervising another department can rekindle your
enthusiasm, spark new learning, add valuable contacts and
increase your management expertise. Japanese firms structure
lateral moves into their training for top positions. For them,
breadth of experience is as important as depth.
you thought about creating a new job for yourself? Perhaps this
could be a logical extension of your special project. Or, if you
examine your company's structure, you may uncover a need that
you can fulfill by developing a new department.
Expanding networks within your organization and industry is an
excellent technique for gaining visibility and discovering new
opportunities. Increasing in-house contacts can also enhance
current job effectiveness by building cross-functional teams
with other department heads. Industry contacts and professional
organizations give you access to openings outside your firm and
valuable information about how competitors are managing their
your efforts to advance within your firm aren't fruitful, pursue
a position outside the organization. Small to midsize companies
will be where future advancement is most likely.