For years I have said that the person who gets ahead isn’t always the smartest or works the hardest … although those are great qualities to have. The person who gets ahead is the one who remains alert to opportunity. Sometimes those are internal to your organization. Sometimes, they are external. Sometimes they are the people willing to do the things no one else is willing to do.
The person who avoids professional disaster is the one who remains alert to signals and can “read the tea leaves.”
On the other hand, the person who avoids professional disaster is the one who remains alert to signals and can “read the tea leaves.” Here’s what to look out for:
1. You suddenly report to someone different. If you are a senior professional, the reporting structure has changed and you now are reporting a rung or two down from where you were reporting. If you are on staff, you are suddenly re-assigned without even the pep talk about this being the great opportunity.
2. You’ve gone as high as you can. Look up from your desk and see a manager or director who is around your age and content with his job. Hmm. When you ask yourself the question “Where can I really go from here?” your answer suggests improving your skills, rather than job function, because no one of value will ever leave.
3. Your firm is up for sale or was recently sold. These are pretty similar problems but slightly different. In the first case, there is a warning that business is sour or that management would like to cash out. In the second, the deal is done.
In both cases, the result will be the same — you will help the new management integrate the operation of the two firms, transferring knowledge that will help make for a smooth operation. Then you will be invited to accept a package to leave or pushed into a dead end job. Doesn’t sound exciting, does it?
4. Everything is just being maintained or that’s the only kind of work you’re assigned. The people who tend to advance are the ones who deliver new “bright shiny objects” to management — the new projects, the sexy work that makes everyone go “Ooooooooooh.” If you are being asked to maintain stuff, you are on the Dilbert career path.”
5. Your new boss is a jerk. No amount of charm on your part will ever take away the loathing you feel when you go to work because you dislike the person you work for. It is compounded if you get the idea that the feeling is mutual.
6. Your industry is on its deathbed. Part of what makes a person successful is business knowledge. There was a time when the “buggy whip industry” in the United States was huge. Now, you are probably wondering what I’m talking about. In 2001, every telecom firm in the world was doing extremely well. Since then, some of them couldn’t get themselves arrested,
If your industry is dying, it’s time to go before people start attending your career funeral too.
Giving yourself time to execute an effective job search before things reach crisis proportion is critical. If you stopped and started thinking about any of these signals, it’s time to act.
© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2009, 2016
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a coach and recruiter for what seems like one hundred years.
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