Career Crossroad? Let Me Show You What One Looks Like
In a previous article I described how when preparing for a speaking engagement, I completed exercises from the book “What Color Is Your Parachute?” leading me to some personal discoveries. I was a software engineer, project manager and technical architect realizing I had stronger people skills than I had realized and I enjoyed using. My technical skills had been driving a successful career to date, but could this be a sign pulling me in another direction. I started thinking, “How should I respond? What should I do next?”
I chose to submit myself to a 360 degree assessment. The goal was to evaluate my delegation, leadership, communication, and vision setting skills as well as my abilities to lead others. These were the people skills I was making use of in my current job and ones I could evaluate objectively. Seemed like a worthwhile next step. The assessment required that my supervisor and several subordinates and peers anonymously fill out a questionnaire about me. I would also fill out the questionnaire myself so my responses could be compared to those of the others. This step helped to identify personal blind spots concerning my own performance.
When the results arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. The consultant told my boss, “Jorge is at the top of his game. I typically include recommendations for helping people address any shortcomings identified by the assessment. Jorge doesn’t have any.” So basically, those around me rated my performance high and my answers agreed with what the others said about me.
I mention this here not to brag (although I was pretty happy with myself), but to illustrate the career crossroad I had reached. This had some far reaching implications. First of all, this confirmed that I was performing very well. I wasn’t deceiving myself thinking I was better than I was. (See my “Leadership and Self-Deception” book review for an interesting discussion this topic.) This also confirmed there was so much more I could contribute at my current job. However, I had a problem. There was no potential career path where I currently worked. At least there wasn’t one I liked. My boss and his boss were good performers and neither of them were leaving or retiring soon. On several occasions, executive management had rejected my supervisor’s recommendations that I attend strategic planning sessions. They believed my boss already represented I.T. and my presence was redundant. This delivered the message that I was to run I.T. and nothing more. I had discussed this concerns with my boss and neither of us had any ideas on how to change this. Short of a major initiative starting up within the firm, there were no clear options for me.
So here I was in the prime of my career, knowing by objective metrics that I was performing well, yet the company would not reward me (and definitely wouldn’t compensate me) for what I could contribute. I was reluctant to say it out loud, but I knew it was time to go.
My options were complicated and the next steps even more so. They’re probably a good topic for a future blog article. What I would like to do is open this up for discussion so we can all benefit from each others experiences.
So my questions are: Today or in the past, have you reached a similar career crossroad? Tell us about it. What action did you take? Did you struggle (or are still struggling) with your decision?