EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

One of our members wrote to me a few years ago seeking some career advice. It seems his firm is restructuring and his job is being eliminated. That said, he has some “work opportunities” that are available to him, (some at his current firm) but all of which are a little off task to his primary skill areas. Not that he can’t do them, it is more a question of how this will affect his career and whether or not he should just take a severance package and look for a “real” job.

I don’t think it will come as a shock to any of you if I mention that there is no one right answer to finding a way to feed your family and keep the house.

Let me start you out with the idea that a lot depends on where you are in your career. If you are in your late 30’s or early 40’s, your career tracking is very important. A logical progression of responsibilities is important to your resume so it looks consistent. If you want to consider something that is off task to a direct path to where you want to go, you need to consider the effect it will have on your long term goals. If you are trying to become a Chief Financial Officer after having been a Controller, taking a job in Marketing or Operations is probably not the right thing to do.

Once you have been a CFO and achieved those lofty heights, taking a stint in your 50’s in a general management capacity will probably not be viewed negatively. You can probably go back to being a CFO. In fact, once you hit your 50’s and 60’s, your primary goal is just to be working. Taking a step back in titles and compensation is not as important as quickly finding an appropriate job. Titles vary in middle market companies as does compensation. Most people understand this. The very fact that someone thought enough of you to give you a job that pays real money is a huge plus to your career and long term employability.

There is no corporate loyalty anymore. I’m not sure there ever REALLY was. It was just that the large corporations we typically worked for early in our careers were growing and had insatiable needs for human capital. If a job now is only going to last 2-5 years, how fussy do you want to be?

Job searches as you get older tend to be longer. You become such a complex product with all the things you can do that it confuses your customers. A well experienced executive is like a Swiss Army knife. All the customer may want is a blade, but you have a dozen other tools.

For a “modern” career, a few diversions along the way might actually be a good idea.

I would only caution you not to take jobs that you know you are going to hate, either because the people you are going to be working for are not “your people,” or because you will find the work to be major boring. The reason I say this is that there isn’t much that will grind you down faster than hating to go to work.

While the sailors’ idiom “any port in a storm” has value in your thinking, it doesn’t mean a port that won’t provide some degree of “safe harbor.”

Everything you do affects your career in some manner. There are unfortunately times when you are only presented with bad choices. That said, you still have to choose.

Regards, Matt

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