Several years ago during an event, I found myself sitting beside a Chief Supply Chain Officer of one of the major Corporations in the world. The funny thing is that several days before the event- when I knew that he was one of the attendees- I was checking his Resume on the internet and I had some questions, and I was hoping to get the chance to speak to him later in the event for some minutes.
After he sat beside me and I introduced myself to him, and a discussion started, the following dialogue took place between us:
Me: ‘’You know, I am really glad that we are sitting beside each other and having this dialogue because I have a question that I was always willing to ask to one of the C-suite Executives. I saw in your resume on the internet that you worked in different functional areas such as Marketing, Supply Chain, Procurement…etc, and also at different global locations around the world. Through observation, I saw the majority of high-level Executives following the same trend or pattern. They pave their way to the top by working abroad and also in different functional areas and departments. My question is ‘’Did you plan all of these relocations and hopping between departments or did it all came by coincidence?’. ‘’
Him: ‘’Well Mohamed, some of them came by coincidence and the others were planned. You usually start your way dreaming big and having the vision to fulfill. Based on this vision you plan your moves and actions accordingly. It will happen of course that, during your journey, some opportunities to move to other departments or to work abroad may pop up. You can accept these opportunities as long as they are not contradicting with your end target and vision.’’
After this event, I spent several years trying to find an answer to the question:’’what is the fastest way for an employee to reach the top?’’. And even though I never found a ‘’one size fits all’’ answer, but I mainly found a common 3 points pattern between the majority of the people who reached the top fast and now are leading organizations:
1- They changed their roles several times through their career journey.
There are several benefits to changing your role or job through your career:
A- It makes you understand the function of other departments and teams, and gives you a sense of the big picture. In other words, it allows you to see the process end to end. When this happens, you can understand how your colleagues in other areas think, understand their feelings and the pressure that they are passing through, as well as their primary milestones and targets that they usually focus on.
This will lead you to make better decisions while having a better ‘’buy-in’’ from other departments within your organization because you care about their goals and know how they think. Better decisions supported with better buy-in from other colleagues means better results and hence creating a better brand for yourself.
B- Another benefit of changing your role is that It expands your influence and exposure within your organization. Instead of spending the majority of your life in one department and influencing only the people around you, you can have the chance to influence more people and expose yourself to more decision makers. This will accelerate your career development process.
2- They took overseas assignments.
CEO Coach Debra Benton- the CEO of Benton Management Resources, Inc and the author of ‘’CEO Material’’- mentioned in her book: ‘’ If you do not go out into the whole world literally and figuratively, you will look ignorant, be ill-informed and be unprepared when the world comes to you (which it will) in the form of customers, vendors, peers, and bosses. A good thing to learn is global awareness. You get a fresh perspective, are less prejudicial about race/culture, and you think more broadly’’. And one of the ways to achieve this is through taking over foreign assignments.
Anne Fischer- a contributor to Fortune Magazine online edition- highlighted the importance of having an assignment abroad and its role in your career development in an article that she published in 2011: ‘’Those globetrotting managers may have an edge over their stay-at-home peers. International experience is ‘more frequently becoming a prerequisite’ for top-level executive jobs, notes Mansour Javidan, dean of research at international business school Thunderbird’s Global Mindset Institute. ‘’
‘’Recent studies suggest he’s right. Executive development consultants Healthy Companies International, whose clients include Intel, Northrop Grumman, Johnson & Johnson, and Boeing, examined the career paths of C-level managers at Fortune 100 companies and found that more than 7 out of 10 have held management jobs in foreign climes. That’s up from fewer than 5 in 10 a decade ago.’In many big companies now, you need at least one substantial international assignment if you want to climb the executive ladder,’ says Bruce Raines, CEO of New York City executive search firm Raines International.’’
But is there a chance that taking an assignment abroad can backfire or that the Management at the headquarters can forget about you?
Anne quoted in her article the following answer from Bruce Raines, CEO of New York City executive search firm Raines International: ‘’As for your fear that you’ll be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ at headquarters, Raines says you needn’t worry too much: ‘Before the Internet, people sent overseas were isolated. Now, with Skype, video conferencing, and all the other technology that’s available, you’re never really out of touch. That’s not to say that going abroad poses no risks to your career. You say that your division head has mentioned sending you abroad for ‘a year or two.’ Raines says one hazard he has often seen arises when that year or two turns into five or six. ‘This happens a lot’ he says. ‘By the time you do get back, after a long stint abroad, the organization has changed so that there’s no comparable job for you. So you either take a step-down or leave the company.’To be on the safe side, Raines urges you not to take an overseas assignment “unless it is one that will help your career even if you end up leaving your current employer.”
3- They changed their employer several times.
According to Jeanne Meister’s article on Forbes: ‘’for newly minted college graduates, job-hopping can speed career advancement. According to a paper out of the St. Olaf’s Sociology Department entitled ‘Hiring, Promotion, and Progress: Millennials’ Expectations in the Workplace,’ changing jobs and getting a promotion in the process allows Gen Y employees (employees born in the 80’s and 90’s) to avoid the “dues paying” that can trap workers in a painfully slow ascent up the corporate ladder. ‘’
She added that ‘’Job hopping can also lead to greater job fulfillment, which is more important to Gen Y workers than it was to any previous generation: A 2012 survey by Net Impact found that 88 percent of workers considered “positive culture” important or essential to their dream job, and 86 percent said the same for work they found “interesting.” Job-hopping helps workers reach both of these goals because it means trying out a variety of roles and workplaces while learning new skills along the way.’’
I remember personally that, during my career, one of the fastest and extraordinary job hoppings that I witnessed was the case of a Senior Manager at a big Corporation, who transferred to another big Multinational company on a Director level. But after only three months of his transfer, his old company contacted him again to get him back because they ‘’suddenly discovered’’ that they need his services urgently. Moreover, to convince him to return they offered him a Vice President position.
One point only to keep in consideration is that sometimes too much job hopping in your CV can backfire. So make sure that the changes that you make are always purposeful and aligned with your end vision.
Job hopping does not only accelerate your career, but it also has another benefit as it guarantees you better money beside the fast career development.
Again according to Forbes– but this time Cameron Keng: ”Employees Who Stay In Companies Longer Than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less.”
He Mentioned in his article that ‘’The average raise an employee can expect in 2014 is 3%. Even the most underperforming employee can expect a 1.3% raise. The best performers can hope for a 4.5% raise. But, the inflation rate is currently 2.1% calculated based on the Consumer Price Index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that your raise is actually less than 1%. This is probably sobering enough to make you reach for a drink.’’
‘’In 2014, the average employee is going to earn less than a 1% raise, and there is very little that we can do to change management’s decision. But, we can decide whether we want to stay at a company that is going to give us a raise for less than 1%. The average raise an employee receives for leaving is between a 10% to 20% increase in salary. Obviously, there are extreme cases where people receive upwards of 50%, but this depends on each person’s individual circumstances and industries.’’
He also moved further in his article by asking ‘’Why are people who jump ship rewarded, when loyal employees are punished for their dedication? The answer is simple. Recessions allow businesses to freeze their payroll and decrease salaries of the newly hired based on “market trends.” These reactions to the recession are understandable, but the problem is that these reactions were meant to be “temporary.” Instead, they have become the “norm” in the marketplace. More importantly, we have all become used to hearing about “3% raises” and we’ve accepted it as the new ‘norm.’[……….] The world is desperate for skilled labor and companies around the globe are starving for talent. Companies can tout technology replacing labor, but it is only exacerbating the global shortage of human capital and skilled workers. This means that we as employees are positioned better than ever to leverage our abilities for increased pay.’’
In the end, let us summarize the article and also make it practical. Look around you and Identify one of the executives in your organization that you believe is doing outstanding work and who- from your point of view- reached the top of the career ladder fast. After you identify him or her, check his Resume or employment history to see which factors from the ones mentioned above did he apply during his career journey. After doing this, ask yourself: ‘’What is the best next step in my career journey which is aligned with my end vision?’’