The fall in Atlanta brings mild, even cool days at times. Great weather for being outdoors. We rarely get a severe winter, but there is this period from now until the end of the year where we may have the windows open more often than not. We enjoy the opportunity to let fresh, cool air flow through the house. Truly a window of opportunity.
I’ve been working a lot lately on career planning and development in our organization. I have been struck with the broad range of views on career planning that exists. Though I can’t say I’m really surprised – with a diverse workforce comes diverse viewpoints. There is the group that believes you should never take a new role in the company that isn’t a promotion – meaning a big salary increase. There are others that say never stay in a position longer than thirty-six months unless you know you want to continue in that specific discipline for your career. And there is the view that says you should move in some way – upward or laterally – at least every eighteen months.
The problem with any formulaic view of a career is that life is not on a schedule that is consistent with your optimal view. I once had an opportunity to change jobs within the company just 4 months after settling into a new location. I turned it down because I was just beginning to learn what I needed to learn in the new job. While the new job was interesting, it wasn’t consistent with my goals. I would have made more money, and I would have had the opportunity for more global travel, but it moved me in a different direction career-wise.
It’s great to feel wanted, and windows of opportunity are always open. Sometimes we don’t even choose to look for them, and other times we are actively seeking a specific opportunity that we can’t see, but there is always some window out there. My concern is that some people are looking at only one window, and not seeing what some of the others could do for them.
I’ve worked in some union shops where the progression for hourly employees is clear. On this particular machine, you are the eighth person on the seniority list, where four people are paid the top rate. You will make the top rate when you fill in for the others on vacation, and the job will be yours when you are the fourth person on the seniority list.
In some salaried organizations, there are less formal lines of progression, but there are certain norms. The VP of Manufacturing, for example, generally was a manufacturing director before that, and a plant manager, operations leader, and an engineer earlier in their career. But having all those previous roles doesn’t guarantee you the VP slot when it opens up. So if you jumped through the other hoops figuring you would be the VP at some point, you may be disappointed when the president of that business decides it’s time to bring outside talent to the organization. They moved the cheese.
That’s why WOO (Windows Of Opportunity) are so important. If you get focused on one end result, you will miss some open windows.
Lateral moves are good. They broaden your understanding of the business. They introduce you to more people. They challenge you, and they help you identify your true strengths. And they lead to a greater variety of open windows in the future. So don’t dismiss an open window without at least taking a look outside.