Could a lateral move help your career? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Priscilla Claman, a career coach and former HR executive. They talk through when making a lateral move will push you forward and when it will hold you back.
From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:
HBR: Managing Yourself: Job-Hopping to the Top and Other Career Fallacies by Monika Hamori — “While step-downs generally detract from a CV, a lateral move is by no means a career killer. It may in fact prove beneficial in the long run if done wisely. For instance, a lateral move may be justified by the prospect of a promotion in the near future.”
HBR: 15 Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer by Deepak Malhotra — “Don’t get fixated on money. Focus on the value of the entire deal: responsibilities, location, travel, flexibility in work hours, opportunities for growth and promotion, perks, support for continued education, and so forth. Think not just about how you’re willing to be rewarded but also when. You may decide to chart a course that pays less handsomely now but will put you in a stronger position later.”
HBR: Surviving M&A by Mitchell Lee Marks, Philip Mirvis, and Ron Ashkenas — “In such situations, most people tend to fixate on what they can’t control: decisions about who is let go, promoted, reassigned, or relocated. But in our studies and consulting practices, we’ve found that individuals faced with organizational upheaval have much more power over what happens to them than they realize.”
HBR: Managing Yourself: Turn the Job You Have into the Job You Want by Amy Wrzesniewski, Justin M. Berg, and Jane E. Dutton — “A growing body of research suggests that an exercise we call ‘job crafting’ can be a powerful tool for reenergizing and reimagining your work life. It involves redefining your job to incorporate your motives, strengths, and passions. The exercise prompts you to visualize the job, map its elements, and reorganize them to better suit you.”
DAN MCGINN: Welcome to Dear HBR: from Harvard Business Review. I’m Dan McGinn.
ALISON BEARD: And I’m Alison Beard. Work can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be. The truth is that we don’t have to let the tension, conflicts and misunderstandings get us down. We can do something about them.
DAN MCGINN: That’s where Dear HBR: comes in. We take your questions about workplace dilemmas and with the help of experts and insights from academic research, we help you move forward.
ALISON BEARD: Today we’re talking about lateral moves with former HR executive and now career coach, Priscilla Claman. Priscilla, thanks for being on the show.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: I’m looking forward to it.
DAN MCGINN: Priscilla, what’s the most common question you get from your clients about lateral moves?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Most commonly, my clients don’t want a lateral and they don’t see the opportunity in it.
DAN MCGINN: Why do people have such a negative reaction to lateral moves?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: It’s one of the big career misconceptions which is the only way to have a career is to move up. Move up. Move up. Move up.
DAN MCGINN: Bigger is better, huh?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Bigger is better. The title. The bigger the title. Whereas I see plenty of opportunities in lateral moves. Sometimes in order to go up you need to go sideways. Looking laterally is really just as important as it is driving a car, seeing out the sides and corners of your vision is just important in your career as it in driving down the pike.
DAN MCGINN: When people worry about a lateral move, they worry partly about the optics of it. How can I present this as something bigger and better and a step up even if on paper it doesn’t look like it is?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: So, there has to be a story. So, if you have a good story you can do almost anything you want.
DAN MCGINN: Maybe we should help these people write their stories today.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Sounds good.
ALISON BEARD: Dear HBR: I took a lateral move at my company in order to grow, but all that’s up in the air now. I’m afraid the opportunity to advance is vanishing. I started at my energy tech company right out of college and am now 26. I’m a woman. I’ve been working on projects with high visibility and performing well. I was chosen to speak in front of our entire division. Last year I made this lateral move to a new team. At the time, my new manager said we’d evaluate a promotion in about six months. After four months he said he did put in for it. I was already outperforming the role. But here comes this twist. Our company was bought by a much larger one based in Europe. All new hiring and promotions were put on hold. Half a year later, that’s still the case. I’ve been told several times that would be changing, but those promised dates come and go with no promotion. The new company doesn’t seem to get U.S. culture or the technology industry. They said they bought us for our expertise and people, but they have yet to recognize many high performers like myself. They don’t show any urgency in backfilling for those who have left. I see some of my coworkers on the verge of burning out. I’m frustrated. My question is: Should I stick it out or look for a new job? I truly enjoy working with my team and I have a good manager and skip level manager. I understand that the new leaders are working on learning our business and integrating us, but after nine months it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I worry about opportunity for advancement in this environment. How should I evaluate whether to stay or to pursue other jobs?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: I think she needs to collect a little more data before she makes the decision.
ALISON BEARD: What do you mean?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Well, I think typically in a merger the mergee’s or the merged people feel victimized by the mergor and they feel those bad guys came in and they took over our nice company and now they’re asking us to change X or Y or Z. And now nobody knows what the future’s going, so there’s this attitude. Now it may be true. But she doesn’t really know that.
DAN MCGINN: One of the issues that she raises is she says my boss promised me a promotion and it didn’t happen, and it didn’t happen and I’m waiting and I’m waiting.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: It seems like she has a great relationship with her manager and her manager’s manager. And I’m sure they’re trying to help her out. Looks like they’re trying to help her get a promotion. The fact is they can’t. They can’t do it for her and the reason they can’t is because the people who are working on the merger haven’t got down to that level yet. They’re still working at the higher levels and the systems levels. I know because I worked on maybe 30 or more mergers. And they don’t get down to the individual star contributors for a while. And so, she doesn’t really know enough about this company. So, the first thing she ought to do is she ought to get herself some business press and look at what they say about the merger. What do they say is the reason this European company bought them out? Are they going to split them up and sell off the pieces? Are they really going to try and expand the expertise into Europe? What’s the purpose of the merger?
ALISON BEARD: It sounds like the message is they were hired for their expertise and their people, so it does maybe seem to be just this waiting game.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Well, she shouldn’t wait. She should take more action than she’s doing and collect data on her own. What that means is the right thing for her to do is to volunteer for any integration kinds of things that she can. How can I get to know the people on the other side? How can I integrate myself into the team? How can I volunteer to host something for the visiting whoever poohbahs from Europe? Can I get on a task force? Can I, can I, can I? And that’s the thing that will actually get her data so that she can make a reasonable decision. She’s really back to choosing a company. It’s not like she has a company. She has a job, but she hasn’t chosen the company. So, she needs to get herself back into the mode of choosing the company even though she’s there already. And so —
ALISON BEARD: And not worrying so much about this promotion that happened or didn’t happen. It’s sort of a little bit back to square one. She has to prove herself with the new owners as much as a bummer as that is.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Yes, because maybe her bosses won’t make it, but maybe she will. And she has the opportunity now to work for an international company. And there’re a lot more jobs in an international company than there is just a plain U.S. company. And they’re looking for people in the U.S. who want to, or any merger, they’re looking for people who accept the merger as opposed to people think this is the worst thing that happened to us in our cool little company.
DAN MCGINN: So, get visible.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Get visible. Get out there and have a look at them. Get to know them. If you don’t like them, fine. Then after you know them then you can say, no, I’m going to look for another job.
DAN MCGINN: One piece of advice we sometimes hear when somebody’s in this kind of stalemate situation which is really what she’s facing is: Go out, get a job offer and bring it to them and see if that creates any leverage, whether they counter or not.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: That won’t work here. It won’t work here because they haven’t figured out what they’re, how they’re going to staff, what they’re going to staff. They haven’t got the strategy together yet.
ALISON BEARD: Is that a red flag in and of itself? Should she be worried that they haven’t figured it out in all this time?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: No.
ALISON BEARD: No.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: It’s very hard to figure it out. Being successful at integrating another company, it’s almost impossible.
ALISON BEARD: So, how many years of turbulence and ambiguity and uncertainty can she expect?
DAN MCGINN: And remember she’s already given it nine months.
ALISON BEARD: Right.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Will they fix this in nine months? I don’t think that’s the right way to think about it. The right way to think about it is: Where can I be in a year from now? Who can I be? Where can I be working in this organization a year from now? Not what’s going to happen to the organization. Will my unit still be there, and will I get my promotion or not? That’s not going to be there. Clearly they’re rethinking the jobs in her area. That’s why they’re not backfilling. And they’re rethinking the staffing and structure of whatever unit she’s in. So, the fact that she’s the last person standing may actually be positive because she will get assignments that other people don’t get. I’ve seen people in mergers get huge opportunities, huge opportunities because everybody left because they think it’s not going to work. And it doesn’t actually matter if you get the opportunity and you develop the skills, you can take that with you.
ALISON BEARD: But does she really want to be the last man standing? Shouldn’t she get out ahead of it and go somewhere where there’s less chaos and less risk of being downsized?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: There is nowhere where there is no risk of being downsized. That used to be true. That was the 80’s. We’re now in a whole other century. There is nowhere. There is nowhere where somebody isn’t at risk of their company being bought, being completely changed top to bottom.
DAN MCGINN: But you are at a higher risk if your company just got bought and they’re very clearly trying to figure out what to do. So, there may not be a place with no risk, but there might be a place with a somewhat lower risk, right?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Well, I think if you are a higher-level person than this woman, she’s?
DAN MCGINN: 26.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: 26, OK. If you were a 56-year-old and you were looking to retire at 65, this is high risk for you. But if you’re 26 there’s no risk.
ALISON BEARD: And more opportunity.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: There’s much more opportunity. They’re much more willing to give her a chance. She’s in the position where she can actually look around and see what looks like the right place for her.
ALISON BEARD: And as you said, it’s a global firm so that could be London. That could be Paris.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Paris, I’m thinking. Whoa.
ALISON BEARD: Tokyo.
DAN MCGINN: So, step one, get her passport ready.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: That’s right. So, I think chaos is actually an opportunity because if you’re good and people respect your work, and you’re not too highly paid, there are all kinds of opportunities. The same thing is true when you’re actually in startups. And there’s a certain amount of chaos in startups as well, and a lot of people go to startups because of the opportunity in startups. This is the equivalent kind of a situation. It’s a startup of a new, merged company. But in this case there’re more resources than there would be in a startup. So, she just needs to look for where the opportunities are.
ALISON BEARD: We published a great piece called Surviving M&A. And the author Mitchell Lee Marks at San Francisco State University, advises doing a SWOT analysis. So, what are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What are the opportunities in this newly merged company and what are the threats facing me? And if you do that and figure out, match your strengths to those opportunities and go for it, you can jumpstart your career.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: That’s perfect. There was a merger I was involved in, with an operations center, a bank operations center in New England. And all the people in this operations center were woman except for one guy. When we integrated with our operations center, we had to figure out who was going to get what kind of a role. It turns out, he was great. He was great at what he did. We gave him a great role. He was a clerk, mind you. He was an officer within a year. And it was just that they dismissed him in this operations center. We saw him, and we moved him up and out.
DAN MCGINN: Wow.
ALISON BEARD: That’s great.
DAN MCGINN: What’s the word for this listener?
ALISON BEARD: So, I think that we want her to approach this merger situation much more positively. We want her to stop worrying about the promotion which given the situation happening might never come to fruition. We want her to see the chaos as an opportunity. We want her to raise her hand for possible transition roles and really raise her visibility in the company. We want her to think about what her strengths are and what the company needs and match those two up and position herself for a much better promotion in the future.
DAN MCGINN: Great. Nice. Ready to rock?
ALISON BEARD: Yeah.
DAN MCGINN: Dear HBR: how can you change the path that your employer has for you? For the last 18 months I’ve been working as a mechanical engineer at a consumer electronics company. I’m a man. Recently I’ve been asked to move to a less than ideal role. This role would focus on manufacturing. I know that my company has needs, but I feel like managers always push engineers into product management regardless of whether they’re interested or not. They don’t care enough about our aspirations. Some of us don’t want to become managers. We just like being engineers. My goal is to transition into a technically challenging design role. I have told my boss many times that’s the set of skills I want to develop. I was hoping to move to a new internal position to do that. This might be a good time to look for another job, but here’s the problem with that. My significant other is finishing a graduate degree next year and she’ll probably have to relocate. Should I start looking externally even though I’ll probably need to move in less than 12 months or should I take this less than ideal role, filling a vacancy in team leadership? I would get some experience in manufacturing, but I’m worried that every year I spend learning other skills I lose out on developing design skills and that my salary will limit my future options with other employers. Should I take this lateral move and waste a year towards my goal?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: I think this guy has also got a limited view of what’s going on.
DAN MCGINN: How so?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Well, first of all if he’s starting to look now and he knows he’s going to have to look within another 12 months, it’s going to take him one, two months to find a job and then he’s going to be there for 10 months and then he’s going to move? In his current job he hasn’t been there that long either. So, he’s going to have two short term assignments on it, both of whom where the references are going to be kind of sketchy, kind of implied the man is not focused on his work. He’s more focused on something else.
DAN MCGINN: So, he needs to stay at this company.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: I think so. And remember I said how you say things or what’s the story? This is a really good example of how you can create the story for what you want. He’s got a year. I think he has to pitch: I understand more than all your other design engineers what it’s like being a manufacturing engineer and to try to fix the design problems on the manufacturing floor. It’s a great rep and he’s going to be able to sell it really well, particularly if at the same time he makes a focus on the design engineering side, and he’s lucky he’s in engineering, to get certifications. So, he needs a couple of nice design engineering certifications that are portable.
ALISON BEARD: So, I completely agree with you that because he has constraints he needs to focus on this job that he’s being offered. At the same time, it’s hard to say yes to that job and then also develop this side gig or study for these credentials that are going to keep moving him towards where he wants to go technically. So, how does he make the time for that? Is that a negotiation that he needs to have with his employer?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: That’s a good idea.
ALISON BEARD: OK. How does that conversation go?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Well, what is his tuition reimbursement status? Maybe they have already got that in the company where he, he doesn’t even need to have ask the manager. If he’s paying for it himself, there’s usually no problem at all.
ALISON BEARD: But he’ll need to negotiate for the time.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: If there’s a conflict in time. If it starts, his class starts at four say for example.
ALISON BEARD: Yeah. The other thing I thought about is some of the work that we published on job crafting and this idea that he could except the job in manufacturing that he’s been offered, but then ask to take on some responsibilities within his job that would keep him in that sort of design, hands on, engineering role that he really wants to stay in.
DAN MCGINN: So, instead of a side gig, make it his, part of his main gig?
ALISON BEARD: Possibly. And it might feel a little less frenetic if he’s doing it all in one place instead of running to school or running to a part time consultancy.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: No, he should do it online. That’s the way to do it. All these engineering courses they’re all online. I wanted to say something else about him. He talks about his salary will limit future options with other employers. It’s sort of a funny thing to say.
DAN MCGINN: Oh, see what I read it as, I’m going to be essentially promoted from an individual contributor role into a management role. My salary’s going to increase. They’re going to see me being paid as a manager.
ALISON BEARD: But can’t he make it clear that he’s willing to take a pay cut?
DAN MCGINN: Yeah, I would think that would be an option.
ALISON BEARD: So, my question is, if he does that and now is positioned with someone who’s a deep tactical expert who also knows how to manage people, are people going to continue to force him into that role because those twin skills are so coveted?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: It’s just a matter of how he positions himself in the new marketplace. He’s got to be careful about how he positions himself. If he wants to be a design engineer at the end of the year, being an ME on the floor in manufacturing, then he has to position himself as a design engineer who spent some time learning the other side of things so that he could be a more effective design engineer. It’s just a matter of what he says about himself.
ALISON BEARD: Downplay that aspect of —
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Or, add it. It’s an advantage actually.
ALISON BEARD: But I guess my question is the employers, his future employers might seize on that advantage and say great. You have this experience and most people don’t, so please do this job for us.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Well, he could say no, right?
ALISON BEARD: Right.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: It used to be you could only move up and get to be a manger. You couldn’t switch back and forth from individual expert to manager to individual expert. But now, particularly in high-tech jobs or Fintech jobs, that’s fairly common.
DAN MCGINN: That’s an important point. Different organizations value different things and create different kinds of career tracks. At some places you’re going to be pushed into management earlier, even if it might not be what you want. At other places they might be happy to let you be a star contributor.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: And it’s up to you to figure out which organization you’re applying to and how they do things. So, what we’re all talking about and what he should be thinking about is his next decision, not just the decision in front of him.
ALISON BEARD: But to be clear, he still needs to excel in this job that he’s taking so that he gets a good reference for the next job.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Yeah, that’s always true.
DAN MCGINN: The fact that he’s only going to do this for a year, it takes the risk and the stress out of it. He gets to try something knowing that a year from now he’s going to be able to jump to something completely new. This reminds me a little bit of my kids when I want them to try a new food and they’ll say, dad, I don’t like cauliflower. And I’ll say, you’ve never tried cauliflower. How do you know? He’s never tried management. He could surprise himself. I know lots of people who thought they wanted to do X. They get routed into doing Y and they actually like Y. So, I think this is a great one-year opportunity for him. Who knows? He may actually like this.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: In some ways he’s got two dilemmas. One is manager or not manager. The other one is design versus manufacturing. Design engineers are more prestigious theoretically than manufacturing engineers. There’re probably more jobs in manufacturing engineers. So, there are a whole bunch of things that are sort of floating around here in his mind. He just needs to target what he wants and tee up his next job search right now.
DAN MCGINN: Exactly.
ALISON BEARD: Great. So, Dan, what are we advising this man?
DAN MCGINN: So, I think we’re unanimous that he needs to stay at his current organization and he needs to take this new job. We think that this is going to round out his abilities and his skills that he might not enjoy the next 12 months, but the fact that there’s a clear end date to it makes it a real opportunity. It will probably make him more value in his next job. We think he should spend part of his time during this year getting certifications. Maybe getting some online classes. Doing some side gigs. Doing something to develop the design side of his skills which is where he wants to be long term. He needs to tee up his job hunt now, think a lot about the kind of organization and the kind of role he wants to go to. He can’t actually begin job hunting because he doesn’t know the geography. He has no idea where he’s going to be moving a year from now. But it’s time to start getting that resume in order and think about the story he’s going to tell and why this 12-month period in which he’s doing a manufacturing job is something that will make him more attractive to the next employer.
ALISON BEARD: Dear HBR: I’m being pushed into a lateral move and I’m really ambivalent about taking it. I’m a woman and I hold a midlevel management position at a very large international company. After three years here improving processes I’ve been successful at fixing a number of issues. I’ve made sure programs run smoothly, moving forward from my group. Another department is struggling to fix their process and complete their programs. They need me. Their C level leaders are negotiating to trade me for two other people, but I’m not interested in a sideways move to this other group. I would have much more responsibility, but it’s not an official promotion. So, I told my direct line C level boss that I will accept only with a more senior title and more ownership over the programs. At the same time, I have other opportunities within my firm. They’re outside these two groups. They’d give me more exposure. I’d get the chance to improve global processes for the entire company. So, what do I do? How can I make sure I make the right move for my career without burning bridges? Priscilla, what’s your advice?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Well, she’s got some real smarts here. She shouldn’t take an assignment she doesn’t think she can be successful at. So, more ownership of the programs is probably an important thing to negotiate for, more important than the senior title. And the other thing is the opportunity to improve global processes for the entire company, that’s a cool opportunity. So, what I would do if I were she, is I would try and bring in all these opportunities at once. Then she has something to choose from.
ALISON BEARD: I think the issue here, it sounds as if one job, the sideways move, is an immediate need and her boss has already asked her to do it and its sort of a taking one for the team type of ask, right? She needs to do what Debbie Cole Fitzsimmons calls a yes and negotiation. The idea of sure, this can be a one-year stint or a two-year stint until you feel I’ve righted the ship and then I do want that next role that’s out there, so please hold it for me. Is that possible to have that sort of a negotiation?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: If you believe the people who’ve you’ve been negotiation with are going to be there next year when the next assignment is over, it’s possible to do that. It’s, there’s some risk associated with it. Sort of mitigate that risk. If I were she what I would do is I would ask them this problem seems too complex for me to use my old skills with. Can we hire a process consultant? And that’s a great thing to do. Making your skills known to an external consultant is one way to manage your career. Because they love you, external consultants because they’ll help you move around to wherever you want to go, because they assume that you’re going to hire them the next time you get a big process issue to solve.
DAN MCGINN: That’s pretty brilliant and I never would have thought of that. You get a twofer out of that. Not only are you bringing in a resource that will increase the odds you’re going to be successful in the assignment, but you’re also creating an ally outside the organization that might bring you new opportunities.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Exactly.
ALISON BEARD: But should this young professional, when she’s accepting a job offer suggest that she also needs help doing that job?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Sure.
ALISON BEARD: OK.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: So, before you take any assignment you have to believe you can actually do it. I mean the risk is sort of a, but my, an old blossom I used to call performance punishment. OK, Priscilla, you did this assignment and you did it in X amount of days and it came out beautifully, so the next assignment for you is going to be an X minus 5 days. Can you do that? And so, the next assignment comes along and OK, Priscilla can you do it in 24 hours? And now, literally. And every time I was successful at doing it, she would say, oh Priscilla, I can’t give you any money for this. I really can’t promote you. I just need you to do this because, take one for the company.
ALISON BEARD: Out of the kindness of your heart.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Out of the kindness, but nobody else could do it, but you Priscilla. So, of course that hooked me every time. And finally, she said to me, don’t do this Priscilla. Don’t do this. Don’t get yourself into this cycle where performance punishment is what you end up doing.
DAN MCGINN: You need to say no at some point.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: You need to say no, and you need to kind of cultivate the opposite image.
DAN MCGINN: Now, this woman, she holds a lot of cards here. She has some degree of power. It sounds like it’s in her best interest to not get hung up on this title issue and whether they’re going to give her a fancy new title.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Yes, I agree. People need to be able to articulate what they’ve done, and they get very focused on what it looks like on a resume. There’s some really funny titles in startups where people get funny names for their titles, but the other thing is maybe you’re 12 years old and you’re VP of marketing and you have no clue as to whether marketing is marketing, or sales, or strategy or what. In that case it’s totally meaningless, but it’s a way of paying people without giving them money. What you really need to have is a reputation. And a reputation is a title. A reputation is for what you can do.
ALISON BEARD: On this title/pay issue, has the ship sailed on that since she’s already told her boss that she would take this job she’s being asked to do with the title, the money and the ownership?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: If she says yes to a job, she’s committed. So, that’s why I think it’s important for her to reel in the other two opportunities as soon as she can without going back to her boss. She has to decide what to negotiate for. For more control, bringing in a process engineering consulting firm for at least two days, a training program. If she negotiates for all of that, then she doesn’t really need to worry about the title or the salary I think. Because all of a sudden it’s exposure, exposure, exposure. And reputation again is what’s going to make it work for her.
DAN MCGINN: Deepak Malhotra, he’s a Professor of Negotiations at Harvard Business School. He wrote a piece for HBR called 15 Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer. He thinks about different currencies that you’re paid for your job, not just your salary, not just your title, but a whole package of different things. Like the ability to travel for work. Like the ability to get another degree, to go to conferences. And if you’re going to give on one of those things you definitely want to increase your ask on the others.
ALISON BEARD: Yeah. And Priscilla you talked about exposure. I think one thing I’d like to tell this woman to do is to start thinking less negatively about this job she’s being offered. It is a much bigger role. She is going to learn a lot from it, so I think if she says I should take it and I should be excited about it. I shouldn’t just take it and think all right, well I’m done within two years. So, how can she shift to that more positive outlook on this job that she, on the surface of it doesn’t want to take?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: I think she needs to look out to the decision after this. Put yourself in the position of being a process expert. And if she gets the global job, a global process expert. Now, that opens up a whole new area for her. She could work as a consultant. She could work as an external consultant as well as an internal consultant. She develops an area of expertise. She can go either way. To work as a process consultant, be successful in one situation, that’s fine. The second time, that’s even better. The third time, all of a sudden she’s got a new possible career.
ALISON BEARD: Yeah, I mean I can’t think of any organization in the world that doesn’t need process improvement. So, I think you’re right. I think she’s in a good position and should look at this as an exciting step up even though it doesn’t seem like that to her.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: It’s more like a step out.
ALISON BEARD: Yeah. Absolutely.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Step out of where she is into some new options. So, one of the things I generally recommend people do, it’s perfect for this woman. You should have a personal Board of Directors you go to, to ask about career issues like this. There should be somebody who is sort of a finance type of person, who’ll look at the money part of it. There should be somebody who was a senior level person. There should be somebody like my mother who would say, that’s fine dear. Whatever you say dear. And there should be somebody like my brother who is totally skeptical of everything. So, you need maybe four or five people that you kind of go to and say this is my dilemma, and having your own personal Board of Directors, that’s what gets you out of your headset, that you start to think differently.
ALISON BEARD: Well now Dan, I and you can be on her personal Board of Directors.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Absolutely.
DAN MCGINN: I was going to say, you and I are pretty much already on our Board of Directors. It’s kind of a one-man board.
ALISON BEARD: Dan is 100 percent my only board member.
DAN MCGINN: I think I’m the skeptical one then, right?
ALISON BEARD: Maybe, but I don’t have a yes woman or man.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Oh, you need one. [LAUGHTER] That’s all right dear. [LAUGHTGER]
DAN MCGINN: Just to affirm and support?
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Yes.
DAN MCGINN: So, Alison, what are we telling this rock star?
ALISON BEARD: So, I think as a first step she should see if it’s possible to get all of the opportunities she mentioned on the table at once, so she can evaluate them side by side. Secondly, if she finds that she is going to be pushed into this lateral move, she should make it a yes and negotiation which means she should say absolutely, I’ll help you fix this problem, but I would like to see these next things happen in my career. She shouldn’t get fixated necessarily on the things that she’s already asked for. As a third step, we think that she should come at this job with a much more positive attitude and think about the things that she can learn from it, the skills that she can build, the reputation that she can build in her organization and outside of it and also the network that she can make by taking this opportunity that matters a lot to the company and hopefully can mean a lot to her in the long run.
DAN MCGINN: Good advice.
ALISON BEARD: Priscilla, thank you so much for helping us give advice today.
PRISCILLA CLAMAN: Thanks. It was fun.
DAN MCGINN: That’s Priscilla Claman. She’s a career coach. Her company is Career Strategies. Thanks to the listeners who wrote us with their questions. Now we want to know your questions. Send us an email with your workplace challenge and how we can help. The email address is DearHBR@HBR.org.
ALISON BEARD: On our next episode we’re going to be talking about office layouts.
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ALISON BEARD: And if you liked the show please give us a five-star review.
DAN MCGINN: I’m Dan McGinn.
ALISON BEARD: And I’m Alison Beard. Thanks for listening to Dear HBR:.
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