Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

Moving Up In Your Career - Assessing Companies, Improving Your Marketability

2015-10-28 11:57:24

One of the first questions I ask candidates during an initial phone call is “why are you considering new opportunities?” A significant portion of the time the answer is “a lack of growth opportunity at my current employer.”

Usually the two types of companies with the greatest career advancement opportunities are going to be quite large or quite small. If you are looking at making a change with an eye towards advancement opportunities, it is worth considering both of those options. It is relatively easy to learn if a large company promotes from within. Take a look on Glassdoor.com for reviews from current and former employees. It is also helpful to read news articles and press releases that reflect on corporate culture (remember the recent NY Times article about Amazon.com). If you do get hired at a large company, take time to look at the different departments and career paths that might be of interest to you, then seek out someone you admire and ask them if they are willing to be a mentor. If they say yes, make sure you have a good idea of what your own career goals are and ask them if they can help you learn what steps you need to take to prepare yourself to move into that sort of role, including internal contacts, projects that might be valuable to be part of (ie an assessment committee for workplace safety, a grant review committee if at a large company with a Foundation, or maybe putting together an after-work soccer team). Make the acquaintance of people that may have valuable contacts in departments/roles such as marketing, HR/recruiting, sales, helpdesk, and administrative assistants. Large companies offer valuable networking potential as well as role models and mentors.

Smaller companies may be a bit more difficult to suss out, but here is where LinkedIn can be a valuable tool. Research current employees of a company and see if they have held multiple positions with increasingly more responsible titles. For example, they started right out of school with an accounting degree in Accounts Receivable, then moved into a Staff Accounting role, then into a Sr. Accounting or Accounting Manager position. If someone’s titles are increasing every 18-24 months, it is a good indicator that the company moves people up in a timely manner.

Another advantage with smaller companies is the fact that you will probably be wearing more than one “hat”, which increases your learning potential and opportunities to shine. You may learn valuable new skills that complement existing training and experience to increase your marketability.

Stretch assignments are a great way to try new opportunities with you current employer. Talk to your manager about adding some duties to your regular workload. For example, if you are the company receptionist, ask if you can help the HR or recruiting department schedule training or interviews, or work with some of the Executive Assistants on travel arrangements. If you can consistently balance your regular workload with extra projects for a few months, that is a signal that you are ready to move on in your career. Some companies do have formal stretch programs or career “rotations” where you can formally spend time in a new role exploring options. Check with your HR department to see if these exist.

One valuable way of increasing your marketability while you are at a potential standstill in your current company is to volunteer for a professional organization that can help you learn valuable skills and make industry connections. An example would be a friend that had a career in legal operations for over ten years, but who volunteered for a local music non-profit for three years as the Executive Director as well as managed an indie band part-time. After moving to NYC, she was looking for a new job but was trying to figure out how to include both aspects of her career interests to increase her marketability; my advice was to use two distinct resumes, one for each separate career track. She did that and ended up in a legal operations role and volunteering for a social justice non-profit that she is hoping to turn into a full time job eventually.

One of the largest ways to find opportunities is Volunteer Match, which is a national organization. Idealist has both volunteer opportunities and a job board. (Remember to focus your search on *professional* skills building opportunities for the immediate short term, versus feel-good championing causes that appeal to you long-term.) Volunteering has three advantages: you can gain marketable skills, make valuable contacts, and provide yourself with legitimate resume content to help steer your career in the direction you are hoping to go.



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