Thursday, August 13, 2015

Why and When You Need To Bounce

If you have aspirations to get promoted and move up the corporate ladder, chances are that you have, at some point, had the vision that it is as easy as climbing that ladder, or perhaps a flight of stairs. After you work for while, though, you realize that the staircase narrows as it goes up the pyramid. At the base of it, the mathematics just make it more and more difficult to climb by moving straight up. Sure, not everyone has aspirations for moving up the managerial chain, but even if there are two others on your team that want to move in the same direction you do, when your manager gets promoted, quits, or passes away (heaven forbid), there are at least three equally qualified people angling for the same job, not to mention those from the outside. If you are exceptionally talented, a direct vertical move may be in your future, but a horizontal bounce (either between departments or companies) may create an easier and better path for you.

Be The Easiest Approach

Sometimes managers try to take the path of least resistance when hiring, as they try to hurry to get a spot filled and move along. Hiring from within sounds like the easiest approach, as the manager would find someone who knows the team and the workload. But the aftermath of a situation like I described above, where multiple people from the same team apply, could lead to all kinds of resentment and dissent in the ranks. As such, sometimes the easiest path for a manager is hiring outside. It's often couched in phrases like "bringing unique background and experience to the role," and while that varied experience has value, sometimes just being the outsider has more value.

Build a Portfolio of Skills

I know people that have done the same job for fifteen years. Not only have they done the exact same thing, but they have mostly done it the same way. I find absolutely nothing wrong with that, if they want that career path. If your desire is to be an amazing welder, then welding for as long as you possibly can is the best way to do that. Same if you want to be a professional athlete. But if you are living in the corporate world, you might want to build more than one skillset. In the digital and service economy, this gains even more importance as technology can easily make jobs obsolete month after month. Bouncing from job to job in a lateral fashion helps build an entire portfolio of skills that can translate to other situations in the future.

Test Your Limits

A flat basketball looks perfectly normal just sitting in the middle of the court. Not until someone tries to bounce it do they realize that it won't move and needs some air. The same analogy works for careers. Often, the comfort of sitting in the same place may hide that you are slowly growing flat, stagnant in skills and abilities, and not growing. Bouncing to another position challenges that stagnation by forcing growth and forcing development of new skills. You might bounce smoothly, or you might flop at first. That doesn't mean you can't add some new skills and grow into the role. But you will never know until you move.

The Perfect Time to Bounce

The perfect time to bounce to a new role never comes. Fear of change and comfort with the status quo play a part to discouraging movement. Sometimes the change comes unexpectedly, with the loss of a job or an offer that appears from an old friend. You should always be open and always be looking, though, for when that opportunity to bounce appears. You can always say "no." As you bounce more and more throughout your career, the transitions get easier, especially with your broadened skillset, and the resistance to change diminishes. Be prepared for everything.

Bouncing jobs is never an easy activity. It seems counter-intuitive to the path that you think you will take up the stairs. But once you visualize that the staircase narrows as it goes up and that everyone on your staircase is pushing and shoving to move to the same spot above you, the idea of jumping staircase to staircase or even running down a step and moving to another staircase becomes a more rational path to climb higher.

However you get to where you want to be, get there. Build skills that interest you and help you grow. Move around, learning what you can where you can. You might surprise yourself.

What do you think is a signal it's time to bounce? And do you have other good reasons to do so? Leave a comment or ping me on social media and let me know.