Avoiding Career Tricks or Treats

How to learn the difference between good career news and scary job moves

NEW YORK – October 25, 2010 — You got a promotion – that’s a good thing, right?

Could be, but then again, is your salary moving up as well? This could be a career ‘trick,’ and given the Halloween season, it may be a good time to learn how to avoid scary career moves.

“Charlie Brown isn’t the only one finding rocks in his candy bag,” says Corporate Navigator Amanda Mitchell of Our Corporate Life (ourcorporatelife.com). “Given the scary economy and our fears about keeping our jobs, don’t get spooked by what’s going on in the workplace.”

Mitchell offers the following list of career hits-and-misses:

You get a promotion with less than expected raise.

Treat Current economic realities have businesses focused on normalizing pay scales to reflect marketplace value. Ultimately, your increased skill set and title will provide more opportunities for growth and financial gain in the long term.

You’re head of an important new project that senior management is very involved with which is funded out of another group’s P&L.

Trick You have responsibility without authority. You don’t have control of all of the variables and no matter how hard you work you can’t control the outcome. Also with that much management involvement, if it goes well, you’re invisible—everyone takes credit. If it goes badly, you are left holding the bag.

Your boss leaves unexpectedly. You are given interim responsibility for the department while the “official” search is conducted (you’re in the candidate pool).

Treat If you weren’t given responsibility immediately it says you’ve not positioned yourself as a natural successor. You are being given a chance to change perceptions and position yourself for the job—while you decide if you’d actually want it.

Management voids lead to you being promoted up two levels.

Trick You’ll inevitably run into difficulty as you try to manage two levels beyond your current expertise and with limited management talent available to mentor you missteps are extremely likely. Ultimately as the company hires management talent your competitive set will be filled with those who have had more training/experience than you. Use outside resources to fill in your learning gaps. Pay attention to politics and work hard to make the best of the opportunity.

You need resources for a short-term project so the company redeploys those who are available regardless of their skill set.

Trick Management feels they’ve solved the problem by providing you with “hands” regardless of whether they are attached to viable brains and you are held accountable for any failure to deliver. With a short-term need it’s probably better to renegotiate deadlines for specific team projects and use current staff than to try to train and motivate those deployed on a short-term assignment for a group they don’t normally report into.

You are asked to bring your expertise to help a troubled department–but the department doesn’t see themselves as “troubled”.

Trick or Treat It depends how you play it. If you charge in and try to solve a problem people don’t know they have you will encounter resistance and they will do everything possible to make you fail. If you approach the group with an open mind and work with them to solve their pressing business issues you can build a cohesive functioning team.

The CEO asks you to lead a team to solve a business problem outside of your normal scope of responsibility/knowledge.

Trick or Treat If you focus on developing and leveraging the strengths of others to create a team focused on solving the problem and not the politics of the situation you will be able to lead through influencing others. That’s a big win and a lot of visibility for you. If you get caught up in being directive and managing the politics likely you will alienate others and create strong, potentially negative perceptions of yourself regardless of whether the business problem gets solved. Big loss.

Amanda Mitchell is the founder of Our Corporate Life LLC (www.ourcorporatelife.com), a company that offers a new system for reducing unnecessary workplace suffering caused by the organizational, interpersonal, and ethical issues of our time. Our Corporate Life (OCL) is founded on the belief that adhering to core human values and achieving business success are always compatible. A belief crystallized for Amanda during her corporate career each time she witnessed a company sacrifice profitability by wasting human capital.

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life (www.ourcorporatelife.com) to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company, CNBC.com, and Monster.com. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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