Changing Executive Positions In A Tough Economy

We all face some level of anxiety over the difficult US economy; whether it be over the health and vitality of the enterprise we work for, or simply for our own job security. Senior executives probably feel an equal amount of both, trying hard to drive bottom-line profitability without driving themselves out the door in the process.

So how should senior executives act? Staying in position and simply hoping for the best is certainly an option – one that most spouses or significant others would agree with since some meaningful employment is better than unemployment. The price, however, is potential career stagnation.

Watching others get laid off can send a chill through your security bone, freezing you in place. The real dichotomy, however, is the situation where our friends and colleagues who have been shown the door walk into better, brighter futures at other companies, prompting us to question our original self-protectionist prospective.

The same even happens in our own companies where downsizing/rightsizing forces fewer staff to take on more responsibility which can be viewed as a curse, particularly if you’re already giving 110% and don’t relish putting in even one more hour of overtime. However, by embracing the reality of the current economic situation you can take on additional responsibility, viewing it as an opportunity to shine in your current environment, knowing that your value to the enterprise will not only increase but you may also leverage the experience elsewhere in the future.

The benefits of an internal executive job search

It may be easier to step through the horns of the dilemma if you consider options more creatively than “stay put” or “leave”. The seasoned executive can also look for career growth internally, even if it means a lateral move, a different division, another region or a new office. Change is good, and broadening both your knowledge and relationship base inside your own company can prove invaluable over time. Internal transfers can almost be as good for your psyche as moving to another company, since transfers often come with new management and staff, almost like starting over without the company-change angst. Then as the economy recovers, you will be ready for the next promotion or bonus without any gaps in employment.

My personal career evaluation started just about the time major automotive manufacturers became front page news. As an automotive industry executive I approached executive recruiters to test the waters at other companies where I might land a promotion but it quickly became obvious that the timing wasn’t right. The feelers I had out there came back with the answer “Not never, just not now”. I took this response as a sign that my career was well packaged, but with layoffs looming and some companies facing a hiring freeze, I needed to be more creative in my search for career advancement.

To think outside the box, you must also look inside

So search I did, but this time it was an internal search. Large companies can be like gems with multiple facets so the challenge was to recalibrate what I perceived as a ‘real’ career step. In retrospect, the next opportunity was there for the taking when I mentioned to my boss that I was “a willing handraiser” should anything come up. It wasn’t long before I got a call from someone I had never met but who was a friend and contemporary of my boss wanting to tell me about a newly created position in a corner of the company I barely knew about. After brief negotiations over a couple of weeks, a deal was put together and I was embarking on the next chapter of my career, this time advancing within my present corporation.

So the advice to think more broadly, to cast a wider net, isn’t only searching over the horizon. In the end the fish I caught was a big one, right on the shore next to where I was standing.

Guest Writer - BlueSteps Executive Member

Bill Burris is passionate about automotive marketing, brand management and consumer insight. As one of Toyota's Fleet Marketing Managers he is responsible for trade shows/events and is currently developing a mobility program unique to the North American automotive market. Previously Toyota's Advertising Manager, he was responsible for creative executions including television, print, interactive, mobile, radio and out-of-home media, including NASCAR advertising.

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