As the job market fluctuates, more executives are venturing out of the safe harbor of their current companies to look for new opportunities. Many have been biding their time for months, if not years. During an economic crisis, many are willing to tolerate negative, demoralizing or unchallenging situations at their employment for financial security.

executive_educationWhen times get tough, money is always the overriding motivator for most professionals. However, as the horizon becomes brighter with employment opportunities, other career values become significant factors in determining job satisfaction and whether or not someone stays put or moves to a new employer.

Having challenging employment is one of the main drivers in most executive careers, and for high-performing professionals in general. Certainly professionals can find themselves pigeonholed in dated industries with little growth and expansion. This can leave them facing eventual skill obsolescence that can be precarious moving forward.

By the same token, many companies have become very reluctant to underwrite the tuition costs for retooling and new skills acquisition for younger executives who will be changing jobs every three to five years. It is not an advantage to them. Even though the Fortune 500 and 1000 companies offer $5000-10,000 per year in tuition reimbursement, the fees for executive MBA programs have far outstripped this stipend.

It is the responsibility of all professionals to do what’s necessary to remain challenged and to develop professionally in their current or new sector. Often, a recipient of an MBA feels that this degree should be sufficient as professional credibility. It will be - depending on the date of your degree. Like experience on a resume, the farther back the degree was received, the less importance ascribed to the knowledge it coveys. Of course, any degree from a top-flight school continues to exude cache for networking credibility.

If you haven’t done something to stay current or expand your industry knowledge and fluencies, then looking for new challenges in other companies could be limited to what you already know, thus curtailing your professional growth.

Solutions to this would include negotiating education reimbursement for a specific credentialing as part of your compensation package. If the company’s policy prohibits this kind of upfront agreement, then negotiating a hire-on bonus that you set aside for continuing education would serve the same purpose.

This same kind of negotiation can occur at the time of your performance review, by asking for career-expanding opportunities that would cost the company little or no money. Having your company underwrite the costs of attending conferences could contribute to your professional growth. Taking on special projects or asking for a short-term re-assignment to other departments to gain cross-functional training can add to new skills and keep you challenged. You may also consider starting a consulting business on the side to use new skills and stretch into new professional areas. This would be ideal for a mid-life or senior executive looking at retirement in a few years.

Regardless of the options you pursue, relying solely on your employer to satisfy your desire for new challenges and professional growth is no longer a good strategy.  


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