Career Management: Explain Yourself!

By Brian Mitchell, CEO & Managing Partner.

Over the past eight years, my firm has placed hundreds of senior professionals and executives within the digital media and internet technology space. It has been a wild ride and we’ve learned a lot through many experiences we’ve shared with clients, investors and candidates. Given the rapidly evolving industry ecosystem- funding spurts, downturns, hiring spurts, business model pivots, technology innovations- change is a constant. However, I’m still amazed when seemingly competent “professionals” rationalize the change in the sector as the reason (a.k.a excuse) for their many job changes. Hiring executives seeking qualitative resolution to a talent deficiency in their organization frequently have a counter perspective. Candidates need to heighten their awareness and understand this viewpoint.

It is perfectly okay and sometimes optimal to make a job change, but a job move does not always correlate with smart career management. In getting to know people I might represent, I seek to understand their perspective, ambitions and career track that has brought them to their current point. I’ll ask a simple question, such as “Why did you go from company A to company B?”, and I’ll hear “I was recruited” or “A buddy worked at company B” or “I got a VP title” or “My base went from $180K to $200K” as well as countless other reasons. Being “recruited” or “having a friend at a company” was the mechanism, but does not provide any logic in the move. And why would someone leave one company for another because of a modest change in title and/or comp?

If you have had several jobs over the course of your career then you certainly have a lot of “experience”; however, your body of work might not be as marketable in the eyes of the hiring authority as you think it is. We all make poor decisions at times- we assume more trust in someone than we should, we are lied to, an unforeseen event negatively shifts our company, etc.- and we are all allowed a pass or two for these scenarios. But, if we do not learn from those errors in judgment and continue upon with the same poor decisions, then another story (the one you don’t see) is being read by the decision makers representing the career advancing role. We are all the single common denominator in whatever we do in life. The one consistent thread in our career path is ourselves, so if you are not where you want to be, then look at yourself first. Look at your decision-making process. Scrutinize the “logic behind the moves you have made, the why?, not the moves themselves. Excuses are dull.

As a kid, my family belonged to a modest pool & tennis club where we would spend hours nearly every summer day. As we climbed up the ladder of the high diving board you couldn’t help but see a familiar sign attached to the supporting pole of the high dive structure. It read, “Look Before You Leap!” Simple and sound advice to keep people safe- a measured caution before taking an exciting plunge. This lesson in due diligence translates to a balanced approach to career management.