Are your career and company compatible?

Your career trajectory is closely related to your company’s management and direction.


There is little doubt that the current market conditions have presented all of us with workplace challenges. For some, it has meant losing their job; for others, it has meant changing management styles, roles, and responsibilities within their organization. Regardless of the circumstances, you may now be considering your next career steps and wondering how you choose the right career move for you. The following business road signs will help guide your decision-making, whether you are considering an in-house change of role, or a new role outside your current circumstances.

Vision/direction: Does the organization have a stated vision and direction? While many firms don’t have a formal strategic planning process, look for evidence that the organization has a focused direction and vision, and a roadmap or strategic plan to guide it. Given the evolving marketplace, look for signs that the organization has re-evaluated its future and that the leadership team has a common or consistent understanding of that vision and how it will continue to grow.

Values: Many companies will go through a corporate values exercise when developing a strategic business plan. Explore how seriously the firm takes these values and how it manifests them throughout the day-to-day operation of the business. If the values are not documented, then take time to interview various leaders to get their perspective on values. And, make sure those values line up with your own. There are many things you can fix in a career relationship, but differing values is not one of them.

Innovation: Is there a spirit of innovation in the firm? Look for signs that the firm is consistently looking for ways to strengthen its competitive advantage through innovative marketing, positioning, design methods, and use of technology. Are leaders thinking beyond the immediate customer need? Be wary of companies that tell you they are too small or busy to be innovative. Innovation is the key to survival and success.

Focus/discipline: Does the organization know its strengths or competitive advantage, and has it done its homework with respect to target markets and clients? There has never been so much information available on markets, customers, and competitors. Is the firm regularly reviewing the data and using that to drive business focus? While even larger, multidisciplinary firms have the resources to focus on multiple markets, even they cannot be all things to all people.

Influence: How influential is the organization in its target markets or industry? Is it considered a thought-leader and is it visible in helping customers and the industry define future trends? Look for evidence that key leaders are involved in regional and national conversations on standards, high-performance or sustainable building designs, and ways to bring innovative solutions to the market.

Agility: How flexible and adaptable is the organization to the changing market demands and trends? Is it collaborating with clients to be smarter, better, and faster, or just reacting to requests for proposals? There is no doubt that the downturn in the economy has changed the nature and pace of business. Agile companies have recognized this change and have positioned or are positioning themselves to be successful.

Leadership development: Is there a commitment to develop talented staff members into leaders? This is more than providing access to or opportunity for training; it is a comprehensive program designed to mentor, coach, and develop the next generation of leaders. Look for rotation or other formal programs that put high-potential staff through experiences in sales/business development, marketing, operations, and strategic planning. If you are interviewing for a new job, ask to talk to individuals in the organization’s current development program to determine the program effectiveness and resources.

You are likely to find that your current/prospective employer does some of these things well, but not all. Don’t look for perfection, but rather evidence that your current/prospective employer’s values, direction, and commitment to development align with your expectations. There is always a risk associated with taking a new job or role. However, using the road signs to delve past the marketing pitch that comes with any new position and into the organization’s business culture and climate will help you make a decision based on facts.

Sidebottom is the owner of AMK LLC, a management and marketing consulting firm that provides market development and growth expertise to small and medium-sized firms. She has 20 years of management and leadership experience in both consulting engineering and Fortune 100 organizations. Sidebottom is a graduate of the University of Maryland and has completed leadership development programs at The Center for Creative Leadership and UTC/Carrier.

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