Are you a bull or a butterfly?

Do you have a career plan or are you just floating along?

As an executive search consultant, some of the biggest regrets people tell me about are:

1. I have stayed too long with the same company (because it was comfortable and although they offered me new challenges every few years, it did not actually enhance my experience or career)

2. I wish I had cultivated a relevant network, now that I am looking for a new job

If your ultimate goal is to have fun and see where it takes you and to have only worked for businesses that are interesting and where you have a pleasant time, then perhaps drifting along and being opportunistic concerning job opportunities could be the strategy for you. Rather like a fun road trip to southern Italy, without a set destination, just following the sun.

However, if you know where you want to be by the time your career peaks in terms of position, size of company, size of team, location (international?), remuneration, etc. then you need to plan your career journey, and you need to start with the end goal in mind. Are you the person who wouldn’t drive to southern Italy without looking at a map or at least taking a SatNav, making sure you have enough money for petrol, European breakdown service, an idea of hotel cost and location?

When it comes to planning your career, it’s much the same philosophy: Define your current role, autonomy, budget controls, kpi’s and take an estimated guess at what parameters your final destination job will have. Now that you know the gap between the two, you can start to make a plan for building experience in the relevant areas.

Questions to ask yourself will be:
• What do I need to do to move from an area manager to a regional manager position? (e.g. can I deputise for the regional manager when she is on holiday and what do I need to do to make sure that I succeed in this temporary role and get noticed?)
• How do I gain experience of managing a bigger team?
• What project work can I do to gain the experience to move from management accountant to financial controller or from digital marketer to head of ecommerce?
• Will my current employer offer me the opportunity to gain the additional knowledge and experience required to take the next step up?

Invariably you will run out of runway in your current business and that’s the time to find a new company with a longer runway – not necessarily one who pays more money (although that would be nice).

For the new employer it should be a huge benefit to hear that their new recruit did not just join for the money or the bigger car or the shorter commute. They need to understand that if they help you manage your career and help you develop, you will add value to the business over many years to come and ideally in a number of different roles. (If they think that this is an issue and really just want someone to do the job that they are recruiting for then this is probably not the business for you.)

Remember, to succeed in a role, you need clear (and measurable) objectives, if you cannot keep score than it is difficult to measure whether you are keeping on track with your career goals (it would be like driving to southern Italy without a fuel gauge or speedometer – how do you know when you need to fill up?).

Find yourself a senior mentor, who will challenge and direct, who will praise, listen and give advice. This will be an invaluable sounding board and sense check, however make sure that this person has all the knowledge, experience or contacts that you feel you need! If someone asks you where you want to be in 5 years’ time, don’t be ashamed to say that you have not given it much thought yet because you need to master your current role first.

It is much worse to answer: ‘Managing Director’, but on further questioning having to admit that you have taken no steps in order to get there and really it is a pipe dream rather than a well thought out plan.

Finally, when you use a recruiter/executive search consultant/head hunter for your next role and they omit to ask you about your career goals, your ‘runway’ and what additional experience you would gain if you stayed in your current role, then the chances are that they are trying to sell you a job.

Any self-respecting professional in the recruiting industry plays the long game, they should be there to help you and advise you on the best career options, so that they can place you (again and again..!).

6 things to do before you start your new job


You have resigned, your departure has been announced, you have sorted out your holiday entitlement, bonuses and share options. You have agreed a handover date for your company car and laptop, and who you will hand over your current projects to.

But that’s only half the story. Generally, once you have completed 50% of your notice period, you start to think more and more about your new company, role, colleagues and challenges. Here are a few pointers of what you ought to do (or at least think about) before you start your new job.

  1. Ask your new manager whether it is possible to meet your new colleagues, ahead of your start date. A social setting (lunch) is often a good way of getting to know people, so that you have a head start on day one. Just a quick note here; if it is a social setting, restrict yourself to one glass of wine / pint of beer. You are still being judged and unless you are joining a brewery, it is probably wise to stay in control. Actually, even if you are joining a brewery you want to stay in control.
  2. Is there any reading material you can have before your start date, ie company reports, meeting minutes, project updates, etc? Anything that will give you a head start and (I think more importantly) will create a positive impression before you start.
  3. Are there any company meetings you can attend?
  4. A week before you are due to start, ask for your induction programme. You really just want to know that there is one and that the new company are preparing your welcome. You hear of stories where the new starter has to find a desk, a chair and a phone. You don’t want to be that person.
  5. Speak with HR and understand how and when you will be receiving your company car, laptop, mobile, etc.
  6. Speak with your new boss and agree what time you should turn up on day one. You may always arrive at work for a 08.00am start, however if your boss only ever arrives at 08.30am, then you certainly do not want to show them up on day one. Probably not on day two either, so ask whether they mind you arriving early.

Tasks for the first week

  • At the end of week one, make sure to schedule a quick review meeting with your manager. You’re looking for early feedback here (at this stage, you can only give positive comments about your first few days, you can critique at a later day, just not now) and you need to understand what is expected of you.
  • Let’s have in writing (again an email will do), what you have agreed to accomplish in month 1, quarter 1 and the first 6 months. This will give you a framework, will give you an element of control and something to be measured by.

Read our article on what to do during your notice period … and what not!

Working your notice period – what to do … and what not!

You have resigned, you may or may not have been counter offered, however you have done the right thing and have not given in to the temptation to stay where you are. You now seem to be in that strange area of “no man’s land”, whilst working your notice.

In the first few days and maybe weeks, you still feel (a sometimes) strong loyalty to the company, colleagues and boss who you are set to leave, however as the clock keeps ticking, so that loyalty erodes and you find yourself in a situation where you really now want to move on to pastures new and your enthusiasm for going into work each day starts to wane…

Rather than being taken over by events, it may help you to feel in control of your situation and the following To-Do list (and To-Don’t-Do list) will help you do that:

1. Your resignation has been accepted and a leaving date has been agreed.

2. First things first, agree with your manager how and when your departure will be announced and by whom. I know it will be difficult, however some restraint is required here. Do not tell anyone before it is announced (not even your PA or most trusted colleague) – if it leaks, it won’t be contained and there will be only one person blamed for the leak. You just cannot afford to put your manager’s back up at this stage as you will still need him as a reference.

3. Next make sure you agree what holiday entitlement you still have, are you going to take some to make up the last few days or weeks of your notice period?
a. This is a great idea, it will allow you to re-charge the batteries, mentally severe any emotional ties with the old place and start to prepare for the new place.
b. If you are going to be paid out for the holiday entitlement, make sure to agree with HR the exact number of days and the amount that is due (you don’t want to sort any discrepancies out when you have just started a new job. Best to get it sorted before you leave).

4. Will you be due any bonus? Again, make certain to agree exactly how much and when it will be paid. If the bonus payment is not due for some time after your leaving date, you may want to consider doing a deal with the company, ie pay me slightly less bonus than I’m entitled to, however pay it in my last pay check please. When you have received it, it is difficult to take away, whereas in a few months’ time, should there be a regime change, you may have to fight for that bonus to be paid…

5. And the same goes for share options. There are a whole lot of different schemes, so difficult to give one universal piece of advice, other than: make sure you have agreed what happens to your options and have it in writing before you leave!

6. Car, laptop, phone, company credit card, keys to the company flat, etc. Don’t just assume you’re to hand everything in on the last day. Take the initiative and speak with HR to agree a hand over, that way you are (or at least you feel) in control of the process.

7. And then it comes to the actual work, make sure to agree (in writing – an email will do) with your boss what work needs to be completed and by when, what projects need to be handed over and to whom, agree how completion or hand over is measured. You do not want to be in a situation where you are regarded as a poor leaver, because they feel that your work was sub-standard or the hand over was rushed…You are the ultimate professional and you want to be remembered as just that.

8. Agree with you manager and IT, which files to leave on your laptop / PC and which to delete. I’m assuming that you have copied anything worthwhile before you resigned – I’m not condoning it, but human nature is human nature…

9. Finally, if there is a farewell or leaving party, make sure to be gracious to the end (even to that money grabbing, non-PC senior director). You never know where you will come across your soon to be ex-colleagues again, so do not burn any bridges!

What you do NOT want to do is:

a. Take sick leave – however bad that hangover, man flu or broken leg, drag yourself into the office, because even if you are genuinely ill, you’ll be judged as skiving. Go in and let your boss send you home. Reputations are not made during notice periods, however they are very easy to lose…

b. Materially change your working hours, if you’re always at your desk at 8am, don’t start arriving at 9am. Make sure people believe that you are fully committed to the bitter end (even if you are not).

c. Increase your expense claim pattern. You’re leaving, chances are that you are entertaining less clients, travel less and therefore spend less. A material increase in your monthly expense may be totally justified, however it is rarely seen as that. Kerb it.

d. Talk incessantly about you leaving, your new job, salary, car or circumstances. You don’t want to be seen as causing dissatisfaction amongst your colleagues and they will soon tire from hearing about your future.

e. Voice a negative opinion about your current business, it will sound like sour grapes and it is ugly. Just don’t.

f. Serve the internet at work for your own pleasure, even if that is what you have always done…Your internet usage may be monitored by IT, any policy breaches may result in dismissal, which in itself may jeopardise your new job….Be really careful with this one.

g. Steal / borrow stationery for use at home (as in above, it could have nasty consequences).

Want to discuss further or you feel you need advice? Give me a ring!