Sep 13, 2010

When Your Career Ladder Looks Like a Jungle Gym

My resume was a great conversation starter at an MBA recruiting event I went to this weekend. My takeaways were that I can likely get into at least one of my top choice schools if I manage to get a really, really high score on the GMATs (as in, over 700.) Most schools seem to like that I'm not the typical MBA candidate, which is a good thing.

But this post isn't about my quest to get an MBA, or it isn't directly about this quest. Instead, it's about moving up, down, and diagonal on the career "ladder."

My current job is a huge leap up from any positions I had before in both responsibility, salary, and company respect. But it's a six month contract which is ending soon, and likely won't be renewed (more to do with the state the company is in than my work here, my boss wants to keep me on.) So I'm in a pickle. Where do I go from here?

The biggest problem is defining my career goals and understanding how my next steps will get me there. Incredibly, with the large-name company on my resume I'm getting calls back on my applications from other respectable companies. That's not to say I'll get past the first interview, but the phone is at least ringing.

It isn't clear where I'm supposed to step to go up in my career. Most of the jobs I really want require an MBA or a lot of luck. Then there are all these very good jobs that are all so very different and can lead me in very, very different directions. Do I want to do customer support? B2B or B2c? General marketing? Social media marketing? How do these answers change when each option has a specific company attached to it? How do they change when each company has a salary attached to it?

Honestly, I'd be happiest doing online customer support. Because I love helping people and solving problems. That role is at an excellent company, but I bet my pay would be cut in half. Or maybe I could negotiate a little more, but I can't imagine they'd pay a customer support person the same amount I'd make as a marketing manager or even marketing assistant. I'd be happier in the short-term, and there's a chance getting a foot in the door at this company can lead to bigger and better things, but is it really a step up in my career? Should I care?

When it comes down to it, I need to look at what I'm good at and what makes me happy. I know I get the most reward out of helping people, solving problems, etc. Those types of jobs don't pay as well as selling to people. Ideally I'd find a role where I can solve problems and help people while developing and marketing products. That may require an MBA. Right now I can possibly get hired as a social media manager, but that career path is limiting. It's also all marketing and not as much about improving a product. It can be, it just depends on the role, product and company.

Regardless, the pickle I'm in now will only continue to, well, pickle, before I can take a bite and discover the taste of my future.


Lisa Byrne said...

Well, as a social media manager I have say that you are right - it certainly depends on the industry and company. However, a lot of companies are paying very good money at this point, knowing little about the marketing themselves they are willing to pay someone with some sort of 'expertise.' It's also a position where you can have major impact on a product or service by shaping how people perceive it, gathering their feedback and channeling it to make positive changes where needed, and ultimately creating sales. Think of when you walk into a hotel, the first person you meet is the valet, doorman or bellman. If you have a negative experience with this person it will ultimately shape the perception of your entire experience at this one hotel. Now think of that person as the social media specialist - the front door to an entire experience, only with more technical skills to boot ;) If the experience is bad, we don't return and sales drop...

Good luck in your next steps. Whatever they may be remember it's the journey over the destination ;)

Lisa @LifeTuner

her every cent counts said...

Thanks Lisa. I actually meant to note that the social media manager is one of the better positions I'm looking at... though some companies pay social media managers diddly squat, overall they're decent paid positions. Right now i'm in a community management role paying six figures in a large company. That's why it's hard to even go into a role -- any role -- that pays less, esp with less responsibility. The social media manager / marketer role is definitely one that will continue to grow and become more important, so it's a good field to be in. It's just also limiting if you want to expand beyond social media.

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