Sunday, April 6, 2008

Listen to others, but stick to your own career plan

Job search candidates and career clients of mine often ask me how much they should be making, and what level within their organization they should be at, given their experience. These are important questions, because generally salary and growth are two of the top five biggest reasons people change jobs. In previous blog entries I’ve encouraged people to do research, find out their worth in the marketplace, as a tool for career planning.

At the same time, is the information you’re given by third parties about what you should be making, or what position you should hold within your organization, enough to influence your career decisions. The point I’m making is how much stock should we put in other people’s opinions, when it comes to our own career planning?

As a recruiter, I run into this situation all the time. People often say things to me like “my friend, (who is in the same career), makes 10% more than I do, but my experience is much stronger then theirs.” “I want to get to the salary level where I should be.” Or, they might say, “how is it that is my old colleague is now a director, while I’m still a manager, yet I have more years of experience managing a team?” I usually respond to these types of questions, by saying it all depends.

Why people who have similar backgrounds and years of experience don’t stay on the same paths for salary and position growth depends on many factors. It can depends on their exposure, their performance, the relationships they’ve build, timing, market conditions, industries they’ve worked in, and luck. People forget how far a little luck will take you.

With these points in mind, yes, it’s still important to network, know what your peers are doing, how much they are making, and where you stand within your field. At the same time, it’s also important to remember not to put too much emphasis on comparing yourself to others. Everyone has had different experiences; they bring different talents to the table; and they’ve had different degrees of luck! Heed the information you receive, yet remember your career belongs to you. Your path is unique. Stick to your plan. Make your career choices based on what’s best for your individual values and goals, not what your peers say you should be doing. Staying true to your own career plan will bring you much more happiness in the long run, even if your friend with less talent makes more than you.

--Steve Hernandez