My client Joe from the Millennial generation was in marketing at a social media company and was doing well in his role. Marketing has been in his blood and he enjoyed his job because it gave him the challenge, rhythm, and predictability important to him, along with the glamor and pay that came with the role. His last review was good—not great—and that was enough for him to pat himself on the back for a “job well done.”
In a recent re-organization everything that was important to Joe was suddenly shaken to its core with redefined roles, restructuring, and a new regime that would drive his company in a new direction. For a company in the social-media space such upheavals are commonplace because the shifts in that fickle vertical are unpredictable and how competitors respond to these forces dictate your next moves.
As a part of the reorganization Joe’s new role was in a different functional area that had to do with Field Support. Although still in Marketing (a rather peculiar way to organize marketing) this new role would have given Joe a different challenge to work with the Field staff, giving him more customer access to their company’s product and thus help enable sales. In this role it would have given Joe ability to directly contribute to his company’s growth with measurable metrics tied to his work with the Field staff, something that was missing in his previous role.
Despite Joe’s continuing in Marketing, albeit under a different functional area within it, he was convinced that he would be sidelined in his new role. In the company Field Support was seen as a less glamorous job, especially for someone working in “Marketing,” where developing strategies, creating new campaigns, and building the company’s brand was considered a critical mission in its success. When Joe got the news of the changes, and especially his reassignment, he called me with an urgent tone in his voice asking me what his options were.
I was a bit lost when he asked that pointed question. So, when I asked Joe what is problem with the reassignment was he bluntly told me that this was a clear demotion, even though his title and pay would remain the same, albeit under a different direct boss. When I reminded him that he was still in Marketing with the same uber boss, he retorted by saying that others would see the reassignment as a clear demotion because of the optics of the change; Joe would have nothing of it. I reminded him that in the scheme of things this was a minor change, as others had lost their jobs or had suffered demotions in the shuffle. He then asked me again what his options were!
I told him that he had two options: Joe could go back to his current boss and ask him to explain the reason for this assignment, and then plead with him to keep him in his current role; Joe’s second option would be to quit his job by resigning in protest if the boss did not allow him to keep his current role in Marketing. So, when Joe went back to his boss he bluntly told him that the change was a result of the massive restructuring that was done for better market alignment and that Joe would have an opportunity to prove himself in a new but complementary area. His boss assured Joe that there was nothing personal, nefarious, or hidden about this change that needed to concern Joe in his long-term outlook as a productive employee, as long he came through well in his new assignment.
Joe would have nothing of it, and without further consulting with me Joe abruptly resigned his employment. He was walked out immediately after he resigned, which took Joe by surprise, about which he called me to complain as he was driving home, now jobless! Anyway, there was nothing I could say to reassure Joe about what had transpired as a result of his irrational reaction to the otherwise routine changes following the reorganization.
So, what is the lesson here for those who feel disenfranchised when massive reorganizations happen in response to market shifts and surprises that companies face as a matter of everyday business realities? Here is my perspective:
- Your company has the right to assign you wherever it feels its immediate needs are and where it feels you can provide ongoing value to improve its business. It does not exist to provide you comfort in your everyday existence with predictability, choice assignments, and glam.
- You must learn to expand your career horizons by taking on challenging assignments and doing well in them. In Joe’s case he would have had a golden opportunity to connect with the customers through the company’s Field staff and learn in the process how his marketing campaigns that he had previously worked on actually result in action from that front and how the customers respond to those messages.
- In his new role Joe would have had a unique opportunity to tie his leadership initiatives to measure how customer behavior translated into more product sales and what he could do, working with the Field staff, to help customers engage more with the product. He would have gleaned new insights that would have allowed him to go back to the Product team to improve the product and build a new relationship with the Product Manager, something that would enhance his résumé as a marketing professional.
- Joe was so focused on his narrow marketing role that he failed to see what marketing’s mission really was—to improve product footprint through customer adoption in a measurable way—that he failed to grasp how this new role would have enhanced his Marketing résumé.
- I am sure that the new job would have had its own trials and tribulations, especially during the ramp-up period. It is facing these challenges that one shows their creativity, grit, and commitment to succeed than what is possible staying in a predictable ho-hum job. In his recent book, How to Win at the Sport of Business by billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban he writes about his jobless days where he did menial jobs just to survive. These jobs included selling PCs and software, something he knew nothing about and something he did not like, and selling powdered milk. He writes: “I worked jobs I didn’t like. I worked jobs I loved but that had no chance of becoming a career. I worked jobs that barely paid the rent… Most of them aren’t on my résumé anymore because I was there so short a time or they were so stupid I was embarrassed. You don’t want to write about selling powdered milk or selling franchises for TV repair shops. In every job, I would justify it in my mind, whether I loved it or hated it, that I was getting paid to learn and every experience would be of value.” It is often through overcoming adversity that we grow by challenging our creativity and by harnessing our potential.
- Seek your professional growth through venturing in new opportunities. Because exploring in the new vistas is where you get creative in how you apply yourself. It is through these insights that you get new inspiration for some breakthroughs or epiphanies.
- Overcoming hardships is something that gives us new perspectives. Sorry, but in Joe’s case this was not a hardship; it was a reassignment where his management felt that he could grow and contribute new value in ways that was not initially obvious to Joe. Yet, he decided to dismiss the idea out of hand and walk away from a well-paying job.
I can guarantee you that in his next job Joe is again going to encounter a similar situation where he will be assigned to a job not to his liking. Pretty soon he will run out of options of finding narrowly defined jobs to his liking! In the process his résumé will continue to get narrower and narrower, and Joe, older and older!
Good luck, Joe!
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