One of my favourite interview questions to ask is: "what is the best career advice you have been given?". It is an insightful question that helps you to determine what a candidate values. You should try it – you might hear something that could stimulate your own career!
One of the most profound answers I received in response to the question was from a very senior director at B&Q that I interviewed several years ago. His old CEO had told him, “think of your career as a pyramid. If you keep building vertically, eventually it will become difficult to carry on upwards without becoming unstable! It is just as important to build a wide base, as it will provide a solid platform for the future”.
Think of the three axes of a pyramid: if you increase the top point, this is akin to getting a promotion which proves you are great at your job and can deliver results. This is super important. Think of the bottom corner of the pyramid as a market or function swap (i.e. sales into marketing), and think of the last corner as moving to a new business. Most senior business leaders I have interviewed have focused on the base, as much as the top of the pyramid.
The benefit of working in multiple sectors is that it broadens your perspective as a candidate. It expands your knowledge of the commercial landscape, and demonstrates your ability to adapt to new things.
Now I'm not saying that if you work in finance, you should go and get a job in the automotive industry (although that might sound attractive). More so, if you work for the retail side of the bank, have you considered a move into the investment or corporate side?
The same process applies if you are considering a move from, say, a Sales Manager role to a Marketing Manager role. While you may not get a promotion, the knowledge you obtain will give you a broader perspective as a candidate, and set you up for a more senior leadership role in the future.
Many people know the Proctoid stereotype - the person that has worked at one company for 10 or 20 years and that business' way of doing things is ingrained in their DNA. Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that if you stay in one company for longer than 7 years, you have only a 20% chance of leaving in the next 7!
Moving businesses allows you to interact with new people, learn new ways of doing business, and learn from new leaders. This increases emotional intelligence, as well as the ability to react and adapt to new situations.
Anyway, I wanted to share this insight in the hope that it would be useful to you.
So, what is the best career advice you have been given?
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