Editor's Page

Dec. 21, 2004
Where the good jobs are.

What's your next career move? Are you looking for your dream job -- perhaps in a start-up called ".com" that offers stock options? Or will you look for opportunity somewhere else -- perhaps by volunteering for combat duty at a troubled division within your current company? Before you answer, consider the example of an acquaintance of mine -- let's call him Bob. Given a choice between a "safe" position running an established business and a riskier job at a turnaround, he took over a business unit slated for shutdown and made it profitable in just three years. Now he was ready to expand -- and ready to assemble a team of senior execs. Less concerned with directly applicable experience than with finding talent and energy, he tapped all the standard sources -- colleagues, competitors, industry experts -- but found one of his best candidates in the most old-fashioned place of all: his own Rolodex. On one dog-eared card was the name of a talented friend who, according to Bob, had seemed underemployed for some time. When the industry grapevine confirmed that the exec in question might be available, Bob arranged a meeting among himself, his own boss, and their promising candidate. The interview started well enough. The candidate outlined his experience, his current frustrations, and his hopes for the future. Bob detailed his turnaround experience and his plans for growth. The boss painted a picture of where the entire corporation was headed, how the expanded unit would fit into that picture, and how the person or persons they were about to hire would be positioning themselves for the future. As the meeting wore on, however, it gradually became apparent that Bob and his boss were doing more selling than the candidate was. Indeed, the candidate -- mistakenly emboldened, perhaps, by his friendship with Bob -- began to act more like the interviewer than the interviewee, asking one impertinent question after another. Eventually Bob could take no more. "Look," he said. "This is an unbelievable opportunity to make your mark with a great company. Do you think you're interested or not?" "It sounds great," said the friend, who then looked first at Bob and next at his boss. He shrugged. "But all the good jobs are taken." "When I got here," Bob replied icily, "there weren't any good jobs." Needless to say, the meeting ended shortly thereafter. No second interview was scheduled. You can debate whether Bob should have been more specific in his description of the position. You can argue that his friend was a fool. But for Bob, the real lesson lay not in what his friend said, but in what he learned from himself that day about career management. The best move he had ever made, he now realized, was turning down a "safe" job in favor of a job nobody else wanted. It turns out, he says, that those unwanted jobs are the ones you can turn into dream careers, good jobs that others will envy. What's your next career move? Send e-mail messages to John Brandt at [email protected]

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