This week I met a manager who had messed up his career because he did not know how to let his employers 'park' him in a temporary position. This is a manager with exceptional talents, impressive educational qualifications (three useful degrees from leading universities), a fine and well decorated military record, and who successfully entered the job market with an excellent position - a quality role at one of Israel's largest corporations but who somehow managed to mess up everything because of one strategic mistake.
After three years in a major job and continual success, the market was caught up in an economic crisis and consequently the company was compelled to implement streamlining measures and he was 'parked on the side' in a less central job, in a temporary position, until the market stabilized. He was required to move from a position in the heart of the company to an inferior role in operations to a job created especially for him, so that he could remain in the company, unlike several dozen others who were let go because of the situation. But he refused. He did not agree to put his career 'into parking mode' and decided to resign, ignored the situation in the market, and was convinced that he was on the way to a better job. Since then he has compromised on worse organizations and jobs than the last one which he had quit, mistakenly comparing them to the temporary job "parked on the side" that had been offered him, certain that he had made the right decision.
This smart person was unable to understand that sometimes it is preferable to put your career into 'parking mode' for a short period, especially when it is in the car park of a large company, well branded and with many opportunities, because in most cases, when you are back on the road, you'll be given a better job than any other job in any other company. Why? Because the potential for promotion in the company where he was working is much higher compared with moving companies, so that by definition it is preferable to delay a career in an organization rich in opportunities that to look for them immediately outside of it. Moreover, even if it turns out in hindsight that the job he was parked into was wrong in the company where he was working, it is very easy to conceal that to the outside world, so that the cost of the error is zero.
Career failure is the result of typical shortsightedness, when employees look outside from within their organization and get the illusion that there are more career opportunities outside than inside. But this is only a deception because you do not gain promotion when moving between two organizations (even if the job offered is dressed up as a more senior position, with a stunning title and more money in the bank account). In most cases, the result is a similar position in seniority, in the best case scenario, and in smaller organizations, with much less career opportunities as happen in the case discussed above. The man who was tempted by a more senior role in terms of its title but in a much smaller company without potential for promotion, from there continued to go downhill in the quality of companies and jobs until his market value depreciated.
Parked on the side and unemployed
To be distinguished from the aforementioned type of parking at the side of the road, which is considered exclusive and almost without risks, a more common type of remaining at a standstill is the recommendation often made to the unemployed who cannot find an appropriate job. In many instances, it is preferable for them to compromise and take an inferior job while at the same time continuing to look for the right job for their career instead of sitting at home and letting their market value slip away.
Indeed, such a step is not without risks because people are inclined to be drawn into their new job even if it is meant to be a temporary position and this harms their chances of finding a more worthwhile job within a reasonable amount of time. The result is that the time amount spent parked on the side becomes so long that it is difficult to ignore it on the CV, meaning that there is a blot on the person's image that sabotages the value of their brand in the long-term.
The desirable situation is a job 'parking on the side' for just several months, which doesn't appear on a CV, and can be presented at any job interview as a project, a temporary job or career mistake.
Is every job suitable as 'parking on the side?' Only when talking about working in an organization where most of the jobs are good enough to serve as a temporary parking space, even the worst of the jobs (which can always be hidden from the outside world) but not when talking about a compromise job in a new organization.
How do you know when the compromise is too much? The fact is that there are no precise criteria but the rule of thumb is not to fall more than one level - VP to director, director to manager and so on - unless it is possible to present the job as a temporary project. In such a case almost any compromise is good enough, and only if it's for a short time. Good luck.
The author is a labor market expert
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 2, 2019
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