Good college basketball players are often persuaded not to turn pro during their junior years because, once they start professional basketball, they are expected to play regularly and will miss the chance to get extensive coaching and work on their fundamentals. Instead, they are encouraged to stay for another year at college and bear the opportunity costs.
Likewise, a sound understanding of the fundamentals of a business and worthwhile operating experience cannot be skipped.
The Fast Track to the Top May Look Attractive
Organizations are full of young high-performers who seem to have the right pedigree, are sharp and ambitious, and have impressed their managers with some early achievements. As soon as they have “proved” themselves, HR succession programs tend to fast-track high potentials to the next challenge even if they are not entirely prepared, thus unintentionally setting them up for stressful transitions, bitterness, or eventual failure.
In many instances, young employees are so determined to move up the corporate ladder quickly that they don’t remain in one position long enough to master the right skills and learn from mistakes. They thereby risk accumulating a very large gap in their knowledge and skills.
Idea for Impact: Work on the Fundamentals as You Build a Career
Before making your next career move, perform a realistic self-appraisal and consider how the move may support or impede your longer-term goals. See my previous article for a list of questions to assess your chance of a promotion or a lateral move.
One of the most important skills for career success is the ability to synthesize business requirements and adjust your management approach to the conditions at hand. Each new responsibility should involve an incremental challenge that requires new learning, new approaches, and a chance to demonstrate improvement in your managerial judgment. As a career coach, I recommend staying in one position for one or two business cycles to adequately learn about the nature of the business, test fresh approaches, impact the business, and get feedback on your work.
Furthermore, not all career moves need be up the ladder. Even though most careers follow an upward trajectory, many successful careers consist of a mixture of lateral and upward career moves, each with additional responsibilities or opportunities to build experiences in different market, product, or geographical contexts with prospects for promotion in the future.