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Career Management And Wise Leadership

Contributed by : Dilip Saraf

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During their long careers clients often come to me when their role is suddenly changed to a "lesser sounding" title and ask me to tell them how to deal with this "demotion." In their case this change has happened involuntarily. Sometimes, too, different companies have titles that are inflated to begin with, and when changing jobs into a different industry that title is difficult to carry. For example, most US banks have several vice presidents even in a small branch, yet when these professionals break into the industry outside theirs they face an identity crisis. Their new job may even have more responsibility, span of control, and more exciting leadership challenges. Yet some feel cheated out of their title when making this change. On its flip side Ross Perot at EDS used to freely give titles people wanted instead of big salaries. He argued that imposing job titles did not cost him anything, but big pay packages did!

What most do not recognize is that job titles are an artificial""if not entirely arbitrary– positions created to conform to the existing taxonomy of job families within a company and the industry in which it operates. So, beyond the company"s""and the industry"s– influence these titles are not very meaningful, even though they may sound imposing to someone looking at them from the outside. What really matters is the role and responsibility in a position regardless of the title. For example, a commonly used title of a program manager can have a broad range of implications across different industries and even for companies within one industry.

At a software company, for example, a program manager can be responsible for releasing a product in a few months with a handful of developers and QA people working on it. Whereas at an aerospace company such as Boeing a program manager can have several thousand highly skilled professionals working on a new Dreamliner, which costs billions of dollars and takes a dozen years to complete before it gets into mass production.

The problem most face when confronted with such changes in their job titles is that they tie their professional identity with their current title. Of course, it is much easier to impress those around you with a fancy title your job carries, but what should matter more to you is what you get to do in your job and what your leadership role is in that job, regardless of the title bestowed on you. This is difficult for most people, but the reality of today requires everyone to look at their career as a means of creating meaningful value in every role, regardless of the title that goes with it.

In their book, From Smart to Wise,Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou show how wise leaders focus on their leadership responsibilities, whereas smart leaders get troubled by their "station" in life and focus on titles. They site examples of CEOs, who have taken different""and "lesser" roles""when time was right for them to do so in the interest of their organization and business. What the authors emphasize is that wise leaders focus on their value contribution, growth, and for the greater good of the organization and the ecosystem that its supports.

So, when the next time you suddenly face a situation where your title has gone "down" a notch or two consider the following:

  1. Will the new role allow me to continue to grow with my new responsibilities? If the answer is yes, then you have not compromised your identity, but merely have adjusted to a new reality that will protect you and your career in the long run.
  2. Will the value I get to create in my new role benefit my organization in a positive way? Will the compensation I receive in return commensurate with that value. Some companies do not even re-size an employee"s compensation when they are moved to a position where their new title reflects a "lower" designation.
  3. Will my rsum showcase an exciting and more compelling story with my new role than if I continued in my current role with nothing new to add to my current rsum other than just the number of years in the same role?
  4. Will I get a chance to grow in a new direction with my re-assigned role that I did not have in my previous role?
  5. Will I build new momentum in my new role to allow me to market myself better in today"s changing market?

These are more important questions to answer before you decide that the changed title has scuttled your otherwise stellar career. In fact, if you are looking out for your own career welfare, you may want to volunteer for a changed role""and title""exactly for the same reasons by showing your wise leadership in managing your own career!


Good luck!

About Author
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.

After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.

During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.

Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.

Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.

Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.

Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.



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