Project’s End: The Career Progress Dilemma

In more than one project, there’s been lots of happy talk about people’s future roles in the organization. Yet everyone knew that some colleagues simply wouldn’t have a place after the project, including themselves.

Beyond the formal career path discussions — if such things exist in your firm — I suggest that one should be very clear about the fact that this is a project. It’s incumbent on the project team to think about “what’s next?”. My experience is that while project may not lead to something within one’s own company, what it can lead to may be even better. As long as firms are clear about this potential trade-off, they’ll be able to recruit a better mix of colleagues to the project team.

To that end, I was struck by the Alliance approach suggested by two principals of LinkedIn itself: Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. Follow this link to an Econ Talk podcast and further information. A longish quote (Ben, I believe) from the podcast transcript will give you flavor of their argument:

[A]ctually I think one of the themes we are navigating here in The Alliance is both trying to get employees to sign up for an inspiring company mission. At the same time, you the company are trying to understand what that employee’s personal mission or vision is in their own life. And trying to define it toward the view that it’s both of those missions at once. Right? So it’s no longer: Subsume yourself toward corporate mission–rather than: Hey, maybe your long-term vision is you want to start your own company someday. Or you are really interested in some other field in addition to this field. So you are going to sign up for a tour because you care about our mission, sure. You really care about your mission. And we’re going to make sure that this tour of duty helps you get closer to being able to fulfill that mission. But it’s that recognition of the fact that there may be some difference. And that you are only looking for sufficient alignment, for a specific tour of duty.

Adapted from a LinkedIn comment regarding this post by Don McAlister.

A few points re: elite consulting firms

Do you select, work with, or want to join the ranks of elite management consultants?Jim Manzi’s post on elite business recruiting at the American Scene gives first-hand insight on how those folks got there.  Three quick points of my own:

  1. Gut courses can come back to haunt you.  Ever tempted to dial back on your effort… say, take a B.A. in Economics rather than a B.S.?  After all, who would notice one little letter?  Well, recruiters do, and they’ll know that a B.A. Econ avoided econometrics and modeling classes, the “hard” stuff Jim highlights.
  2. There is no “tail” at elite universities.  Did you ever look around in class and wonder how some of your classmates ever got into college, B-school, etc.?  From my experience — recruiting, not attending — there aren’t obvious weak reeds at elite schools.  Top firms can’t risk a hire who stood out simply because he/she was the pick of a litter of runts.
  3. It really is a competitive marketplace.  As Manzi notes, “it is very rare that the COO of a Fortune 500 company hires your case team to do a six month project at $375K per month so that you can sit around and reminisce….”  

Of course, the competition isn’t always about the “best” answers.  Sometimes it is about “selling” that your firm has the best answers.  But that delves into territory Steve Hsu covers more deeply in his post on credentials and elite performance.

Mentorship Start-up “Crash Course”

I very much liked this BNET article by Jennifer Alsever on starting a mentorship drive (here).  The article is rich with sources and tips, so check it out.  The four basic steps are listed below:

Decide Why You Want a Mentor Program — Set your program up to succeed by defining goals and involving top execs.
Pair Up Proteges and Mentors — Create profiles and match people according to your goals.
Set the Rules for Engagement — Make sure people meet regularly — and know what to talk about when they do.
Keep Tabs on the Program — Make sure mentoring is providing the results you want.

Not that I’m looking to integrate mentorship into my group’s social media strategy, I appreciated the explicit decision and goal-setting advice.  I’ve seen many explicit promotions of mentorship in people development efforts, but I’ve never had any real idea of what that mentorship was supposed to accomplish.  Now that I have a chance to drive this topic, perhaps I can learn from those mistakes!

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