Keep your options and your network open
Upon graduating from the Johnson School, you accepted a well-paying job with a top organization. You've worked hard and been promoted several times. You're happy, right?
Boston-based executive coach, Alisa Cohn, MBA '96, says that one-third to one-half of her clients approach her about a career transition. Lynne Allen, the Johnson School's alumni career consultant, tracks an even higher proportion. "Many people chose a career early on and advanced quickly, focusing on achievement and success," says Cohn. "But at some point they realized that it wasn't what got them out of bed in the morning."
Both agree that it's crucial to first determine one's values, and then examine the unfulfilling aspects of one's current job to decide what would be fulfilling. "You can't fit yourself into a puzzle unless you know the shape of your piece," says Allen.
Cohn also solicits feedback from clients' trusted advisors, former colleagues, and classmates. "We begin to align all the information into what might be more interesting and dynamic for them."
Some people think they want to quit and start up their own business, says Cohn, but find they actually don't need a drastic change. "It might be through changing careers, changing companies within the industry, or finding another role in the same company," she says. "It depends on what the problem is."
Finding the right fit
Right out of the Johnson School, Scott Berger, MBA '05, took a job with BNP Paribas in equity derivatives. He was unaccustomed to the culture and internal politics, and felt dispassionate about the extremely quantitative nature of his work.
He networked extensively and, through a fellow Johnson School classmate, found a position as investment analyst with a hedge fund. He sought Allen's help in evaluating job offers to fit his interests and skills. His new, much smaller, employer has a completely different dynamic. "I perform work that is more fundamental credit and equity analysis, and more interesting for me," he says. Berger enjoys the greater accountability, responsibility, and opportunity to wear many different hats.
Justin Bakule, MBA '99, similarly felt dissatisfied working for corporate giant IBM. "I left because of the industry, the lifestyle my job required, my prospects for moving forward, and, most importantly, my interests and passions," he says.
Bakule and his wife wanted to work in a developing country, and he was interested in international development work. He had found, however, that it was nearly impossible to break into the field without international experience. So, the couple decided to join the Peace Corps in Africa.
They found the experience rewarding both professionally and personally. "Both of us now have jobs that relate much more closely to our interests in Africa and the developing world in general," says Bakule, whom Allen helped with networking and informational interviews. He is now a consultant with FSG Social Impact Advisors in Boston.
Emily Talmon-L'Armee, MBA '93, decided to leave the Business Humanitarian Forum, a nonprofit organization focused on post-conflict economic development, because, over the two and a half years that she worked there, the organization's president changed the organization's focus and management style. Talmon-L'Armee decided she wanted to find an employer whose management style and goals for development work were similar to her own. ?
"Lynne reminded me to ask former colleagues to help me think of widening my network, instead of asking them directly for work," says Talmon-L'Armee. She found a position with the European Free Trade Association (Brussels), where she is working alongside a former colleague and boss.
Cohn and Allen both emphasize the importance of maintaining one's network. "And be curious about what's out there – the connections between what you do now, and opportunities you see out there," Cohn says. Allen adds, "All of us go through situations where it just doesn't work out. "It's important to understand that and give yourself permission to move on."
– Irene Kim