When it comes to building your career, you need to ensure you are always
developing. New skills, new experiences, different businesses, different
cultures and different roles are critical as you move up the ladder to your
chosen objective FD or MD or the next Lewis Hamilton.
The first half to three-quarters of your career is spent building the skills
you need to excel in the senior roles you will occupy in the final stage, when
you’re leading a business and driving it forward.
Obviously you can develop those skills by moving business fairly frequently.
This will give you the chance to work across different sectors. Moving around
will also demonstrate your ability to work across different cultures, with
different management teams and so forth.
But much of this breadth of experience can be achieved in one business. Take
any decent-sized, international corporate. These businesses have, in the past,
given lifetime careers to a lot of executives and careers, what’s more, which
stack up against anyone else’s CV in the market.
For these sorts of organisations, you could find yourself working across 80+
countries; across developing, developed and new markets; and with a variety of
products and brands. You can be exposed to new management teams or you can
manage a series of teams yourself. In short, there is very little you can’t get
in one large business that can be achieved by moving through four different
Of course, there is some truth to the view that a career in one business
makes you slightly institutionalised. I would not recommend that you spend an
entire working life with one business but if you are being promoted, and you
are getting the opportunity to work in different parts of the business, in
different locations, with different people, I wouldn’t leave just because you’ve
been there a long time.
The $64,000 question is, of course, so how long is too long? It’s simple.
Long is too long when you’re offered another job that’s better than anything you
can get internally. That’s why you have to keep one eye on the external market.
See I knew I’d get an advert in for the search fraternity somewhere. Maybe
they will forgive me for the rest now.
Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray & Berndtson