Gabriel Nam is associate director of marketing and digital at Michael Page. He has almost 10 years of recruitment experience in Hong Kong, as well as international exposure in Europe and Asia, managing teams of consultants across various industries.
Am I letting people down if I leave after my MT programme?
I have been on a fast-track management programme since I joined my company and I’m now nearing the end of the scheduled three years. I’ve been told My progress has been very good and I expect a decent title and pay bump in a few months’ time. The big problem is that I feel I’ve already fallen out of love with this industry (finance) and have been looking around for other options. I would feel really bad leaving as my company, my mentors and my colleagues have poured a lot of effort into training me up and I feel I owe them to some extent. But should I be focusing on my own wishes instead?
This is a great question and a really common dilemma for those who have gone through management trainee (MT) programmes.
Firstly, getting into a high-profile MT programme is always a positive reflection on your ability and calibre, as typically only the best get in. These are also some of the toughest years of your career. Typically this is the first time you have entered the workforce, and as most programmes have a rotational element, you feel like you have covered various areas, yet are still not an expert in any.
Most organisations rate the graduates of three-year MT programmes as “high potential”. Supposedly your career track will be smoother, with more opportunities than other staff members – more career options, more training opportunities, greater exposure to top management, accelerated career path and salary level, etc. Therefore, you need to first of all be prepared that you may no longer enjoy these opportunities and have to start all over again. You need to ask yourself if you are ready to give all this up.
Also, are you sure the grass is greener on the other side? We know that the younger generation likes new challenges and also change, however, this “new” also typically comes at a cost to your earnings and progression.
However, if you feel bad only because you feel that you owe your mentors, colleagues or company, you may be a bit over-worried. Indeed, in dynamic markets like Hong Kong, opportunities at all levels exist and there are always no absolute right or wrong answers in making a move. At the end of the day, this is about your stage of life, career aspiration and timing. While your supervisors and colleagues will be sad to see you go, as long as you have carefully considered the career opportunities and rationale to support your move, they will still respect your decision.
From what you said, it seems that you may no longer be passionate about the finance industry. This is a very important consideration! However, this needs to be compared against what you are planning to get into from here and whether it is realistic.
There is no doubt that it is easier to switch industries when you are still young, and there will be fewer chances to make the switch if you are more experienced. Therefore, if you confirm that you want to get out of the finance industry as soon as possible, it is better to do it now rather than later, if there are such opportunities.
After all, I believe that career options are always personal ones and hence, your consideration factors should also be centred on you. Of course the organisation, culture and the people are also important. However, you should also think about what factors you value the most and how they will affect your own personal development – not how they will think about you.
You need to be objective and pragmatic sometimes instead of being too emotional, as you are always the one who will benefit or suffer from your career decision.
My last piece of advice is to part ways positively and keep the relationships you have built up. Do not burn any bridges. The people you have worked for on your MT programme will most likely also be your referees in the future.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Am I letting people down if I leave?