Partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Hong Kong office and a member of the consumer markets practice. He also specialises in functional roles including financial officers and supply chain/sourcing officers.
See your skills from the top down
I have spent over 20 years working my way up the marketing career ladder and now oversee the marketing operations for a mid-size MNC. While I enjoy what I do, I realise I am over halfway through my career and have only ever known my own industry. I feel the need to spread my wings and experience to another side of the business world, though I don’t want to start off again from square one. What sort of positions could I move to where I would retain most of my seniority but get to work in a new sector? I’ve always had an interest in HR and also like the sound of management consulting. Are these natural areas for an experienced marketer to move into? Or should I just be happy with what I have?
While it’s great to reflect on your career, it can be helpful to take a step back and see it from a business’s point of view. In light of the rapid transformation and acceleration that companies around the world are undergoing, successful firms always take some important steps.
First, they define their purpose, focusing on the constantly changing ecosystem. Second, they strengthen their core and continuously strive to improve while staying competitive and relevant. Third, they invest with confidence in the future. Finally, they innovate with a high level of learning agility, as the life cycle of a winning strategy is shortening faster than ever.
These steps will serve as a good framework for your current decision as it is vital for you to identify the competitive advantages you possess that can help organisations succeed in an increasingly fast-paced and volatile world.
Since you mentioned that you would like to retain your seniority, it may be more viable for you to stay with your current company, where you are already being recognised. To advance your career nonetheless, you need to identify your core skills and the top three competencies and leadership capabilities that you offer. Do these skills meet the key attributes the company requires? In this way, you can identify opportunities to move within the company, or achieve new milestones in your current position.
Companies today are exploring increasingly diverse talent pools in search of fresh perspectives and expertise. Certain companies, such as consumer-centric organisations, are taking a much broader view. It is not unusual to hire senior executives from different countries and less obvious industries that have different core experiences. These companies prioritise the candidate’s open-mindedness, crossover capability and diversity, as well as their willingness to learn, take risks and work hard.
If you are going to look for external opportunities in HR or consulting, you need to consider the potential gaps in your skills and experience and think about how to close these. As a leader in the marketing space, the “people” agenda is fundamental, and it is understandable that you are interested in HR. If you head for HR, it is important to remember that a senior role requires technical skill sets for working alongside line management and delivering on company strategy.
Moving from your role as a corporate intrapreneur to the management consulting field is an option. In this case, it is crucial to stay up to date skills-wise and remain relevant in your chosen sector.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as See your skills from the top down.