5 Steps to Protect Your Career As We Turn Toward Recovery
Due to the devastating impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry, one of my coaching clients, Alex, an entrepreneurial executive who served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) in a regional chain of 24 diners in the Northeast, wanted to explore switching to a different industry.
Alex turned to me as her executive coach and asked for my guidance in early March, before the lockdown fully took hold. I recommended a five-step decision-making process that addresses the dangerous judgment errors we make called cognitive biases, which devastate our decision-making in both our professional and personal life. And now I'm going to share them with you.
Step 1: Gather information from a wide variety of informed perspectives
Alex and I settled on a list of people she would turn to, including:
- Professional colleagues and mentors in the restaurant industry
- Contacts in other industries such as vendors to her restaurant chain
- Family members impacted by her potential switch
- Her accountant
- Executives in her network who shifted to another industry
Step 2: Decide your goals and develop a clear decision-making process
With the data she had on hand, I asked Alex to come up with a list of critical goals, which should address underlying issues as well. We identified three:
- To make sure that within a year, she had a role that would pay her at least 75 percent of the salary that she was getting as COO of the restaurant chain
- To ensure that she had substantial room for career growth if she did make the switch
- To satisfy her entrepreneurial orientation, Alex wanted a role conducive to innovation
We then came up with a number of criteria relevant for the switch and ranked them on her priorities, with 1 at the low end and 10 at the high end:
- Salary in a year (8)
- Innovation opportunity (5)
- Room for growth (6)
- Stability for the industry and the company in the foreseeable medium and long-term future (7)
- Ease of transition (5)
Step 3: Weigh options that can achieve your goals and pick what's best
Initially, Alex listed just one option for switching: It was obvious that she was already leaning towards the food-delivery industry. However, I convinced her to add more options so that she will have five at minimum. She took a bit more time deliberating and finally came up with a handful:
- Stay in her current position
- Food-delivery industry
- Meal-kit industry
- Food-processing industry
- Grocery store industry
At this point, Alex was still leaning toward her favored option, which was to shift to the food-delivery industry. However, I cautioned her to consider each one carefully. We went together through each option, ranking them on the criteria variable. To do so, we made a table with options on the left and variables on the top. Then, after ranking each option on the relevant criteria, we multiplied the ranking by the weight of the criteria, as seen in this table.
Room for growth
Ease of transition
Alex was surprised that the grocery store option came out as the best option. That’s because grocery stores boomed due to the pandemic and were hiring both workers and executives left and right.
Step 4: Implement the option you chose
First, imagine the decision completely fails and brainstorm for the reasons for the failure. Next, consider how you might solve these problems and integrate the solutions into your implementation plan. Then, imagine the decision succeeded. Brainstorm all the reasons for success and integrate these to the plan as well.
Alex imagined that the switch to the grocery store industry failed because of her lack of a proper network to source for job opportunities and her unwillingness to step down to a lower-ranking role. To address these, she decided to spend a month growing her network so that she could make new contacts. Alex also decided to get in touch with former colleagues and mentors who had stepped down from top leadership roles to get their insight on what they learned from the experience.
Finally, when she imagined that the decision to shift to a new role and industry was a success, she determined that this was largely due to her efforts to efficiently transition to her new role and industry by building new core skills.
Step 5: Evaluate the implementation of the decision
Alex was able to successfully shift industries. Within six weeks, she was able to get into a large grocery chain as Senior Vice President of Prepared Foods. While it was a step down from her role as COO, she was able to get a compensation package that was 85 percent of what she received at her former company, owing to the fact that she had joined a much larger organization in a booming industry.
She decided on the following as her metrics of success:
- Expand her network by adding six contacts per month specifically from the grocery store industry
- Identify and work on four core skills that she needed in order to thrive in her new role and industry
- Develop mentors within this new industry
As Alex's examples illustrates, your career growth needn’t take a back seat as the nation's economy gradually recovers. When job hunting, as ever, just be ready to network intensively and develop new skills.