Your Career Q&A: Reassessing Your Options

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Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

My manager tried to get me a promotion to interim HR manager at another site, but unfortunately that opportunity did not pan out. So now I want to look into other options. I am open to staying in a generalist role as long as I can move closer to my friends and family and focus on grad school.
The ideal situation would be to stay with my company, where I’ve been almost four years, and use its tuition reimbursement to get my degree. 
Should I stay at my current company, where promotions are very limited, and wait for an opportunity to come about, or take the options that other companies are offering to me? 
I am actively disengaged and don’t feel I can give 100 percent. Not getting the interim HR manager position is impacting me on many levels. I’d love to be close to family and friends and have a job similar to what I do now. 

You failed to get that interim promotion. Don’t feel bad about it. We learn much more from our mistakes than we do from our successes, and what you can learn from this one situation can help you throughout your career.

You could ask your manager why you didn’t get this interim position, but you may not get a direct, complete answer.

However, with a little objectivity you can determine for yourself what went wrong, and your self-discovery will be of far greater value than if someone else told you. Success in any endeavor depends on discovering the things you do well and doing more of them, and just as important is being able to recognize when you make a misstep and fixing it.

Review the timeline below and think back to the interview for interim manager. Where could you have been more prepared or done something differently?

  1. Did you review the job posting and match your skills, experience and accomplishments to each separate requirement? Did you have what the interviewer was looking for?
  2. Recall each of the questions you were asked and the sequence in which they were asked.
  3. Recall the answers you gave to each question.
  4. Recall any questions you might have asked. Did your questions demonstrate your grasp and engagement with the area of responsibility? Questions like these can turn a one-way examination of skills into a two-way conversation between professionals discussing a common interest.
  5. Think of intelligent questions you could have asked; it won’t change the past, but it will improve your performance in the many other interviews you’ll have over the years.
  6. Try to identify when the interview started going wrong and what you could have done differently.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The concerns expressed in the rest of your letter make me think you are confused about which option is the right one. On the one hand you want to stay with a company you like, on the other hand you don’t see adequate growth opportunities, plus you’d like to be closer to family and friends. But it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision.

Smart career management strategy should focus on what is best for your long-term professional success, economic stability and fulfilled life. Consequently, I’d suggest your best interests lie in pursuing both options simultaneously. How do you do this?

When you’ve been with a company for a while, you naturally believe everyone knows who you are and what you can do. But what’s more likely is that you’ve been categorized, stereotyped and pigeonholed. Next time an internal opportunity opens up, you can fix this by being prepared with an updated resume that reflects the skills required for your next career step.

Using a current resume focused on the job you are pursuing puts you on an equal footing with the outside candidates you’ll likely be competing against. It also shows management that you are serious about getting a promotion, with a subtle subtext that if you don’t get a deserved advancement, then you might think of taking your skills elsewhere.

If you do this while simultaneously refining your job search and interviewing skills―I naturally suggest Knock ‘Em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide (Adams Media, 2017) for this―you will be better positioned to pursue internal opportunities while you hunt for opportunities closer to loved ones.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We’ll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate’s new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions (SHRM, 2018), is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today. 

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