Where Have All The Careers Gone?

About two weeks ago, during a really bad rainstorm, our program manager came over the office intercom in a somber voice asking if everybody could come to the conference room in five minutes. He said that he had something important to put out.

My first thought was: who died? Bad rainstorm, something could have happened to somebody on the way to work, either in our office or our customer or the other company on our contract. We work in a large community. Or, could we be going through a layoff? All kinds of really bad images went through my mind that morning as I headed for the conference room.

The news was much, much better than I expected. What happened was a company Vice President resigned suddenly and unexpectedly. I barely knew the man, but during visits to our office, he always brought lunch and was very likable. He answered questions honestly and openly. Apparently, he had a dramatic influence on our program manager and department head, as well as other people who have been with this company for a while.

I’ve been out of work for three workdays dealing with a home improvement project that went wrong, but when I got back in today I discovered an email from somebody around the Vice President level explaining that many of them frequent meetings with people from other companies and they often get job offers from each other. That caused something to occur to me.

In my experience, modern companies really don’t provide a way to advance. You get hired to do a job, but there is no career path. Normally, when a management position opens up, companies go out of the way to hire somebody from outside to fill that position. I’m sure the same problem is faced at the Vice President level. After working with a company for a few years (or many years), you may feel ready to take on more responsibility or power, and certainly you want to make more money. A 3% pay increase every year does not keep you current with the new people a company hires at a higher pay rate.

On my previous job, when our first son was born, I realized that the only way to make more money was to leave. That organization would not work with me in any way. When I turned in my two week notice and was asked what my new salary would be, I learned that they could not match the salary. I left. On my current job, once again, there really is no place to go. I like this organization, but the day will eventually come when I will want more responsibility and a 3-4% raise each year is just not keeping up with the cost of living. I will eventually have to leave.

There was a time when a man (or woman) could begin a job with a company while young, and work for that company all the way to retirement. There was somewhat of a career path, and by retirement that person could have moved up to at least mid level management.

I wonder if companies will ever again provide a career path for employees. There really is no career development either. I hate job searching. I would love to know that my company was interested in helping me progress in my career. I guess this is not to be. From what I’ve managed to piece together, this company doesn’t have a career development program or career path for VPs either. Just as at my level, the only way to move up is to move out.


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