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Palmreading the Career

To start with, I must confess that I cannot tell fortunes, either on cards or by handreading. I am an Executive Search Consultant. And considering the essence of our business, I am also a specialist in Career Development.

Is everything that happens to us during our lives a pure game of chance? Or are there any objective circumstances and factors that determine the path we are to take? Are they important for one’s career development? Is it in power of an individual to pursue his heart’s inclination and to what extent? Without a doubt, everyone who has ever pondered on the meaning of life and tried to understand its laws asked themselves these questions. So did ancient philosophers, so does each of us today.

My occupation, which I like very much, together with certain experience have shaped my own understanding of the matter. Yet I am far from trying to present this as a scientific discovery. I would like just to share my own view of the things we all are aware of. But it is my personal and professional experiences that, I believe, enable me to analyze these common facts with a systematic approach.

The only event in our life after birth which happens with a 100% probability is our passing away. Everything besides that has a smaller chance to happen. Can a cute baby, peacefully asleep in his cot, become President of his country? Yes, the probability of this to happen is more than 0%. Or can he then become General Director of General Motors? Why not! And may he end his life in the gutter? With a certain probability, he may. Which of these two events is more likely to happen? And why? Let us take a closer look at what can determine our careers and our choices in life.

Even before the child is born, there are already several factors at play, which will influence his development, make him more susceptible to a certain type of activities and less susceptible to others. These factors are genes — the condensed memory of the past generations. So even at the early stage we can make certain assumptions about what his future may be. But does this mean that his walk of life is strictly predetermined? Of course not. Almost anything can happen. Still a child inherits a defined range of events that can occur with a greater probability than others. Of course at this stage it is far too early to speak about any particular occupations or positions. We are just talking about the most general components of human activity.

As soon as a child is born, new circumstances start influencing his development this or another way and more precisely defining his future career: the family that establishes the first values, the school, where one experiences the first conscious contacts with the world and develops one’s interests and inclinations to subjects and activities, the communication with friends and acquaintances, that can dramatically influence one’s choice of the future.

In the sequence of events that comprise human life some points can be identified as crucial or cardinal. It is these points that mark the end of a certain period in life, and it is at these points that we make the most important decisions in our lives.

The first cardinal point is being born in a certain location, to a certain family and with certain inheritance.

The next cardinal point is going to school. The choice of the school is made not by individuals, but by their parents. It is important to remember that all schools are different — they differ in their staff, their regulations, the selection criteria applied to the pupils. It is here that a talented teacher may or may not come up and disclose the pupil’s inclinations to the subject. It is in school, as well as in other teaching institutions, that one may strike acquaintance with trustful friends who later often form a managing team in a company.

The third and very important cardinal point is finishing school and making the decision of going for further vocational or academic studies. Some do that again on recommendation of their parents. Others are governed by the principle «I had no preferences, I just followed a friend». Still others, more mature, make a conscious choice, erroneous or correct, but their own.

The fourth point is the choice of the first job, which can be made differently. This is followed by such cardinal points as moving to another location, getting married, changing jobs, going in for further education. At each of these points the person makes a crucial decision which is bound to affect his future life and work.

And after each cardinal point is passed, the array of the future life possibilities becomes narrower and more defined. This does not mean, however, that for someone who has been successful in information technologies for the past 10 years it is impossible to change their career track, or make a quite extravagant move like leaving work for good or joining a monastery. Human beings are irrational. If there is a will, there is a way. But in the course of life such radical changes become less probable. When making a decision we become more and more dependent on the previous experience, our attitude of mind, the competences acquired in this or that sphere.

One makes their choices within the range of the opportunities provided by reality. There are universities and schools with and without a tuition fee. One cannot leave for another place if one has to take care of their parents. In 1935 it was very problematic to work with the Internet, for there was none. On the other hand, the reality is not passive. Different companies recruit specialists complying with their requirements. Different corporate cultures can attract or repulse people. Finally, various companies offer different compensation packages.

The interaction of people with their active environment at a certain point of time results in a certain «status quo» in the labor market. Thus, with some probability we may assert that people with a particular set of qualifications and pursuing a particular career track are bound to be in particular «places» that combine professional attractiveness on the one hand, and a demand for the possessed qualifications, on the other hand. The business I manage is based on this conception of the reality. It successfully utilizes the above-mentioned principles in the profound search for candidates capable of coping with the tasks required by the Client.

When the candidates are found, it is most essential to assess the degree to which the candidate on the one hand and the Company-Client on the other, objectively suit each other. The more objective the grounds for the future "union", the more durable and stable it will be and the more both the parties will benefit from it.

It is most essential to thoroughly study the objective factors enabling one to change their job or impeding it. It seems to be quite simple at first sight — the position is higher, the compensation package is more than generous; the candidate seems motivated and there are all indications that the Client would be satisfied with this prospect — is that not enough? What else should one be thinking about? Get the papers ready, arrange the interviews with the Client, ensure that they come to an agreement, and send in the final invoice! The deal is done!

In my opinion, one still should stop to think better. For example, about such things as the fact that right the next day after the candidate takes the new position another headhunter may approach him with new possibilities. And these possibilities may prove to be even more attractive!

OK, for the sake of retaining a decent resume, the candidate will refrain from changing the job for another year. But what next? If the job he has taken was not in his natural orbit, if this step was not the most (and sometimes the only) logical one in his career development? The probability is very high that no matter how hard he tries he still will fail to fully meet his employer’s expectations and eventually leave for a new job which would be closer to his «development curve».

A professional reader may say: are these not shrewd grown-ups, often holding important executive positions, who you deal with in your searches? These people must carefully consider every move, they must thoroughly plan their career. The responsibility should entirely lie with the candidate and the new employer!

Let me disagree on this approach. Neither the Client, nor the candidate can be fully aware of all the latest developments and trends on the labor market. My experience suggests that most people in Russia have not yet mastered the art of career planning. Many top executives have never analyzed their career moves — are they logical or do they occur at random? They do not know what they really want from life. They sometimes even do not have a resume. And it is the consultant, who in his professional activities has to interfere into other people’s lives, must take the responsibility of analyzing their career paths in a systematic way, disclose the underlying motives of their behavior related to career moves, foresee the most probable developments and never approve of the unions doomed to fail.

By Viacheslav Volkov
Managing Partner
Slava/IIC Partners
Slava Search Partners
Global Executive Search