There is no one way to build a career. Climbing the corporate ladder is not the only path to personal and professional success. From taking risks on lateral moves to finding out the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, read how five Cengage Group employees are charting their own career paths while achieving growth and mobility.
Networking for the Next Opportunity
You might consider a new position with similar compensation for the opportunity to work with a new team, enhance an existing skill set or learn something new. But whatever the reason, there’s a lot to be gained from making a lateral move. According to Michael Waldman, professor of strategy and business economics at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, a lateral move can positively affect your future career trajectory. “Workers who are laterally moved . . . are more likely to be subsequently promoted and experience larger wage growth compared with workers who are not laterally moved.”
Tiffany K., a Technical Program Manager at Cengage Group, explains how she took a chance by reaching out to inquire about making a lateral move to another department. Tiffany started as a Project Coordinator in the Cengage Group Legal department about 10 years ago, where she worked closely with several people in GTS, our Global Technology Solutions group. With a degree in Information Technology and prior IT project management experience, she had a desire to return the world of IT.
Tiffany says, “I networked with a few close colleagues who encouraged me to reach out to our CIO, Jim Chilton. I had to get out of my comfort zone and cold contact our CIO to introduce myself. After a 30-minute conversation, he asked for my resume and shared opportunities that he thought might be a good fit based on my skills and experience. It was through this conversation that I made a lateral career move and went back into technology.”
For people who may be hesitant to make a lateral career move, Tiffany says, “first, talk to a trusted friend, colleague, mentor or your manager. Simply share it with someone because it helps to say it aloud. Second, explore your options and tap into your network to see what career choices exist and which may be ideal for you. Careers are not always linear, sometimes they are winding. Everyone’s career journey is different, but it is their journey to take.”
Taking On New Responsibilities
Almost five years ago, Ryan B. started at Cengage Group as a Talent Experience Coordinator. He has since advanced to a Talent Sourcer, Full-Cycle Recruiter, Operations Specialist, and was most recently promoted to Recruitment Operations Manager. He says, “safe to say it has been an eventful, yet thrilling, few years and I remain eager to see what the future holds. Throughout my time at Cengage Group, I consider myself blessed to have had the chance to work alongside incredibly smart people who exposed me to a lot more than my given role would normally entail. Instead of abiding by an outline ‘career roadmap’ where I want to be in X role by X year, I’ve had an open mindset every step of the way when looking for and taking on new tasks and projects, which have eventually led me down the path of recruitment ops. As you become more involved, you develop a broader understanding of the business and how you and your team fit into the picture. Also, by exposing yourself to more, you will get an idea of which direction you wish to steer your career and whether management or leadership is something that interests you in the future.”
Ryan also explained that “the job search can be an overwhelming and stressful experience; so much so that I remember I took the first job offer I was presented with before graduating college just so the process would end. In rushing to conclude the process, I didn’t perform my due diligence to ensure that the mission, culture and work environment of that employer aligned with what I held most dear. My recommendation to all jobseekers out there is to take the time and energy to evaluate all your options, and target companies that align best with your ideals. Cengage Group checks and exceeds all the boxes for me.”
Launching Into Leadership
Charles Q., VP of Enterprise Architecture, has worked at Cengage Group for over 22 years. He started as a Business Analyst and Project Manager and has held multiple roles within IT, including roles in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Digital Commerce and Engineering. Along the way, he had the opportunity to participate in several significant company initiatives, from launching industry-leading digital initiatives like online rentals and Cengage Unlimited, to transforming the IT landscape through large platform upgrades and building strategic roadmaps.
According to Charles, “I would attribute my success to having managers who invested in my growth, an eagerness to take on and tackle new challenges, not being afraid to explore and learn new skills, and striving to find win-win approaches to problem solving. It also helps to be part of a company culture that values learning, collaboration and intellectual curiosity, one that encourages employees to grow through learning and making mistakes.”
For individuals looking to transition into a leadership role, Charles says, “it’s hugely important to recognize that the skills that served you well as an individual contributor are not enough for you to be a good leader. Don’t be too full of yourself and your abilities. Recognizing your deficiencies is the first step to true learning and growth. Appreciate that you will be put into situations where you must be courageous and tread the unbeaten/unpopular path.”
Charles also shared, “I have met people in my career journey who treat career progression as a sequence of well-mapped out steps, a game plan to be followed, boxes checked. That’s certainly one way to get to your destination, although it requires a lot of discipline and sacrifice to strictly adhere to the ‘program.’ Instead, consider exploring new opportunities and new paths, and finding joy and fulfillment in the jobs along the way. Make the best of your career journey and not focus only on the destination.”
Returning to Your Roots
Rebecca vG., Senior Director of Content Creation, is what is referred to as a boomerang employee. She began her career here, left for a period of time and then returned in 2014. For people considering a career change, Rebecca suggests that you “closely evaluate potential employers and make sure that your personal value system aligns with the company’s mission. I continue to work at Cengage Group because I am fulfilled by the work I do each day. I believe that what we do here has value. The benefits of education and learning are immeasurable and being a part of creating that opportunity for learners and instructors around the world is a personal driver for me.”
Rebecca also suggests making sure that there are opportunities for employee training and development. “At Cengage Group I’ve been afforded the opportunity to continue to grow my skills; and as a leader I’ve been able to do the same for those in the various groups I’ve led. Creating opportunity for others feels meaningful and rewarding.” She also notes that “people have many different life circumstances that make flexible work important. I’m thankful that I work in an environment that is accommodating.”
Rebecca emphasized that throughout your career it’s important to “take time for self-reflection to understand your strengths as a person, what motivates you and areas where you may need growth. I don’t think any career journey is a straight path – and so the advice I’d share is to enjoy some of those divergences along the way. I’ve found them to be the best teachers. Sometimes you have to wait for the right opportunity to present itself and there is value in continuing to be open to the process of learning.”
Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
Kathryn B. started out as a Senior Financial Analyst and is currently a Senior Finance Manager. During that time, she earned her MBA and worked under several managers. Kathryn noted that “change in management can be stressful, but it taught me how to communicate better and network. Most importantly, it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and learn about new processes or projects that I may not have had the opportunity to be a part of previously. I believe that whatever situation you are in, there is opportunity to learn and advocate for yourself. Sometimes you just have to work a little harder to find it.”
For individuals looking to achieve upward mobility, Kathryn suggests “being flexible and saying yes to as many new opportunities as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. One person gave me a great piece of advice - if you have spent more than 10 minutes stuck on a problem, don’t be afraid to ask. Not only does it help you solve your problem, but it can also help you network and see a different perspective that you weren’t even thinking about. Since day one, everyone I have come across has been willing to help above and beyond expectations.”
This content was originally posted as part of an employee takeover on our LinkedIn page. To see more, follow us on LinkedIn.