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If I get two to three years of experience in this job, how have I enhanced my experience for the future?

Are there certain aspects about the job that stretch you into doing things that you haven't done before? In other words, are you going to expand on the professional experience that you have? Even if the job lasts three years, if you expand your experience into things that you haven't done before, you might be able to leverage all of it down the line.

If I get two to three years of experience with this company, will having worked there have been of any value?

There are some firms that are considered "Class A," Fortune 100, "standard-bearer" type of firms. They are the kind of firms that everybody in this particular industry or profession recognizes and respects. There are also some firms that nobody has ever heard of or recognized as pillars of the industry or profession. Is the organization that you are entertaining an offer from the kind of firm that people recognize as quality, and therefore will consider you to be of that same quality by having worked there?

Working for a well-recognized, well-respected organization, even for a two- or three-year period, will sometimes lay a foundation that says, "This person has worked for and was trained by a quality organization, and therefore must be a quality person." That foundation can be the cornerstone that opens up many doors to other organizations even two or three jobs later.

I have placed candidates in positions that might be considered a step back in their careers because the organizations that offered them positions were so well recognized that we knew that we could parlay the experience of having worked there later on. I have always believed that "the cream rises." If you are good, you will be promoted to the level of your competency, provided the opportunities are there. Working with the top people in your profession or industry makes you better.

Can this type of organization help me down the line?

I've placed people in startup companies, even though we were told that the company was trying to get its second or third round funding and no one could be sure if they would be around for more than another year or so. It was of value to these candidates to get startup experience.

Now, I certainly wouldn't recommend three startup organizations in a row only lasting a year or two. However, startup experience can be very valuable, especially if you have a very stable, say eight- to ten-year, track record with one or two firms. Startup experience, coupled with traditional experience can give a candidate a broad range of capabilities that can more easily be marketed to an equally broad range of firms in the future.

The same thing can be said for the kind of firm I mentioned in the previous question. The type of firm you go to work for can balance your previous experience. The larger the variety of firms that you might work for within a particular profession, the more you demonstrate flexibility.

Is this organization consistent with the things that I've done in the past?

This is a tough question. If you have been out of work for six months and this is the only offer that you have received, it doesn't matter whether the organization is consistent with the things you've done in the past, you probably need to take the job.

However, if you have choices, it is a real good idea to try to "build" your career with consistency. The longer you are with a particular profession or type of industry, the better off you are. I can't tell you the number of candidates I've worked with over the years who spent a couple of years in one industry or profession, and another one and two or three years in another. They became jacks of all trades and masters of none. Not only are they hard to place, but they have a very difficult time reaching higher levels of their profession because they can never get beyond "first or second base" in any one arena.

If you were in the accounting profession or other types where your function may apply to a number of different industries, it may not be detrimental for you to work for different kinds of organizations. But even then, as an accountant or finance person, if you started out in banking, spent three or four years there, then went to manufacturing for five years, and then went into insurance for several years, you won't be a specialist enough for someone to hire you beyond the first- or second-level job. The reason is simple. Beyond the first or second level of competition, for instance, if you were head to head with someone in the banking arena where you spent three or four years and she spent ten years, you probably will not be hired. Likewise, with only several years of insurance experience, you will have a hard time competing with others with ten or twelve years of insurance experience.

We hear from sales candidates all the time who have been in successful sales positions and want to change industries and sell something far beyond the realm of their documented experience. Their attitude is that, "sales are sales"—"if I can sell what I have been selling, I can sell anything." However, they fail to recognize that they are competing with candidates who have significant experience in the arena that they would like to get into. Why would an organization hire a candidate who has been a good salesperson in an area that does not pertain to what it does, when it can hire a candidate with stellar experience in exactly what it does?

Candidates have a hard time understanding this issue. But the truth is, hiring organizations want to hire the best quality candidate they can, with the documentation and track record in what they do (if they can get it). "Good athleticism" does not sell a good athlete, but when a good athlete with the track record playing in a specific position is available, he will be hired. Duh!

So, to build a career, it is better to try to find jobs in professions or industries that are consistent with one another so down the line you appear to be a specialist.

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