There comes a period in your professional career when you are asked to give more of yourself than you may want. It is when you have to decide if you are a “company man” or if you are more rogue and independent. Are you willing to sacrifice the long hours, commit to the endless politicking, and are you truly willing to give up a sense of self to “fit” within the company culture? There is no right or wrong answer here; each of us has a choice to make all our own.
Usually your gut will tell you early on if the company you are at is the right fit for you long term or not. You get a sense of the order of things, the expectations, the unwritten rules and you either decide to assimilate or you rebel. The choice is really up to you, but the results are not always within your control. If you choose to assimilate, it may be that the organization is not ready to acculturate you and take you into the fold. You may not fit the ideal corporate mold. Read the tea leaves early. I have talked a great deal about being stuck in the middle and this may be the most difficult place to find yourself. And the age old question of should I stay or should I go comes instantly to mind.
You are ready to make the commitment, ready to take on the sacrifice, but the company may not be as committed to you as you thought. Point is, you always need an exit strategy, even when things are going great. Even as the company continues to tell you you’re high potential and have a lot of “headroom” or “runway” or whatever other great terminology is out there.
I have watched it happen to too many good people. They get caught up in their own “hype” and they overvalue their own stock in the eyes of the organization. And then it hits, something goes awry; a promotion does not come through or you are passed over for the next great opportunity and you have not thought about how you would get out.
Do not get caught in this situation, always have options, always have an exit strategy. You never know when you may need it, and to not have one will leave you caught and unaware. If you are on the other side of this, the manager who’s been espousing greatness and then pulls the carpet out be aware of downstream impacts.
Your true high potentials always have a personal exit strategy.