Undervalued or overlooked—is it time to jump ship?

In this installment of Career Compass Q & A, headhunter Kevin Rosenberg addresses the problem of insufficient job recognition and the threat of being let go after a merger.

Q. I find myself as lead person in information technology at my current firm. For all intents and purposes, I am the de facto CIO. But I don't have the title or the salary to reflect what I believe to be my true value in the broader market. What should I do?

Ted L., Akron, OH

A. Rosenberg:

Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” When it comes to your career, sometimes the answer is plenty. If you’re on a job search, oftentimes you can be overlooked in the mill of resume processors manually scanning your resume for “buzzwords and titles.” You can be the victim of your own honesty because you are the director of, eeh-gads, data processing. However, there are some things to consider before jumping ship for a new title and additional compensation.
  • First, as a valued member of an executive team, the company turns to you to shape the technological direction of the enterprise. It’s your vision that keeps them current.
  • The mere fact that your boss has overlooked your title and the function you hold (self-defined as CIO) may simply be a failing on your part to apprise your superior of the distinct differences between the role you occupied in your first year with the company and the job you hold today. Do some research and let him or her know!
  • On the salary front, there is a lot of information available on the Web and in print covering the topic of CIO salaries, especially today as the demand for technical talent rises and salaries follow suit. Before you jump to conclusions, do your homework, take into consideration where you work, what industry you are in, and the relevance of the technology and infrastructure you oversee. Comparing yourself to someone with expertise in e-commerce or Siebel, residence in Southern California, or a career in the software industry can drastically skew compensation scales if you live in rural America, support legacy systems, and work for a repetitive manufacturer.

Q. My company was just acquired by a much larger company in a similar business. I am now one of two CIOs. The writing on the wall says I will not be the one to emerge as the new CIO for the merged company. They tell me there is a place for me, but I’m thinking I should leave. Are there any points I should consider?

Grant, Phoenix, AZ


In today’s merger-mania climate, which is showing no sign of relief, this is an all-too-common situation. The knee-jerk reaction is to run to the Directory of Executive Recruiters and start mailing resumes at the first inkling that you are not the chosen one. But wait. Put the brakes on and assess the possible upside. You are potentially more valuable to the team now than before. You hold the keys to the corporate knowledge vault. This is something extremely important to the acquiring company. The knowledge you hold may provide you with long-term job security and the tools to negotiate a fair retention incentive.

Also, don’t underestimate the value that working under the prevailing CIO may bring to your professional development. Is the new CIO someone who brings more significant knowledge to the table and could possibly emerge as a potential mentor? I have seen many situations where a CIO’s career would have otherwise peaked had the acquisition not taken place. Presumably, you have met and interacted with your new potential boss. Evaluate him or her and determine if this is a person who you can work with, can learn from, and who can help you enhance your career development.

As managing director of BridgeGate LLC, Kevin Rosenberg has the primary responsibility for technical operations and training and for managing the firm's finance, MIS, and HR specialty practice areas. Kevin has a decade of experience conducting searches in IT, having placed IT executives for Aetna International, Fujitsu, and Aramark, among others. He maintains BridgeGate's long-term relationship with Korn/Ferry, the world's largest executive search firm.

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