Let professional business coach Karen Childress help answer your career questions. Karen will be sharing hints and tips on a host of career issues in this Q&A format.

Q: I hold an MBA with a good IT job but with no mobility. I have been offered a better paying job as a consultant and this promises to offer experience and training—things which I crave now as it is slow in coming at my current job. I hope to go into management some day and I was wondering about my career path from a position with ”Snr X” to consultant. Would this do any harm on my resume? How would prospective employers view this?
Childress: When you say you have been offered a job as a consultant, I’m assuming it’s with a firm of decent size and reputation that offers the experience and training you desire. If this is the case, you would be exposed to a great variety of projects that you probably can’t get working at your “good IT job.” It’s just the nature of consulting…moving from client to client. From that standpoint, a few (or more) years working as a consultant would probably be great for your career. You’ll have the opportunity to observe many management styles and that can only be a plus for you.
A red flag to future employers—since you plan to climb the management ladder—would be if you went out on your own as a consultant and subsequently tried to reenter the corporate world. They’d wonder if you would be a team player, if you’d failed as a consultant, or if ”consultant” had been just a nice way of saying ”unemployed” until you’d arrived on their doorstep. But if you are headed for an established consulting firm and think it’s a good fit, I’d say go for it.
A side benefit will be that as a consultant, you’ll learn valuable skills that you just can’t get otherwise, like how to talk your way onto an overbooked flight, how to close big deals from the back of a taxi, and how to remember what city you are in just by reading the area code on the phone next to the bed. That’s my way of asking, “Are you prepared to travel?” Have a great adventure!

Help! I want to leave a bad situation, but I can’t escape
Q: I am in a benefit-rich, but employee development-poor, government-subsidized hospital, an industry I moved to about four years ago. Additionally, I have a supervisor who restricts most internal networking opportunities, and the transferable skills that I have acquired are limited. Trying to get out of hospital work, I still get a fair number of interviews but have only got an offer once for an external job involving excessive overtime for several months out of every year.
I’m limited as to what I can pursue because of family obligations. I’m torn between the need for the benefits and stability of the present job, which accommodates my personal life needs, and the desire to leave a stressful work situation. I’m forcing myself to go to “user group” meetings, as well as working to pay off debts so I can accept less pay. Any other ideas on how I can remedy this situation?
Childress: First, I must commend you for honoring your life priorities. There are times in our lives when we just can’t “have it all” and it’s important to recognize that.
Here are three ideas that I think will be helpful to you. Take this list, prioritize it in a way that makes sense to you, then map out an action plan for each of the three steps. Do this and I guarantee you’ll immediately feel more in control of your life.

  • ·        Keep looking for a new jobthat will “feed” you professionally. Do this quietly and without a sense of desperation. Before you go on more interviews, sit by yourself for a couple of hours and write out what the ideal job and company would look like. I’m not talking about just a quick list here. Write it in great detail—right down to the color of the walls in your office to the character of the people you work with. You’ll be amazed at how once you are 100 percent clear on exactly what you want, it will begin to materialize. Trust me on this.
  • ·        Network on your own. It sounds like you are already doing this and I’d encourage it as much as your schedule will allow. If you’re not getting professional development via your employer, then it is your responsibility to find those opportunities for yourself.
  • ·        Stay with your plan of paying down debt and organizing your personal life so that when the right opportunity presents itself, you won’t feel bound to your current job simply by money or benefits. Sometimes living on less makes for a fuller, more interesting life. It certainly buys more freedom.

Since you aren’t really thrilled with your current job, don’t give it any emotional energy except when you are physically there. Do an honest day’s work for each day of pay but pursue other interests, spend time with your family, and maintain an interesting and balanced personal life.
This way, even if you end up staying where you are for another year or more, you’ll be emotionally and physically okay with it. Don’t confuse having a career with having a life!

Karen Childress is founder and president of ihavegoals.com. She is an entrepreneur, management consultant, and certified as a professional business coach by the Hudson Institute. A frequent speaker, she delivers keynotes and workshops to groups of 20 to 200.