Having made the decision to join the tax group, there was more to come. Managing your career is important. Left on its own, you may end up spinning your wheels. I decided that I should move to another city once and for all. So the job search began once again. Take note that I seem to spend more time looking for jobs than I seem to have the job. This is a pattern that would continue on for the rest of my career.
Career management lessons
You can’t move your career forward by always looking for your next step. At some point or another, you need to show some commitment to either what you are doing or where you are doing it. In many cases, I did neither. I tried to move to the head of the class by changing jobs, rather than focusing on my work. As a result, I made a lot of lateral moves. In fact, all the moves were lateral, never getting promoted and never progressing my career.
I decided that I wanted to move to a larger city that offered more opportunity. The two centers that I was interested in were Calgary and Toronto. Calgary was boom town at the time, and Toronto was the center of finance and commerce.
Rather than asking for a transfer (to be honest I was afraid to ask), I looked for a new job in Calgary. It didn’t take long before I had a job in Calgary with Price Waterhouse.
All systems were “go” and I had to advise my employer, Clarkson Gordon, that I would be leaving the firm. When I finally met with my tax partner, he was incredulous! Why didn’t I ask him for a transfer? After a not that long discussion, we agreed that I would move with the firm to Toronto. I advised PWC that I wouldn’t be coming.
Lesson not learned, ask first. I assumed that firm would be hostile to a request for a move. As I mentioned before, if you’re in you’re in. Besides, I had the other offer in my back pocket. So there was really no risk. I had a good reputation so I should have leveraged it rather than think about starting up all over again.
So I was off to Toronto, joining the tax practice at Clarkson Gordon. The change of location had is benefits, but some downside as well. No one knew me in the Toronto office. There was no one to promote me within the firm. From a reputational perspective, I was starting all over again. Yup, back to square one.
After arriving in Toronto, I was advised that I should consider a specialty. For so unknown reason, I decided to specialize in mining taxation. Mining taxation is very, very technical given the nature of the mining industry. The partner that I was assigned to was both an engineer and a Chartered Accountant. This decision also ranks high in the stupid decision of a career contest! Looking back, it was absurd. Going from dumb to dumber.
Here I was in a field I hated (tax) working in a specialty that I knew absolutely nothing about (mining). It just doesn’t get any dumber. My comfort level was zero. I was floundering. So instead of speaking up and saying that it wasn’t working for me, guess what I did. Looked for another job of course!
I had completely lost my compass. I was floundering around looking for a safe harbor. Career management was flushed down the toilet. It was a disaster. I was sinking in the quicksand and reacted in the same way that I always reacted. Look for another job.
So I shopped around and found a position with the then firm of Coopers & Lybrand. Another move to a new firm where I had no history and guess what, I had to start all over again.
Play it again Sam
The way I dealt with career challenges or setbacks remained intact. When in doubt, run. And run I did time and time again. Lateral moves to new firms, no support group and needing to establish myself all over again. Put down the old pencil and pick up a new one even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with the old one.
You can’t get anywhere by moving sideways. You cannot get promoted if you don’t hang around long enough to get promoted. You cannot assume that if you voice your concerns that your boss will fire you. Everything takes time. Progressing within any firm takes perseverance and persistence, plus hard work. I needed to hang in there but chose to run. Not a great recipe for success in anything.
There is one last point on this that you need to think about and that I’ll explore in another post. There is a difference between being optimistic and delusional.