Moving From Corporate Ruins Your Career

Unfolding more of “my story,” I want to share part of the demise of my career path from my last company.  Sorry for any ambiguity… but I can’t tell the whole story here… know what I mean? BTW, I share this because I know some of you are thinking about a career path strategy, and wondering if you should stay at corporate or get closer to the customer, out in the field.

I had been at the corporate office for all of my career, with a few trips here and there to the field offices.  Even after the IT group that I managed spun off and merged with our software vendor, to form a subsidiary, I stayed at Corporate.  The new president, who was the owner of the software vendor we acquired, would drive about 3 hours each week to come to the corporate office and work there 4 out of 5 days.

When he got let go I became the General Manager (I was told I was too young to be the president, and all of the VPs of the parent company would be jealous… so I got the generic title that said “not quite good enough to be president”).  I stayed at the corporate office, even though most of my team was not there.  In fact, there really wasn’t anyone in the new company at Corporate with me… but I stayed anyway.

However, things changed.  Our web team headed to an industry conference, and I got an exciting report about how our new web product was accepted.  I decided it was time for me to leave the corporate office and relocate to the office where the web team was.  Not only was there a lot of excitiment there, this was my specialty, and I felt this was where I needed to be.

I was also interested in leaving the small-town where I had been for 9 years and move to a bigger city.  So I, the general manager, moved.

And that caused the eventual demise of my career with that company.

Even though the main purpose was to be closer to a major profit center (actually, two of the three profit centers) which needed my attention, it was a very poor political move.  I distanced myself from the corporate bureaucrats … which was definitely good for productivity and focus.

But it was very, very bad for politicking.

Not that I recommend you spend all your time, or most of your time, politicking.  But I learned that if there was an opportunity for someone to get facetime with an executive, they will.  And if you don’t have enough time with that executive, bad things can happen.  Rumors, misrepresentation, … whatever it may be, when you can’t represent yourself, other people represent you.

And that’s what happened to me.  And that is why I lost my job.  Because in a politic-heavy environment, I wasn’t involved in politics.  Forgive me for doing the job I was hired to do.

So, a rock and a hard place:

Rock: stay at corporate, even though it’s not the place you should be to get the job done the way it should be done.

Hard place: moving to do the job you are paid to do, but not having the ability to coddle execs and bosses who rely too much on circumstantial information, while probably suffering from information overload.

Without knowing it, I got out of balance, and didn’t spend the time to politic as I was trying to stabalize a business.

And that led to the phone call when I was terminated.

Greatest thing that happened to me, of course.

I share this because I know some of you are thinking about a career path strategy, and wondering if you should stay at corporate or get closer to the money, out in the field.

Not an easy choice, eh?  What career move have YOU made that was great for the company, but crappy for your career?

(photo props:

7 thoughts on “Moving From Corporate Ruins Your Career”

  1. @Animal, good point. There is much more to the story… this is one of the contributing factors. I think if I would have stayed at Corporate I would have been able to defend my name, reputation and position more, and kept my job.

    But, I was warned to “not burn any bridges” when I was let go… so I’ll keep it this incomplete at this point. Hey, it took me 2 1/2 years to write this much! 🙂

  2. To be honest, doesn’t seem to be the best company in the world. If they couldn’t see the value you were adding simply because you weren’t stood in front of them then it doesn’t sound like you’ve lost out.

    Having said that, it does point out that some politics need to be played in that you need to highlight your own achievements.

    What were you customers views on your move to spend more time with them?

  3. This sounds like an ethical dilemma (right vs right) — it is right ot preserve your job and support your family — it is also right to do the best job you can for the company.
    Nevertheless you cannot control what other people are going to say and do. Misrepresentation and even downright lying happen at corporate levels, but there are ways to keep communication flowing at a distance.
    There is a mindset that says “if I just do the right thing it will work out and I will be rewarded”. Wrong answer. Naivete and cinicism may be different ends of the spectrum, but reality is in the middle. Not that pragmatism is always the right way to go — bribery and corruption are born of pragmatism — but there is always a third path that can lead in an unexpected direction.
    This story leads me to think of what else could have been done. In this case, we do not have enough detail to suggest real-life solutions. Except that it seems that a little pre-planning and perhaps the identification of a corporate sponsor who had real interest in the success of the division and who was prepared to put some time into communication could have helped.

    According to the story, the corporate culture of this company appears to be self-defeating and ultimately destructive. Probably good to get out before everyone has to find a job.

  4. I moved from a corporate job to starting my own business at home. It was such a big step and nerve racking, will it succeed in today’s market? One thing I have found that was a huge help is asking for help from everyone and anyone I can talk to. I also found some software that keeps me in check, it’s called Glyphius, it double and triple checks what I’m doing, it’s my safety net, we all need one at sometime in our careers, right?

    So to those of you looking to make the jump, go for it.

  5. @Greig – definitely more to the story, and for over two years I’ve held it close to me… and for now need to keep mum on the entire story. I’m sure they’re ticked enough that I wrote this much. Regarding customers, I wasn’t very close to customers before the move, so I’m not sure how much difference there was with existing customers. I’m pretty sure most of our customers felt taken care of, though, before I moved.

    @Ricky – Great points, one key thing I took away from what you wrote is that I should have developed a communication strategy that would work for being in a long-distance relationship. I goofed up on that, and presumed the mindset you stated in your comment… 🙁 Alas, it was an excellent career change for me, ultimately. But it still hurts, when you were friends with all involved.

    @ Helen – thanks for the comment. My post was more about the political issues of not being close to the political center… not necessarily escaping from a corporate/work environment and going out on your own. BTW, I googled Glyphius and found software for $100 to help with titles of posts, and stuff like that – didn’t see anything like what you are talking about. What’s the link?

  6. I would like to add that I enjoyed reading this post. I have worked for companies that gave you a job for life and for companies that prided themselves on their turnover. Even if you had managed to stay at corporate, there was no guarantee that you would have kept your job. I always try and have an exit strategy. The corporation will do its best to protect itself, I try and do the same. I believe the days of working for the same company for 30 years are coming to an end (or have already ended). Most people I know are somewhat disillusioned about working in Corporate America and I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

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