Career opportunities often arise unexpectedly. An email lands in your inbox or the telephone rings and suddenly you have the offer of a new role.
However, jobs opportunities that arrive out of the blue don’t always do so with perfect timing. If you have clear plans to continue in your current role for the foreseeable future, the prospect of a change may throw up all sorts of personal and professional issues. Is it the right time to make a move? Would a change of role be good or bad for your career? What are your colleagues likely to think and would you be leaving them in the lurch?
These may not be easy questions to answer and even if the offer is a tempting one, it’s advisable to take time to think through your options. By stepping back to assess the pros and cons of either staying where you are or moving on, you are more likely to make the right decision.
When opportunity knocks
Derek Lo, a Senior Manager in KPMG’s Global Quality & Risk Management group has had to make career-changing decisions not once but twice since joining KPMG in Canada in 2004. He began his working life in the ICE (Information, Communications & Entertainment) Audit practice in Toronto. He spent a year here before transferring to the Advisory practice as part of the Operations Improvement team in the same city.
"In 2006 I got a call – a voicemail – from my previous manager in the audit team," Derek recalls. "The message asked if I would be interested in a new, once in a lifetime opportunity."
Intrigued, Derek called back and it quickly became apparent that the opportunity in question could be a career changer. "I was asked if I wanted to work on a proposal to audit one of Canada’s biggest telecoms company," says Derek. "It was something I jumped at."
It was agreed that Derek would take three months to work on the pitch and then return to the Advisory practice. However, the best laid plans don’t always work out in practice. KPMG won the work and Derek accepted the role of project manager.
Fast forward to 2008. Derek was now a manager working in the ICE team when another opportunity dropped from the sky, this time in the form of an e-mail to staff announcing that a secondment to the Global Quality & Risk Management team in KPMG in the Netherlands was up for grabs.
Again, it seemed like an opportunity that was too good to miss. "I had never really been out of Canada before," says Derek. "Moving to the Netherlands would help me broaden my horizons."
Derek applied for the posting and was accepted. Today, he is still in the Global Quality & Risk Management team, which has now relocated to Toronto.
Weighing the options
In retrospect, Derek sees both moves as highly positive, both on a personal level and in terms of his career, yet he acknowledges having wrestled with personal doubts. "I was concerned that people would view me as someone who couldn’t stay in one place," he says.
This was particularly true when he was considering the telecoms audit offer but his fears were allayed by conversations with colleagues. "I spoke to a number of Partners and it became apparent that quite a lot of people have progressed within KPMG having done a number of things," he says. "It’s a way of gaining experience and building a network of contacts within the firm."
There were also concerns about the reaction of colleagues. For instance, the opportunity to work on the pitch came after a relatively short period working in Advisory. "I made a point of being open with my Partner about the choice I was making", recalls Derek. "Initially, my Partner made it clear that he wouldn’t be happy to see me go – after all, he had a business and a team to run – but he did understand why I was doing it and supported me in my choice."
As Derek points out, managers are often keen to see the people in their teams moving on to gain experience elsewhere. "The secondment to the Netherlands was emailed out by HR," he says, "It was one of my managers who pointed it out to me. He thought it would be a good move and encouraged me to apply."
Derek then has to consider the practical issues associated with moving to the Netherlands. On the one hand, the prospect of working abroad was hugely attractive, but he also had to take into account the impact to his fiancée (now his wife) and her own career plans within the organization. She also succeeded in securing a posting in Holland and the deal was sealed.
The benefits of experience
Looking back on his career path within the KPMG network, Derek sees a threefold benefit to having moved around within the organization. First of all there is the commercial experience, gained across a range of services and industrial sectors. "Today I have a broad mix of working experience that I’ve gained at KPMG," he says.
He is also quick to stress the value he places on working with a wide range of KPMG staff and partners. "KPMG is really a place that is defined by its people," he says. "I’ve had the opportunity to work with a broad cross-section of those people both in Canada and in a different culture."
Outside the workplace, the temporary move to the Netherlands proved stimulating and enjoyable. "We had the whole experience of finding an apartment and setting up home elsewhere in world – that’s not something that would have been open to me if I’d decided to stay in Toronto," he says.
As Derek’s experience illustrates, a decision to move laterally isn’t always straightforward, but if the opportunity is the right one for you and your career, seizing it can deliver clear rewards.