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career insider

The Career Game - "Marco . . . Polo . . . "

Did you play this game as a youngster? If not, it goes like this. One person is blindfolded (or they keep their eyes closed tight) and they yell, "Marco." Someone in the group yells back, "Polo." Then, by hearing the sounds, the blindfolded person tries to touch someone. The group of kids alternate who calls back and they keep moving so the blindfolded person is disoriented. When the blindfolded person finally touches someone, they become the next blindfolded player. Recently sitting poolside, watching kids play this game, I thought of the many people I have worked with that managed their career the same way, in a sense - blindfolded and grabbing for a sound that may lead them to a bigger and better job.

A resume will tell me in 30 seconds if I’m reading a resume of a "Marco Polo" type person. Here are three ways to tell if you have been playing this game with your career.

1. LACK OF DIRECTION. Are you doing a horizontal yo-yo search? You take a new job at the same level and responsibility. Your motivation may be a shorter commute to work. Maybe a slightly bigger company, so you think it’s a solid move. You’re not concerned about promotions or more responsibility. You are concerned about your job comfort level. Don’t make waves. Keep a low profile and every week is a T.G.I.F. week.

2. SWITCHING INDUSTRIES. As a new grad, your career starts in the banking industry. You take the offer and a year and a half later, you get an opportunity to work in the hospitality industry. It’s more exciting so you take the offer. Another year and a half later, you think finance and being a stockbroker would be more exciting, so you switch again. It goes on and on, just like being blindfolded.

3. IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY. The job offer money was just too good to turn down and you took the offer. You put your education on hold. You planned to get your degree, but your job kept getting in the way. You tell yourself, once you have a sizable bank account, you’ll go back to school and finish your degree. The years pass and your earning power flattens out and you don’t go back. Are you just an opportunist and for sale to the highest bidder?

If your background fits this profile, here are three tips to help you fix and stabilize your career track record.

1. GOALS — Stay focused on your long-term plans and goals. Set goals by the job title, not the money package. As you get bigger titles and responsibility, the money will follow. Staying at your company to get the promotion is important. If you need to switch companies to get a promotion, it may reflect that you may not be promotable at your current company.

2. STABILITY — When you are loyal to your company with tenure, it’s a sign to your next employer that you will be loyal to them. Every employer wants a long-term successful employee. If you have had three jobs or more in 10 years, many companies will not interview you, even if your skills are strong and fit their needs. By staying longer with your current employer, you can bury the job-hopping in the past.

3. MONEY — If money is your only priority, then you will be pulled in many different directions. For some, there is never enough. Mercenary motivation is a negative when transparent. Taking on more responsibility without more money will be viewed positively. Always try to receive a competitive income package. Don’t get stuck looking only at the base salary. You always need to evaluate your total money package, which includes base salary, incentive bonuses, commissions and benefits.

PLEASE NOTE: emails received become the property of "Dear Headhunter" and may be published unless otherwise requested. Questions may be edited for content and length. All questions will be reviewed, some without a reply.

George Gurney has been a leader in the employment industry since 1976. He founded an executive search firm that conducts domestic and international assignments.  He has won numerous awards for recruiting excellence.  He has been a guest speaker at national conventions and seminars.