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Brand / Position Career Planning Phenomenon

career path

A colleague shared with me the other day an interesting career trajectory phenomenon. He started his advancement career in annual giving at a prestigious university. He then took a higher level position at a less prominent university followed by a senior position at a second tier institution.

When he tried to make a lateral move to another university he found that would-be employers considered the brand value of his current institution as more important than his current position and accomplishments. Despite a
long tenure and great accomplishments, the second tier brand was considered a liability as he tried to elevate his institutional affiliation.

The case he should have made is that the philanthropic potential and capacity of the alumni base and parents of lesser ranked institutions makes it more difficult to succeed than at top tier institutions. In addition, the resources to get the job done are also typically less abundant.

There are certainly powerhouse advancement operations at all levels and brand rankings. One of the fun aspects of being a consultant is that you have opportunity, through pitches and engagements, to “look under the hood” of many highly regarded brand organizations.

It will come as no surprise that some have advancement operations that do live up to the otherwise stellar service brand of the organization. And, as often, we find little known organizations that set the standard for advancement prowess. Some operations are well funded with lots of support services while others demand many distracting functions from their advancement officers.

There are many ways to build an advancement career and many paths one can take. If you have the chops and/or good fortune to start your career at a highly regarded institution you begin well positioned, whether or not you are a high performer. If you are like most, the career ladder climb is steep and will be apace with your performance, work ethic and smarts.

Your takes:
1. If you are hiring, do not let brand prominence of current or past employers unduly influence your hiring decision.

2. In plotting your career path, chose situations where you can succeed and excel.

3. Remember some organization brands are well earned… good and bad.

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