So much of our lives under the age of 25 receives structure from parents and government that the opportunity to ‘become adults’ and live with fewer limitations on our choices feels like freedom. However, the absence of authority can also frustrate the achievement of career goals.
In the Africana Studies program at Ursinus College, I try to help people develop a set of parameters for career achievement across the 20-40 years of working life they will experience after graduation. The annual publication of the most ‘diversity-friendly’ corporations in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine provides a useful starting point. However, the larger lesson is to devise a set of adaptive strategies for career growth that will increase salaries and benefits as well as offer social and public recognition for professionals as they continue to work.
Part of this approach to developing career path strategies involves the recognition of concrete corporate hierarchies within economic sectors and industries. For Philadelphia-area professionals, I have advised people to begin working in smaller corporations like Citizens Bank, PECO, Pennsylvania America Water, Comcast, Rite Aid, and K Hovnanian — depending on their academic strengths, research interests, and personalities. The next step beyond those employers has involved (respectively) Sunoco, PHENND, Penn/Temple University Administration, Jefferson Hospital Administration, and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Finally, these professionals considered moving into senior executive roles with Wells Fargo, General Electric, Microsoft, Pfizer, and WalMart.
The specific paths were:
(finance) Citizens Bank –> Sunoco –> Wells Fargo
(environmental studies) PECO, Pennsylvania America Water –> PHENND –> General Electric
(media management) Comcast –> University Administration –> Microsoft
(pharmaceutical marketing) Rite Aid –> Jefferson Hospital –> Pfizer
(real estate development) K Hovnanian –> Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission –> WalMart
The importance of these paths are not the specific choices individuals make as they develop their careers. Instead, the broad attempt to structure a long-term strategy for career improvement and satisfication can secure a deep sense of personal investment and empowerment about your work.
I welcome questions, suggestions, and new insights about this process. Thank you for taking the time to consider your own career path.