Fast Track: Help Desk - If you can't stand the merger, get out of the company?

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The problem:

I am 39 years old and work at middle-management level in a major financial services organisation. The company has recently been involved in a merger, and the associated re-structuring has made me doubt my previously clear career progression route. Whilst my current position seems secure, I am concerned about future opportunities. My eldest daughter will hopefully go to university next year, placing demands on our finances. In addition, while my wife earns a good salary in a manufacturing company, it exports a percentage of its products - and is currently under some pressure. So we feel we should not count too strongly on this second income source. I have been with my current employer for 10 years and am reluctant to cast aside the apparent security, but feel there is a risk that my career will stagnate if I do not take action.

S Hodgson, Surrey

The solutions:

Dr Colin Selby, Occupational Psychologist, Selby MillSmith:

You are in a situation that is increasingly common. First, consider the options with your current employer. At times of change, people understandably feel threatened, and discussion with your senior manager may help to put such fears into perspective. New opportunities may even arise once the process of restructuring has been completed. Switching jobs after a lengthy period can be daunting, but the key is to find out more about yourself.

Talking with an occupational psychologist and completing some assessments will enable you to understand the type of career in which you are most likely to excel. Your employer may have access to appropriate consultants. Alternatively, approach an independent firm of chartered occupational psychologists. Some of the questionnaires they use to offer careers advice are also available on the Internet. (A site to try is http://www.CareersDirect.com) Their services include the provision of a confidential report that highlights some career options and gives guidance on obtaining further information.

Sue Cox, Group Personnel Director, Schroders Plc:

Why consider this a negative? Could it be an opportunity? Talk with more senior colleagues about your prospects and aspirations. Weigh up the relative importance of your current job security, career progression and earning potential against the possible downside of a "greener grass" move. Ten years in one firm suggests you are at ease with the culture. In a new firm you are an unknown quantity. Try to integrate with the new people reshaping the company. Getting to know them will signal your strong interest in developing your career. Be prepared to cope with the impact of colleagues leaving. Weather this uncertainty and you could slot into vacancies left by those who abandoned ship. Think positive, act positive, be positive.

Di Kamp, Chief Executive, Meta, and author of several books, including `The 21st Century Manager':

It's not your career that might stagnate - it's your life. Look at this with a child's sense of adventure. You have come to the end of a path you thought went somewhere and it's turned into a cul-de-sac. But you have a choice of two turnings and you have a backpack full of resources with you - particularly your previous experience. Write down all the things you're good at as a manager and all the positive personal qualities you have. Describe your ideal job and workplace. Is there potential for such a job within this company? If not, explore the other turning. Regard your present job as the springboard to move to another company that will suit you better.

If you have a work problem and want expert advice, write to: Carmen Middleditch, Fast Track, The Independent, 1 Canada Sq, London E14 5DL; fax: 0171-293 2451; e-mail: Mditch@aol.com

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