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What does Career Progression actually mean?

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In my role as a recruitment consultant, I am constantly speaking with a wide variety of ambitious, motivated and smart individuals and ask these candidates; “What are you looking for with your next role?” The majority of answers to this question can be summed up in two simple words “Career Progression.”

However, when it comes to what ‘Career Progression’ really means, it is safe to say that I rarely hear the same answer. I have whittled it down to three answers which I tend to hear more commonly than others; Money, Title and the Company.


It’s true that money can’t buy you happiness, but it certainly helps!  Therefore, understandably, salary and bonus are often key motivators when an individual is looking to move to another company.

There is no hiding that there can be serious money to be made within a career in Corporate Finance, for example, and it is clear that career progression, for some, is factored massively by an individual’s salary and bonus potential.

An example of how candidates could be blind-sighted by their bonus or salary package can go like so:

An individual is looking to move from his/her current role as they feel that they could be earning more in the same position at a different firm. They receive a fantastic offer with a phenomenal bonus structure, and it is exactly the career progression they were striving to get. Fast-forward 5 months into their new role and they haven’t had a weekend off work and are consistently working into the early hours of the morning. The bonus payout was phenomenal, but is it the life they wanted? Has this move really progressed their career or run them into the ground?

In any career, whether finance related or not, I would recommend anyone to delve into their current salary/bonus and see if the work you put in is deserved of your salary.

If you feel like you are being underpaid, then it may be time to venture into new opportunities where other firms can appreciate your potential.

Job title

The next answer which tends to be common when asking about career progression is that an individual wants a new ‘title’. A candidate may no longer want to be at the 'Assistant Manager' grade and has waited too long internally to be moved up to Manager - it’s time to look elsewhere.

Most of the time our candidates are extremely deserving of a promotion and I will assist them as much as possible in finding them that next step up at a new firm.

However, it is important to know that the same title at one firm may have completely different responsibilities to another. Therefore, one must understand that being an assistant manager in a team of 5 may give you more exposure to projects being worked on, than being one of 15 managers in a team of 40.

There is no doubt that gaining a promotion emphasises progression within any professional’s career, However, when looking to move elsewhere I believe it is important to note that titles can differ amongst a variety of firms. It is the change in responsibilities which you should view as career progression. 

If you feel that your responsibilities at your current firm have stagnated, then it is most likely the right time to move on with your career. A fresh start in a new firm can provide you with the exact progression you would be looking for.

This leads me to the final answer “the Company” and why title and money can be closely linked with this. 

The Company

With regards to career progression, the company can be a vital factor for an individual’s next move. Whether a professional wants to move from Practice to a Boutique or vice-versa it is important to know where your career is going.

Personally, I think that the right company for you can encompass all opportunities for career progression whether it be salary, bonus structure or title. It is key to know how the firm operates and whether or not the name/reputation of the company can give you what you want in your career. 

In summary, career progression is a great motivator for an individual to move to a new firm and I do think it is essential to know what career progression looks like to you personally.

It is almost guaranteed that in every interview process you go into you will come to a point where career progression will be a topic of conversation. My advice to all candidates is to be realistic and to have a structured answer as to what career progression really means to you and how it can not only benefit yourself but also the hiring company.

No matter what way you look at career progression, the key to it all is making the right decision for yourself.

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