I work at Nike and want to move up. Is this the time to leave?
A reader asks if it's wiser to get outside experience or hunker down for the long haul.
Atique Shaikh first started working at Nike as a side hustle. He was looking to earn some cash between classes at the University of Toronto, where he graduated with a double major in psychology and neuroscience.
After proving himself on the sales floor and getting promoted to "coach" (Nike's word for manager) Atique got hired to the head office as a category sales analyst for Nike Canada.
Nice job, Atique. You sure you even need my help?
Now Atique's had a taste of corporate life – and he likes it. He wants to rise through the ranks, but isn't sure how to Just Do It (see what I did there?).
"If I want to accelerate it I think it would be a matter of leaving Nike, getting experience somewhere else and coming back, or maybe even doing some schooling," he said. He's worried his other option, staying at Nike, might add years to his ascent.
"Between the two of those, I'm not sure yet which option I would like to take," he said.
Lucky for Atique I've spoken with a few experts that might be able to help. Even luckier, many of them feel he's already on the right path.
"If he's already at the head office, that's the hardest part," explained Bruce Winder, co-founder and partner at the Retail Advisors Network, which does exactly what the name implies. "Now it's about building relationships with people at the office who are above him, working on special projects, going above and beyond, demonstrating that he's willing to do some great work; that's his best bet if he wants to move up the ladder."
But it's not all rainbows and unicorns, because Winder isn't convinced Atique is done with school.
"Even if he's in at Nike, he might want to consider taking some business courses at night," he said. There was a time when having an MBA or business degree didn't matter if you could prove your abilities, but Canada's shrinking retail landscape has made the industry's cushiest jobs harder to reach. Having a business background gives you a big leg-up, according to Winder.
Sean Sedlezky, the manager of program design at the Ted Rogers School of Retail Management at Ryerson University, thinks business school can't hurt, but Atique shouldn't think of the degree he's got was a waste of time either.
"Psychology is certainly a big part of understanding shopper insights and what drives customers," he said. "If he can demonstrate that he's not scared of spreadsheets or profit and loss statements, and you can drive insights from the data, putting two things together [experience and psychology education] should be a good combination."As for whether he should stick around Nike or look for opportunities elsewhere? "It's probably a good strategy both ways, whether you become a lifer at Nike or make a few moves," said Sedlezky.
There might be no better answer than "there's no wrong answer." (Imagine if school were that easy.) Sedlezky suggests veterans don't always get the same props as the new kid, and if things start to feel too stale at Nike, he thinks Atique shouldn't be afraid to take a look around the industry.
One industry vet that's done her fair share of job hopping between major brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and Wal-Mart says that while switching it up does help speed up the process, most major retail brands are keen to promote from within.
"I would give it a year then start putting out feelers and looking for mentors that will help him move up in the organization he's in now, but make his intentions clear," said Kristin Nelson, now a product manager at Mountain Equipment Co-op. "If he's made those intentions clear and still nothing happens, they'll understand when he moves on to another organization that might move him up."
In other words, the experts (and I) agree that you should take your time getting the lay of the land in your new corporate home, Atique, but also seek out mentors and opportunities to prove your worth. If after a few years you still find yourself in the same role then maybe it's time to start dusting off the résumé.
Oh, and as for whether Nelson thinks you should go back to school, the answer is a flat "no," which I know you'll be happy to hear. "A buyer colleague I work with, her degree is the same as his, psychology, and she came up through the stores, worked as a manager then an analyst, so I think he's on the right track already."