HOW TO GET AHEAD IN AMERICA Climbing in your career calls for being clear about your personal goals, learning how to add value, and developing skills you can take anywhere.
By Louis S. Richman REPORTER ASSOCIATE Tricia Welsh

(FORTUNE Magazine) – SO, HOTSHOT, where is your career going? You dodged the Big Layoff, but you're toiling harder than ever doing the work of those who were cut. Haven't had a raise in a while either. A promotion? Forget it, the boss's job has been eliminated. Getting ahead wasn't supposed to be like this, was it? You thought you would start on the bottom rung of the old career ladder and climb. The implicit promise: Do what you're told, wait your turn, and with seniority, you will be tapped to rise. But millions of Americans who hoped to grasp the next rung -- or even hold on to the one they've reached -- have discovered that they are . grabbing air. Says Charles W. Sweet, president of A.T. Kearney's executive recruiting firm in Chicago: ''The way people approached their careers in the past is history. It will never, never, never return.'' What will take its place? Knowing how to thrive on ambiguity in an environment of perpetual change -- the very talents that moving up the ladder discouraged. Sure, there are still plenty of hierarchical outfits around, but do you really want to take a chance that they'll stay that way? If your company hasn't already had its leaden bureaucracy melted by the heat of competition, it likely soon will. More and more employers are replacing management layers with fast-moving teams. They are building partnerships with customers and competitors, and shifting activities once performed in-house to key suppliers. They are transforming themselves into what Michael Arthur, management professor at Suffolk University in Boston, calls ''dynamic networks.'' Put the stress on dynamic. To get ahead, says William J. Morin, chairman of the outplacement firm Drake Beam Morin, ''employees will have to anticipate where they can add value to their companies and take charge of their own destinies.'' They will need the right tools: clusters of skills that are transferable across many different organizations, specialized knowledge, clarity about personal goals, a vision of what they aspire to become. They'll also need a network of professional colleagues and friends who can help them keep abreast of where their occupations, industries, and companies are going. Sound a bit New Age for your taste? Then learn from the people profiled here that it works. They are models of the new, proactive careerists. They give their companies their best. In exchange, they expect opportunities to take on new challenges and expand their skills. They're the kind of people who, as executive recruiter Robert H. Horton of Avon, Connecticut, puts it, ''find ways to make their employer's objectives congruent with their own personal goals.''

Trim, well-tailored, every hair in place -- Michael K. Lorelli, 44, is the very picture of the organization man he expected to become. But Lorelli, whom PepsiCo last year named president of its $1.8 billion Pizza Hut International division, took a serendipitous detour from the straight and narrow path early in his working life. It set the pattern for his rise. He grew up in a middle-class neighborhood of New York City. In 1973, with an / MBA from New York University, he joined the marketing department at Clairol. He advanced to product manager in two years. Then-president Bruce Gelb called him into his office and said he had a special assignment. Lorelli's first thought was that Gelb was setting him up to be fired. But no. The Food and Drug Administration was considering banning key ingredients in Clairol's mainstay hair-dye products because they were suspected of causing cancer in laboratory rats, and Gelb wanted Lorelli to head a project to respond to the FDA threat. He was given carte blanche to rescue the business, which brought 80% of Clairol's profits. Coordinating a team of executives, all of them many years his senior, Lorelli set out to challenge the agency's evidence. At the same time, he had his team quietly begin reformulating the dyes to remove the offending chemicals. The team's 18 months' work was a stellar success. Clairol scientists discovered that the amount of hair dye the FDA fed to the rats was the human equivalent of drinking 25 bottles of the stuff a day. Lorelli launched a media counterassault, which demolished the health risk charge. The FDA backed off. The episode taught Lorelli a lot about managing his career. He saw how the regular presentations he gave to senior managers at both Clairol and parent Bristol-Myers enhanced his visibility and reputation. And leading a high- powered team under intense pressure, he says, ''gave me management skills I couldn't have developed in ten years.'' (Moral: Don't dodge crisis management. Instead, seek it.) Lorelli soon yearned for a new chance to build his management skills. Enter: Playtex International, which wanted to build its health and beauty aids product lines around the world. Playtex lured Lorelli with a risky proposition: If you can develop a strategy that excites us, we will put you in charge of the new business; but if you fail, you may not have a future with us. Guess what he did. ''Man, was I ever unqualified to do this job,'' he says. ''But that was the attraction of it.'' The effort required him to stretch himself. He had to build manufacturing plants and a distribution network, source raw materials, form joint ventures and licensing agreements with other companies, and take responsibility for the new international division's financial performance. By the mid-1980s, he had built it into a $100 million enterprise operating in ten countries. Not bad for a 36-year-old -- but not enough. Lorelli longed to join an organization where he could further expand and test his management strengths. Through executive recruiters, he found PepsiCo, which nurtures management Schwarzeneggers like him by rotating them through a succession of broadening assignments. Starting in 1986 as senior VP for marketing of the flagship soft drink, he moved on to head the eastern U.S. Pepsi-Cola division -- helping to increase profits 15% annually during his three years there. At Pizza Hut International, he plans by 1996 to double the number of stores from the 2,500 currently operating in 84 countries. PepsiCo, he says, seems to offer all the challenges he needs. IT'S NEVER too early to start managing your career. Jay Prassl, 20, a junior at Michigan State University, began in high school. As a 16-year-old interested in science, he landed a part-time job as a lab assistant at the University of Rhode Island's school of oceanography. Back at school, he organized a marine science project that won him a state prize and a spot as one of just 50 U.S. high-schoolers to spend a summer working on the human genome project at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. Prassl's brief brush with big-time science taught him how to work in a team and exposed him to how large projects are managed. Equally important, he learned he wasn't turned on by the idea of sitting at a lab bench. An avid hiker and rock climber, Prassl figured out how to hitch his avocations to his career. At MSU he is taking a dual concentration in environmental sciences and management and in resource development. Through contacts he made with environmental groups in Colorado, he lined up a summer internship tracking herds of bighorn sheep for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. When he returns for his senior year, he will work on research projects about how policy is made in the Michigan legislature. He hopes the exposure to the state's top environmental consulting firms will lead to a job when he graduates from MSU. He also expects to round out his policymaking credentials by going on to law school -- he currently serves as a justice on MSU's student-faculty judiciary. Moral: Know thyself. Says Prassl: ''It's not what you do that matters, but knowing why you do it.'' Michael Iem, 29, does what he does because he loves challenges. This bricklayer's son has no formal job title and no office, but his career at Tandem Computers is on a tear. He personifies the advice that executive recruiter Robert Horton offers all who want to advance: ''Find the biggest business problem your employer faces for which you and your skills are the solution.'' The problems Iem spots -- and masters -- are lollapaloozas. The first one the 1987 Purdue graduate faced was persuading Tandem to hire him. Its recruiter wanted only a few of Purdue's brightest electrical engineers and computer scientists. Iem was an industrial engineer who had failed basic physics -- twice. But, attracted by the company's reputation as a leader in a fast-growing industry and realizing he had nothing to lose, he showed up at a campus interview and told the recruiter, ''I will work for your company.'' He sold Tandem by telling about his previous summer's work as a prestigious NASA engineering intern. The moral? ''You know best what you can do; it's up to you to create the opportunities.'' Soon after joining as a junior staff analyst, Iem caught on to the fundamental threat facing the company: The market was shifting away from mainframe computers and toward networks run through client-servers, which link workstations and personal computers. Unless Tandem got ahead of the trend, Iem figured, its products would soon be obsolete. Having spent his first months scouting the projects under way at headquarters in Cupertino, California, Iem asked to join a team investigating how Tandem should respond to the challenge. The major task was to demonstrate the potential of the new technology to customers -- and to other Tandem managers who told him, ''That's not our charter.'' Iem persuaded his supervisor to let him develop a model system. Once he had it up and running, he pressed for a new assignment to show it off to customers and to train the company's sales and service representatives around the world to use it. ''I saw it as my responsibility to be an evangelist for the new approach,'' he says. Iem spent the next four years visiting clients, hitting the major trade shows, and speaking at company-sponsored conferences -- discovering along the way that he had a talent for presenting. His passionate advocacy made him known throughout Tandem, bringing promotions and a doubling of his $32,000 starting salary. With his reputation as a problem-solver spreading, Iem receives about one call a month from recruiters trying to lure him away. So far he has turned them down, because, he says, ''Tandem gives me great latitude to develop what I can do to the fullest.'' The company lets him decide what projects to take on, making him the youngest of perhaps a dozen employees with that broad mandate. These days Iem spends most of his time leading training workshops in the new network applications. ''My job title, I guess, is 'specialist in charge of doing what needs to be done.' '' Though Iem still reports to a nominal supervisor at Tandem headquarters, ''he never calls to ask what I'm doing. He knows I'm out kicking butt every day.'' EVEN IF you know early on what you want to do, managing your career requires that you constantly reevaluate yourself and your opportunities. Sharon Hall, 37, is general manager of Avon Products' personal-care products group. Daughter of a salesman, she grew up on Chicago's South Side and entered Morris Brown College in Atlanta knowing that she would train for a marketing career. When she graduated in 1978, she made it her single-minded goal to land a job with Procter & Gamble. It didn't deter her that P&G was hiring only MBAs. Hall learned everything she could about the company and dogged the on-campus P&G interviewer to fit her into his packed schedule. ''If any other candidate is six minutes late, call me,'' she told him. The call came. Dazzling the recruiter with her energy and her detailed knowledge of P&G's inner workings, she was offered a job as a brand assistant. She threw herself into work she loved and soaked up the lessons of product marketing the P&G way. But after two years she concluded that inching up the P&G ladder wouldn't fulfill her ambitions. Hall developed a detailed multiyear plan for her future: First, get an MBA; second, work a few years for Booz Allen & Hamilton, the management consulting outfit she thought would have the most to teach her; third, move to a senior operating position at a big company. ''I wouldn't waste a single day,'' she says. She had to improvise. She had won a fellowship that paid her way to an MBA at USC, but Booz Allen didn't recruit there. So Hall organized a student management consulting forum and invited all the top consulting outfits -- including Booz, of course -- to send representatives to meet the students. Impressed with her resourcefulness, Booz hired her. She arrived with -- what else? -- three goals: to learn about the marketing practices of Booz's global clients, sharpen her analytical skills, and increase her earning power considerably. ''I wanted to get as far as I could as fast as I could so I could devote myself to starting a family while I was still young,'' she says. After two years she felt she'd accomplished what she set out to do. Pursued with job offers from headhunters, Hall again went into her planning mode. She decided that it was important she feel passionate about the products she would market, and she wanted to have a big role in her employer's business strategy. Says she: ''If a move doesn't serve at least two or three purposes simultaneously, it's not worth making.'' When Avon called in 1984, looking for an executive to plan its expansion into the Pacific Rim, Hall jumped. ''I convinced them that what I wanted was what they needed.'' Hall spent the next three years mapping out a new marketing plan and traveling throughout Asia and Latin America. As Avon senior managers came to prize her creativity and initiative, they gave her leeway to define her own jobs. For example, she asked for one at the home office after a budding romance with Kevin Morris, an Avon colleague, blossomed into marriage in 1986. Following the birth of her first child, she worked on improving Avon's system for deciding which new products the company would develop -- a job that let her set her own schedule. That led to the next position as senior director for new business development. Self-serving? Of course. But every job also met her crucial, self-imposed guideline: ''Always be doing something that contributes significant, positive change to the organization. That's the ultimate job security.'' PUT that differently: In a dynamic corporate setting, having things your way is the ultimate win-win situation. Herbert W. Korthoff, 50, likes big things. He hunts big game, enjoys weekends under the big sky at his Wyoming ranch, drives a big Bentley. And he's developed a big career by building companies. As executive vice president for operations, Korthoff helped turn U.S. Surgical Co. from a small hospital supplies company when he joined in 1979 to a $1.2-billion-a-year industry leader, with 8,000 employees, by the time he left 13 years later. Last year Korthoff bet that he could do the same as CEO at Wright Medical Technology, a manufacturer of artificial hips and knees near Memphis. Korthoff's drive to advance was formed during the nine years he spent in an orphanage. He learned, he says, that ''you have to take control of your own life, or someone will do it for you.'' A Syracuse University graduate, Korthoff earned an MBA at night school during the decade he worked for American Home Products, where he rose to head of purchasing and manufacturing. He left, he says, because in American Home's rigid hierarchy ''there was no room for mavericks like me. If I had stayed I might have become a division vice president by the time I retired.'' IN THE free-wheeling entrepreneurial culture at U.S. Surgical, he found plenty of room to grow. Doctors loved its easy-to-use surgical staples, but six executives had crashed and burned trying to make its manufacturing operations efficient. Arriving at 35, Korthoff succeeded by motivating his subordinates with what he calls the ''three R's of management'' -- respect, recognition, and remuneration. Says he: ''People respond when you show that you trust their judgment, encourage them to share in a feeling of pride in the company's growth, and pay them for what they contribute to the effort.'' With four factories operating smoothly by the early 1990s, Korthoff felt his own enthusiasm begin to wane as U.S. Surgical's growth plateaued. Founder Leon Hirsch showed no inclination to give up control, making it unlikely that Korthoff would ever get a chance to run the company. So he cashed out his stock options and started searching for a business to buy. In Wright, then a Dow Corning subsidiary, Korthoff found the company he was seeking. Embarrassed by the controversy over its silicone breast implants, Dow Corning wanted out of the medical equipment business. Kidd Kamm & Co., an investment firm in Greenwich, Connecticut, also had its eye on Wright and was looking for a seasoned CEO. Says partner William J. Kidd: ''It's much harder to find outstanding management talent like Herb than it is to find good companies to buy.'' Korthoff intends to transform Wright from a respected also-ran into a global leader. He has lured top talent from competitors by offering equity stakes. Equally important, the people he recruited say, was the chance to revitalize their own careers with a new challenge. The manager-shareholders have set themselves an ambitious target of lifting Wright's sales from the $120 million forecast for this year to $500 million by 1998. Korthoff has also rekindled the enthusiasm of the 475 Wright employees who stayed with the company during the uncertain times before Dow Corning sold it. By applying his ''three R's,'' he liberated them to take charge of their own jobs, a freedom they didn't enjoy under Dow Corning's remote and ponderous hierarchy. Says Michael Kaufman, 36, a director of product management: ''For the first time in my 15 years with the company, our future is up to us to control.'' | Can the sinuous pathways of the self-managed career really lift millions of Americans to prosperity as the old career ladder did? Maybe -- if employers are equal to the challenge. To date, few have built environments that allow the talents of their employees to flourish. Says human resources consultant Priscilla Claman, who heads Career Strategies in Boston: ''Most companies tell me that their only career program is outplacement.'' That's short-sighted and ultimately self-defeating, says Allan Bird, a management professor at New York University's Stern School of Business. Though few companies are still willing to offer career-long job security, Bird thinks nearly all could do a better job of serving the interests of both employer and employee while their relationship lasts. SUCH enlightened self-interest seems most evident at smaller companies, where individual employees' contributions can have the most impact. Architectural Support Services Inc. (ASSI), an Atlanta firm that provides computer-aided design (CAD) services for architects, designers, and engineers, offers its ten computer drafting technicians growth opportunities in abundance. In ASSI's attractive, efficient, and cheerful new offices, self-managed careers are thriving. ASSI provides a good environment for what Cornell University labor economist Stephen R. Barley calls ''new technical workers'' -- skilled specialists whose career identity derives from their occupation, not from their attachment to a single employer, and who today make up the fastest- growing category of employment in the U.S. Vic Williams, 41, founded ASSI in a spare bedroom six years ago. An architect, he had grown frustrated with the slow progress he was making as a designer in the large, staid commercial architectural and construction company where he worked for six years after graduating from Georgia Tech. Especially frustrating to Williams, a computer buff, was his fellow architects' failure to grasp what computers could bring to their work. So he quit and persuaded a local firm that designed new stores for fast-expanding Home Depot to let him supply the working drawings. Soon other architectural firms began to catch on to CAD's potential. Rather than start their own departments, they outsourced the work to ASSI. Williams now has 30 clients, and revenues this year will top $1 million -- up one-third since 1993. Wife Joyce Roberts, 47, a former bookkeeper, is ASSI's jill-of- all-trades, serving as chief operating officer, chief financial officer, ! and director of human resources. As they added new customers, staff, and equipment, Williams and Roberts had the wit and courage to entrust real authority to their eager young employees. Says Williams: ''Delegating taught us that the company's success is identical with that of the people who work here.'' The couple have turned ASSI into a nursery of career growth for their draftsmen -- mostly recent graduates of architectural schools or two-year technical colleges. The technicians train each other, form their own project teams, and deal directly with all of ASSI's clients. Because the company specializes only in CAD designs, the employees build their technical skills quickly. But since they get a chance to see every aspect of the business, they also acquire breadth well beyond their years. At ASSI, working relationships are fluid. When Williams asked staffers to select their own job titles, Garret Diduck, a four-year ASSI veteran who joined at 25, had *.* engraved on his business cards; it's the computer programming command that signifies ''do everything.'' And everyone shares in the company's success. Salaries range from $20,000 to $30,000 a year -- pretty good by area standards for people in their early 20s. All employees also participate in a profit-sharing plan that can boost their incomes by up to 10%. Whether they stay at ASSI or move to other companies, these broadly skilled technicians should be able to increase their earning power. Can big companies provide their employees the same kind of growth opportunities? Yes, given the right leadership. AlliedSignal CEO Lawrence Bossidy has made his work force the centerpiece of his vision for the company's renewal. Since he took charge in mid-1991, he has cut 9,000 of its 47,500 salaried positions in order to reverse the company's dangerously negative cash flow. But while he was hacking rungs out of the career ladder, Bossidy also took steps to help salaried workers manage their own careers. His strategy: Constant communication between employees and their bosses -- backed with a commitment to employee education. Each year, salaried workers submit to their supervisors written statements describing their goals and identifying jobs for which they'd like to be considered. It's the managers' responsibility to coach them on how they can achieve their objectives and to recommend supplemental training that would improve their chances. AlliedSignal, in turn, is better able to match people with positions and spot opportunities to challenge them in new areas. It lists all job openings companywide and encourages volunteers to step forward to fill them. To take the stigma out of lateral moves, AlliedSignal compensates each employee not by job title but by the value she contributes to the division's performance. Says senior vice president for human resources Donald Redlinger: ''The reward system reinforces the company's high expectations of its employees to grow, learn, and lead.'' The new compact AlliedSignal is making with its workers is simple: We can't guarantee permanent jobs, but while you work here you will have opportunities to develop talents that will serve you whether you stay with us or move on. Bossidy understands that as his people develop themselves in this fashion, they get more options to leave. So he takes a personal role in seeing to it that the best talent doesn't get away. Twice a year he meets with the heads of each business unit to identify the go-getters and develop a plan to groom them for larger responsibilities by putting them in charge of increasingly challenging projects. IN COMPANIES like ASSI and AlliedSignal, the only tie that binds you to your employer is a common commitment to success and growth. But don't mourn the career ladder. Instead, celebrate the liberation of the Organization Man. When former FORTUNE editor William H. Whyte wrote his classic book nearly 40 years ago, he warned that rigidly hierarchical corporate structures would stifle initiative and breed a stultifying conformity. He could have added: And would lead, inevitably, to stagnant, shrinking companies. For organization and employee alike, the only real security is the ability to grow, change, and adapt.