Pros and Cons of a Corporate Strategy Role

When New Yorkers hear about people who work in corporate strategy, there are typically two responses: envy or disdain. Why is there such a difference of opinion in connection with this position? If you are in the market for a new role, should you consider an opportunity in corporate strategy? Based on my experience with the executives I have worked with – some of whom have spent their entire careers in strategy – below are a few pros and cons of the role.

Corporate Strategy Role (Photo: iStockphoto)

PROS

Executive influence
Professionals and career switchers who long for a corporate strategy position love the idea of collaborating closely with decision-makers at the highest level of their companies. Undoubtedly, the right corporate strategy group can determine the next big M&A move, market to penetrate and product to push. It can lead to shoulder-rubbing with the senior management team and leadership positions at the top.

“Big Picture” thinking like a CEO
Corporate strategy roles will force you to think longer term about a company’s prospects and odds of success — skills that you will need if you think you are destined to be the next great CEO. So why not start early and hone these precious skills as soon as you can?

Prestigious function with reasonable hours
“Corporate strategy” looks great on a resume. It always has. On top of that, professionals in this function generally enjoy normal, balanced hours, with “clients” being mostly internal. Deadlines are more pliable and the work requires longer turnaround times. Moreover, compensation is typically above industry average due to the analytical, qualitative and cerebral nature of strategy work.

CONS

Minimal to no execution
People who find the corporate strategy role unappealing will point to the fact that they don’t actually do anything “tangible” toward the success of a business. It’s a bit of a poor argument as strategy is a long-term job, but there is some truth to this criticism.  A strong strategy team can steer the direction of a company toward success or teams spin a lot of wheels while contributing zero actual dollars to the bottom line today.

Strategy is a “luxury item”
During the most recent recession, many, many executives in strategy roles were cut. Why is that? Well, a company can probably succeed with a skeleton staff of strategists. When times are tough, high-priced strategy executives are easy targets.

Transferable skills at the top?
Strategy skills may not be immediately transferable as functionally-appropriate roles may not exist right away. Unless there is an open position at or near the top of most organizations, the qualitative nature of strategy work can leave you as a jack of all trades but a master of nothing.

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at debra@careersdonewrite.com.