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Go-getters often assume that once they excel in a line position (one that has a direct effect on profit and loss), they should build their responsibilities as line managers and bypass any staff jobs (support roles such as research, human resources, planning) that they’re offered. That’s not always wise.
Case in point: Raymond Gilmartin, chairman of Merck & Co., the huge pharmaceutical company.
Gilmartin, 59, broke this rule at a pivotal moment in his career. In 1985, he was running a division that earned 60 percent of the profits for a big medical supply firm. The company’s CEO asked Gilmartin to take a staff job.
Gilmartin rejected the offer at first because he didn’t want to sacrifice a high-level line position for a staff job. But after sleeping on it, he accepted the move because he figured he could make a contribution.
The result: Within six months, he earned another promotion and within two years he became the company’s president.
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