When Formula One driver – and fan favourite – Daniel Ricciardo announced that he was parting ways with the McLaren race team back in August 2022, the world of motor sport was shaken. Ricciardo was known as affable, a jokester, a driver who stood out for his ability not to take himself too seriously.
But it wasn’t exactly a surprise. The season had been a disaster for both Ricciardo and McLaren. The F1 team had high hopes that their new cars – and their two drivers – would deliver both championship and constructor points. But whilst Ricciardo’s team mate, British driver Lando Norris, would finish within the top 10 (and therefore qualify for points) seventeen times that season, Ricciardo would only be able to do this seven times, despite being the more experienced driver.
So, what went wrong?
Well, Formula One aside – although it is a passion of mine – there is a real message here about team fit. What happens when you are doing all you can to ensure that a role works out and it doesn’t? Both McLaren and Ricciardo insisted that they had put in additional hours in order to make things click. Things just didn’t fall into place despite apparent effort on both sides.
Was it a culture thing? A tech thing? A morale thing? Where does that leave you?
For Ricciardo, it has meant a break from “first team” driving. He’s currently enjoying the 2023 season from the (some would say) enviable position of being a reserve driver for season favourites, Red Bull. As soon as the ink had dried on his contract at his new team, Ricciardo was only too happy to declare that, “The smiles says it all, I’m truly excited … For me personally, the ability to contribute to and be surrounded by the best team in F1 is hugely appealing, whilst also giving me time to recharge and refocus.”
This got me thinking – when is it appropriate to know when to take a “sideways” career move?
For some candidates, career moves have to be about progression. They’re not getting the upwards trajectory that they crave, so they start to look for the company which will give them that. For others – like Ricciardo – it’s about something just not gelling. It’s about, despite giving it every attempt, the culture or the training or the team just not being a good fit.
And, in those cases, a “sideways” career move can make a lot of sense. Because it’s not necessarily about the next step in the career ladder – it’s about the right step. It’s about finding a team and a business that is going to support your career plans. It’s about finding a culture that you can call home. It’s about being able to put in the effort whilst being able to “refocus”, as Ricciardo said. And once you have all of that in place, you can then look towards the future and start to make career plans.
Whilst the obvious adulation from fans and commentators would be enough to make anyone smile, there is a clear sense of relief from Ricciardo this season. The pressure is off – there’s no need to explain why, despite attempt after attempt, his McLaren isn’t finishing within the points.
If your career feels like it’s constantly in the DNF zone, it might be time to look for a new team.
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