I’m an addict when it comes to career coaching. Personally, I think it’s a lost art. I remember when I started at Fallon, the only way to break in to Fallon in account management was to be an intern and pass the intern test. Following your hire, for the first few years you had an annual project to complete…part of completing that annual project was leveraging your assigned mentor. That program was shuttled post Publicis acquisition.
At different stops after Fallon, it was clear that other organizations (DRAFT, Leo Burnett, Colle+McVoy, etc.) just didn’t value career coaching and mentorship. But, a consistent aspect of people I admired, was they took ownership over their own career development by finding there own mentors. They didn’t wait for the organization to serve up mentors or invest in their career growth. Nope, they took on the responsibility to further their own careers.
Well, I learned from the mentors I had at Fallon. I learned from the people I observed. Truthfully, early on in my career, I didn’t leverage all the career coaching I had at my finger tips. Looking back on those decisions, it was a clear mistake. After about 10 years in, I really started to take more ownership of my career and sought out a few specific sounding boards who could keep me honest, forward my thinking and make sure I was focused on the right things to further my own career aspirations.
In March, I met with several of members of my mentorship team and also added in a few new mentors. Here’s a summary, of the advice they shared with me. It might be applicable to your own career.
- Invest in real networking. Translation; accepting a request on LinkedIn is not networking. You need to give thoughtful consideration to who you need in your network and who you don’t. Old fashioned networking, much like old fashioned career coaching is a lost art.
- Be loyal to people, not companies. I was a bit surprised by this. It doesn’t mean, don’t be loyal to your company. It means that there are people who can help you, shape you, support you, etc. and you need to identify who those people are and make sure you’re always working with them. Have you ever heard the phrase, “we’re getting the band back together.” In marketing and advertising it usually applies to the scenario where person X leaves company Y and then hires all the people he/she trusts. I’ve done it. I’ve worked with Reed Roussel at 3 different companies. He would always be my first hire at any agency I worked at. I think he’d say the same about me. That’s loyalty. Companies merge, sell out, implode, etc. But, people, generally are, who they are…forever.
- Understand what you want to do. Seems simple. But, how many of us just simply want to run from our current job or climb the next rung on the title ladder.
- There’s no shame in wanting to be properly compensated. We all have a shelf life and a window for being considered valuable. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make as much money as you can during that window.
- That said, money shouldn’t be your only focus. Consider other variables like will you be challenged, will you be motivation, will you be able to earn recognition for your efforts, etc.
- Few of us really get our dream job…as a full package. But, you should have a good idea as to what your dream job looks like. The dream job is the anchor that should keep you focused and be a litmus test for evaluating jobs.
- Understand the waves, ride them early, because there’s nothing like being able to say, “I was there when it happened” and have people remember you being there. I was fortunate to bet on digital in 1997. I think I made the right choice in betting on social in 2010. When I see my colleagues, many of them, my friends, who still haven’t embraced digital and still believe it’s all about commercials; I weep.
- If you want job X, put yourself in the position of the person managing that person…what are the 3 or 4 things you want person X to have? This was a nice reminder for me. Too often we say, “I want person X’s job” and we model ourselves after that person. Just because person X has that job right now, doesn’t mean they’re what the organization needs from that person/role in 5 years. You’re better off betting on what the org is looking for long term in the role than what the current role holder has for a background.
- There was universal belief that platforms (google, Facebook, foursquare, Square, etc.) are the next big wave. Seems funny to say, since Google has been around for 10+ years, but think about it. The power often flowed from the client (eg Pepsi), because they had the money. Then it trickled into their agency (eg Fallon) who often determined how to spend that money. Eventually, the money made its way to the publisher (eg Yahoo!). We’re seeing a reverse of this situation happening and a squeeze out. Companies still have the money, but the power is being wielded by companies, like Facebook, that they don’t quite understand how to manage. When Facebook says jump, many of us say, “how high.” The role of the agency is being augmented. They are becoming middle-men, scared to leave their TV or media planning roots, who no longer have the premium talent. That premium talent is migrating to clients (eg Shiv Singh) or platforms (Torrence Boon). This doesn’t mean agencies are going away or that they don’t have value. It does mean that their value is changing. Those who can pivot appropriate will sustain.
- Keeping with the mindset of pivoting; there’s great desire to constantly be reinventing yourself. Reinvention makes sense, so long as what your reinventing and why, are aligned to where you want to go and NOT just the trend du jour. In reinventing yourself, don’t lose sight of who you are.
Career coaching isn’t set it and forget it. I check in with different mentors throughout the year and I rely on some more frequently than others. The above, was lots of good advice…and it was relatively consistent. I’ve already started applying a lot of it. Hope it was beneficial to you as well.