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Marcus AdAge Four Year Career

People change jobs. A lot. The speed of change is increasing. We’re in an industry that has historically had a lot of natural turnover. That’s accelerating as tech-driven change means the cutting-edge skills of today could be completely obsolete in five years.

We’re constantly trying to justify to clients that agency staff changes aren’t just part of it, but are a good thing for their business. The argument goes like this: Change is good. The fresh perspective will be good for your business. The usual response is a rolling of the eyes.

On the agency side, when someone leaves we immediately vilify them for leaving. And sayings like, “we’ll be better off without them” aren’t uncommon.

A Fast Company article earlier this year said it well: Career planning is an oxymoron. Most people entering the workforce now will have an average of 10 jobs in their career.

If the average tenure is four years, we have to change our metrics. It can’t be from hire to retire. Instead, we need to be repositioning this generation’s next marketing job. Here is what our industry has to offer: the best for four years of your career.

The marketing field is broad, and the scope of the services in the marketing sector continues to proliferate. New specialties arise almost monthly. The good news is that we’re pulling from an ever-broader range of industries and skill sets. Marketing is about innovation, and true innovation can come from anywhere.

The level of competition for the brightest minds has never been higher. Where marketing was once the hot bed for creativity, it is now only one of many choices. As an industry, we’re not being considered by some of the most creative and brilliant minds on the market today. Entrepreneurship, startups and venture-capital-funded experiments are the most cutting-edge places for the brightest minds.

Keeping bright minds engaged
For that very reason, the idea of a four-year career should be of interest. For the top minds of today, no one industry is likely to keep them satisfied, fulfilled or engaged. There is so much competition between agencies that we’re often more interested in stealing each other’s talent than looking outside the industry for the next great mind.

If the best four years were to be our offering we’d have dramatically different expectations of the employment life cycle. Onboarding or “getting up to speed” would be a one or two month process. Peak performance would be expected in as soon as six months. Training and mentoring would happen almost immediately. Looking for your replacement would begin after three years.

Creating new career planning paths
This isn’t to say roles within agencies can’t change to offer new challenges or positions to keep people. Rather, it says that traditional career planning paths and models are as outdated as the rotary phone.

As in sports, a star on one team may fade out quickly in a new environment, while a relatively average performer may emerge as a star in a new environment with a new team. This change in inevitable and is a good thing for the sharing of ideas, influences and diversity.

Social media is a natural contributing factor. LinkedIn has a one-click endorsement system. We all have a smirk on our face when we get LinkedIn invitations or updates. An update surely means someone is looking. Asking for endorsement, well, you already have one foot out the door.

Recruiters can scour our profiles. And, just as we can publish our relationship status, we can publish that we’re looking for a new career.

Posts, comments, tweets and updates can also serve as early warning systems to employers. Similarly, a first stop for any candidate or recruiter is social media. We try to glean experience, culture fit and momentum.

Several agencies have “alumni organizations” on Facebook to celebrate those who have “graduated.” What a great way to stay connected with the brand, the people and shared experiences. More importantly, these graduates may one day come back to us for an advanced degree.

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