September 29, 2007

Tough Choices

I've been at my current job for over 18 months now. When I started, I actually only intended to be here for a year as the role I'm in is not exactly what I enjoy or want to be doing. I took the job knowing this, but there was a certain strategic advantage to the job, namely it got me into an agency.

The marketing and advertising industry is very incestuous -- for lack of a better term. Once you've established yourself, you make connections and you move forward by leveraging those connections and -- of course -- working on successful projects. (I don't want to make it sound like good work isn't rewarded.) If you have not established yourself, you start at the bottom.

The bottom of the marketing industry, from what I've seen, is a thankless, tedious place to be. You start doing the grunt work. The hours are long. The pay is low. Recognition is sparse. Only people fresh out of college usually accept these roles.

There are good reasons why marketing and advertising work this way. Marketing is a very appealing industry to people. Advertising in particular is rather glamorous and it attracts a lot of people without serious interest in the business. I don't mean to be uncharitable, but the ratio of competent marketers to lackluster hangers on is really appalling and the insular nature of the industry helps the good people rise to the top by insisting they work hard and work smart to get through all the clutter.

I am well past the point where I could start at the bottom, so I've been trying to wedge my way into the industry using my existing background. This tactic is not really all that unusual, but it's not the norm and it has worked this far. I'm in an agency. Woo!

I'd like to spend some time in the agency world -- perhaps the next five years -- and then I'd like to move into a brand and continue my career from there. I plan to work my way up to the C-level of a company through the marketing and client services side of the organization.

That's my strategy anyway.

The next step in my career plan requires building more client experience around directly managing marketing programs and broadening my channel experience. A company's marketing efforts are mixed in varying levels across differing "channels" like media, outdoor, print, and digital. The divisions get more granular from there. I work in the digital channel. I need to learn more about managing marketing campaigns in other channels and I think working in the agency world for a while will give me that opportunity in addition to exposing me to the marketing needs of businesses in varying industry verticals.

The question now is a tactical one. I work in an agency now, but it is an interactive agency, which means we only work in one channel. So, do I stay in this agency and move to a different team in order to gain a different type of experience in this channel or do I change agencies and hope to get that sort of experience combined with the opportunity to work in other channels?

Option 1 is pretty easy. Option 2 has far more risk.

Let's say that I decide to stay in my current company and move to a different team. First, it may take some time to move because they won't want me to move until they're ready for me to move. Once moved, I would be obliged to stay in the position for at least another year before I could consider moving to another agency so that I avoid burning any bridges with a move. The clear advantage is that staying longer would allow me to build more contacts here and it would balance my resume very well in preparation for the next move.

Option 2 will mean attempting to move into a position where my experience does not quite match. Potential employers will realize this and if they do opt to hire me, they will likely mitigate their risk by paying me less than I would like. I can accept that for the right position, but finding it will take much longer.

My annual review is coming up on Tuesday and if I decide to stay and choose to move to another team, my plan is to tell my boss then. I'm just not sure if that's what I want to do.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at September 29, 2007 12:39 PM | TrackBack

Move. You'll get a different set of experience and meet new contacts.

Posted by: Brian J. at September 30, 2007 04:40 PM
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