A different view on career progression

As I travelled around Spain on my recent annual vacation, I had a thought about career progressions.  Inspired by how we got to some of the sights.  Some on mountains were reached by stairs while others had winding roads that got us there.  Two different ways.  Similar destinations.

I remember the time when my view on how my career should progress was very simple.

My career path was like the stairs up one side of a mountain, in my case an advertising agency. I started at the lowest rung and  gradually worked my way up until I got to the highest rung possible. The expectation was that I would stay at the same company for a long time and get rewarded for this loyalty with stability and security.

This approach went the way of dinosaurs very early in my career. The pace of change and the disruption of business models has made this legacy approach irrelevant and archaic.

The new view to career progression is the way we actually climbed the mountains, especially the Montserrat. By walking paths that go around and about. At different points of the trail, you have the opportunity to make choices. Depending on the choices you make, you have the ability to reinvent your role, career and your expectation of your future path.

I managed to do this accidentally.  Started at Grey in India where I learned holistic integrated marketing with the best creative in South East Asia.  When I moved to the US, I did a stint at Wunderman Cato Johnson (direct and promotional marketing) before doing long global brand-driven assignments at JWT and FCB.  Started a digital branding practice for FCB, then helped build FCBi (data, direct, digital and strategy) before I left to start my own strategy firm.  Folded that into Omnicom and then joined Euro RSCG, where I spent the last six years helping rebuild the Chicago agency, market one of two North America Business Units, creating a retail practice and then creating and building a successful digital, data and analytics company – Euro RSCG Discovery.

It has been a very fun journey.  My expectation of there being just one destination to reach has now been replaced with a belief that every intersection point on my journey is like reaching one destination and finding a new one to continue my journey.

I am taking a tremendous joy from this approach.  I am learning new skills and meeting and getting to know new people.  I look forward to each day and the experiences I will have.  And do it at my own pace.

A nice way to grow personally and professionally.  And the view is fabulous.


Categories: about me, consumer behavior, emotive, future, loyalty, marketing, new media, segmentation

8 replies

  1. A nice analogy and certainly relevant to how business works today.

    One other point is the importance of achieving balance in your career goals; that you must also live in the moment and completely own your present situation. It’s too easy to get swept into always seeking for the next big opportunity and possibly missing what’s important in the now. I believe that if you’re fully aware of the present situation, you will see (and be able to seize) the opportunities without needing to chase or search for them.

    • Agree with this. Being open-minded and accepting of opportunities is definitely critical. Then the courage to seize these opportunities becomes the next step. Thanks for commenting.

  2. While I have found this description apropos, it leaves me wondering about the sort of climate this creates within companies. When it is know that an employee with ambition and talent is only stopping in as a stepping stone on a career path, what is the motivation of a company to properly invest in Human Resources and secondly for the employee to be fully vested in their work? The first half of this question I am not sure how to answer. The second part can be answered in an employee’s own ambitions and motivations. In a best case scenario the employee would approach each step with full enthusiasm concluding that one’s strongest effort is the best method to promote career growth. In a worst case scenario the employee is completely self-interested and uses the resources and network they access to further themselves. In reality it is some middle ground between these two points.

    Either way, this set of circumstances lacks something in the realm of trust between the employer and employee. Without that trust I have a hard time believing that either is being as productive as it could be. I do not see a future of large pensions and life-long stints in one job; however, it does seem there could be something done to increase the level of trust and maximize the productivity of these relationships.

    • Trust is the biggest issue and opportunity for both corporations and their employees. A new survey continues to validate the myth, people that work for companies do not trust their employers. And most companies reciprocate. This is the pity. Most employees want to do their best and most companies work hard to deserve this commitment.

      The new model enables this by allowing people to expand their opportunity space by leveraging their passions in addition to their skill sets.

  3. The mountains analogy is certainly true. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other with an emphasis on continually learning and adapting, then opportunities present themselves.

    • You’re absolutely right. However, to also look for other trails that can provide new and different experiences is more germane in a constantly changing environment. To me, that’s the fun part.

  4. I second your view point on career progression. The drawback sometimes is that its easier to see the way up from the top then it is from the bottom. Sometime my career feels like I am going around the mountain rather then up. Well the spiral rout is just a very long way up. Miss-steps are often seen only in hindsight. How to cultivate the skill to foresee the miss-steps is something I am trying to learn.
    Having mentor such as you would be greatly help for someone like me who has the potential and can see the peak.. just needs to be nudged in the right direction.

  5. There is no empirical data on this, however, anecdotally, the number is closer to 4 years.

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