email facebook twitter linkedin youtube

Stuart Parkin

Syncing timelines for Success – Your Employer’s and your own

About to accept or start a new job – Why you might not be doing what you expected to be doing, at least not for a while.

You have reached a point in your current job where you are stuck, in terms of feeling as though you are no longer progressing.

Practically, the promotion you want is blocked or, you’ve worked on the same business for three years and the agency doesn’t want to move you or, you’ve worked on all the major accounts of the agency.

You might be frustrated because you don’t feel you can learn anything new, meanwhile you see the world and your peers, all progressing to bigger and better things.

Or, you’re dealing the nightmare scenario, a difficult boss or client that is making your life a living hell. You leave as nothing is likely to change any time soon.

You are ready to make a move. The good news is, you are presented with seemingly, a great career building opportunity. Team, culture, accounts, strategic approach all check out.

At this stage what could go wrong?

You clearly know better than anyone what is attractive to you. What role would allow you to excel, right? Well, yes. And with the information you have everything stacks up. So far so good.

Typically you are hired to address specific client needs but sometimes you are recruited more for where the agency aspires to be versus where the agency is now.

Most individuals will accept at face value, the reason why they are being hired. And most employers will hire specifically for the reasons they say they are hiring.

In all situations’ you are being hired for a recognized skillset. But, though your future employer knows what you can do, they may be hiring you for reasons slightly different to those you signed up for.

Key for you, what job do you want to do now, what’s mission critical versus those things that are ‘nice-to haves’? And do your priorities reconcile with the work your future employer does and expects you to do immediately, versus at some point in the future. Or, is there an understanding that there is a timeline before you get to really use your expertise in the way you want to. Sometimes, there is no understanding!

A classic example, you are hired by a digital agency whose work may be downstream of the lead creative agency. Your new employer hires you not because of an epiphany in the importance of creative strategy rather you are hired to act as a counterbalance to creative strategist working for the lead agency! It’s a defensive hire even if represented otherwise.

The most obvious (and critical) example of a disconnect between employee/employer timelines, intended or otherwise, occur when employers are hiring at the vanguard of organizational or business transformation.

You are promised that your expertise is key to moving the agency in the direction of that change. The problem is that the organization might not be ready for this planned evolution.

Organizational changes that needed to happen prior and concurrent to your hire did not happen or are happening but at a much slower pace. The result for you is, what you hoped to achieve in your new role might take two years versus two months.

A further threat for you, gate keepers/the old guard that might be sitting on agency revenue, oppose the change you bring, extolling what has worked in the past. These individuals or cliques may be perceived as too ‘important’ (despite the fact you were hired to change things) to challenge due to fear if they left or are fired, the revenues they are sitting on might go with them.

There will always be potential challenges beyond yours and to a large extent the agency’s control. It’s key for you to know that your expertise aligns with the organizational needs and ambition of your new employer for the medium but also for the short term.

Having a sense of who key stakeholders are is a given but knowing that they support your expertise is vital. Two action steps you should pursue at interview stage:

Have a few additional meetings beyond those you are directed to have; Ask a few more searching questions that you ordinarily might not ask. These two actions alone may be the difference between a poor move and a great career transition.

Ultimately, what makes your next career move truly redefining in a positive way, is not only clarity about your own objectives and those of your employer but to know that they and the key stakeholders of which they are a part, are aligned.

Bespoke Career Choices

When looking for a job most strategy planners ask ‘what’s on the shelf? (well not literally) but as if going in to a store, they ask ‘what have I got.?’ You all have much more power than you could ever know  and a more bespoke role is within reach. The key to bespoke is knowing what you want and having the confidence to pursue it. (This doesn’t mean your feet are not on the ground and pragmatism goes out of the window.) This is why I ‘always’ ask, ‘moving forward, what is your ideal next career challenge/what is progression for you?’

 

‘Unique’ Candidate Raincheck

Some candidates  believe when compared to others, like the glowing waves. what they have to offer is quite unique.
What can enhance the chances of this being true  is something regularly practiced by the best candidates, who always seek feedback after interviews/They always seek to improve.
Really smart candidates learn from the new found knowledge and adapt.
The smartest candidates of all, (who always end up with serious consideration, if not the job) know that even when they apply the lessons of the past and do everything they can and what they offer is very differentiated, sometimes still, they won’t be hired!
They know that this is not because they did anything wrong but because every opportunity is unique, (just like them) and simply, in some cases there was an even better ‘unique’ fit for the role.

Following The Money Often Reveals The True Story

Aspiring job seekers, don’t be dazzled by the scenery! Save yourself from a bad job move and get to the reality of what a business actually does sooner rather than later. Inspiring recruiters may tell you what an employer aspires to be, about the new this or the new that division they are going to build which is great. But, you need the reality of what the experience is now. So the questions that get you closer to the truth orient around where your future employer ‘actually makes’ the bulk of its cash from versus where it ‘wants’ to make money. #SmartCareerMoves

Avoiding A Career Ambush – Be Alert and Bring Your ‘A’ Game

 

 

Strategic planners on the fastest career track know that getting to the truth of a client’s challenge is key. It’s is equally vital to understand the truth of the consumers served by your clients.

Getting to a genuine understanding of your client’s business gives you a chance of being relevant and better still, of moving the client forward.

In one of life’s great paradoxes, the strategic planner plays the role of the cobbler that wears no shoes/do not do for themselves what they instinctively do for others. That is, apply the same strategic nous and tools to obtaining authenticity when it comes to understanding a genuine career opportunity from a dud.

I hear of almost daily tales of candidates that got duped. But, the storytellers typically don’t see that they are complicit.

New career enhancing roles lie before them and rather than clarify the fundamentals that will define their success in a new role, much is taken at face value. Naiive? Or, a commendable illustration of their trust? It doesn’t matter. The carnage is the same.

Some basics. Whenever you are considered for a career opportunity, it is your knowledge and experience that is sought after. It is perceived to be able to solve one of a range of challenges facing your prospective future employer.

Ultimately what your future employer is seeing is your ability to either help save or make money and preferably both! And this is where it can get dangerous, for you!

The more your perceived ability to make money combined with urgency by the agency to make a hire, the more exponential the chances that they will avoid communicating, miscommunicate or incorrectly communicate information that might otherwise deter you from taking the job.

I don’t mean to say that hiring managers intentionally mislead. I am saying that many people under enough pressure, hiring manager or agency with a pressing client need, may be economical with the truth. This may help relieve client pressure whilst unfortunately not be optimal for you.

The Group Director hired to become a Head of Strategy takes the job because the agency is independent, moves countries and finds out one month in that the agency is being bought by a holding company.

The Director that moves across country to discover one month in that the client, that they moved their lives for, is leaving the agency.

Clearly the agency has to do what it has to do and perhaps the hiring manager or the department head is not party to much larger forces at play. The take out is therefore, you as the individual seeking a career enhancing move have to be alert!

You have to employ that smart truth revealing expertise to your career and most certainly at the inflexion points of progression from one job to another.

To be fair to those hiring, the more ‘you’ want an opportunity at a certain brand or agency, the more you will compromise, the more details you will overlook, the less you will be ‘on your game’ to understand exactly what you might be getting in to.

Indeed, far from applying healthy skepticism that engenders a pragmatic understanding that what one is being told is correct, you seek to reinforce your perceptions of what you want to hear. And, you fail to see the pitfalls.

When you are ‘on,’ you do not ask limiting questions but bigger questions in your quest to understand the truth. You in this mode are in control and driving your quest versus passively being drawn into a career ambush.

Getting to a Robust Understanding of a Job Opportunity – Some thoughts

  1. Know what do you want to do next
  2. Know what outputs you want to generate
  3. Know what defines your success in a new role
  4. Know what resources are available and timelines in which to achieve specific goals
  5. Know whether your goals align with those of the leadership of the prospective employer.
  6. Seek out not ‘sexy’ agency but dynamic client relationships, wherever they are and with them the opportunity for good work
  7. Seek out those clients that value your expertise and better still the employers that value your expertise equal or (even better for you) over and above other disciplines.
  8. Clarify where money is made – This is definitive proof as to what the agency says is does reconciles with what it does.. Good to know!
  9. Ask better questions that reveal the truth to you and not choreographed answers.

 

Standout by Getting Your Employer Working For You Copy

Whilst working at your current agency you should consciously pursue experience, education and connections that enhance your distinctiveness as a business problem solver. You should do what you are paid to do (help optimize the agency of which you are part) but also remember that not also leveraging the agency to build your own value, is a wasted opportunity.

Don’t Regret What Was

It’s only once you cease to work for an agency that you appreciate the many things that provides, some obvious and some less so:

A job;A Team; Resources, (financial/creative); Access; Training; Experience; Exposure.

Your working in an agency can be great for the agency’s and its clients business. It should also be a positive step for your career growth.

The Connection between Great Work and Your Success

Does a happy client and grateful agency means you will have an optimized fast tracked career?                                                                                                                            Perhaps.

If you have are known for being an active team player, a proactive individual that helps to resolve client challenges and optimize opportunities, does this mean you will have a fast-tracked career.                                                                                                                 Perhaps

Is your reputation for effectiveness and are the career opportunities afforded you directly linked.                                                                                                                              Perhaps

Why a great contribution Doesn’t Always Mean That You Benefit

For instance. If the agency loves the way you keep one client happy they may well be reluctant to move you to other accounts. Or, put another way, an agency whose priorities and timeline that differ to yours may prioritize training, work, performance and metrics that do not fairly reconcile your contribution, strengths or priorities; Or, you deliver but others claim the credit.

Delivering Consistently Means (In the absence of conscious career management)

If you do deliver consistently and others notice, you should survive (but don’t always).

If you are noticed you might not necessarily be rewarded at all or proportionately or in the way you might want to be.

Delivering tangible metrics yet without a career advocate, throws the recognition and aligned progression you deserve in to question.

Putting Your Employer to Work for You – How?

Accept responsibility for your career progression.

Always have an idea how you want to grow next even if you don’t know what you want your next challenge to be.

Have your own ‘purpose’ and pursue it, even if you don’t believe in the purpose of your employer, or its clients.

Ideally, anticipate what your next career step will be. The clearer you are about this the better able you will be to start harnessing the experience, knowledge and connections you will need to make you a shoe-in for the next role.

Standout by Getting Your Employer Working For You

Whilst working at your current agency you should consciously pursue experience, education and connections that enhance your distinctiveness as a business problem solver. You should do what you are paid to do (help optimize the agency of which you are part) but also remember that not also leveraging the agency to build your own value, is a wasted opportunity.

Don’t Regret What Was

It’s only once you cease to work for an agency that you appreciate the many things that provides, some obvious and some less so:

A job;A Team; Resources, (financial/creative); Access; Training; Experience; Exposure.

Your working in an agency can be great for the agency’s and its clients business. It should also be a positive step for your career growth.

The Connection between Great Work and Your Success

Does a happy client and grateful agency means you will have an optimized fast tracked career?                                                                                                                            Perhaps.

If you have are known for being an active team player, a proactive individual that helps to resolve client challenges and optimize opportunities, does this mean you will have a fast-tracked career.                                                                                                                 Perhaps

Is your reputation for effectiveness and are the career opportunities afforded you directly linked.                                                                                                                              Perhaps

Why a great contribution Doesn’t Always Mean That You Benefit

For instance. If the agency loves the way you keep one client happy they may well be reluctant to move you to other accounts. Or, put another way, an agency whose priorities and timeline that differ to yours may prioritize training, work, performance and metrics that do not fairly reconcile your contribution, strengths or priorities; Or, you deliver but others claim the credit.

Delivering Consistently Means (In the absence of conscious career management)

If you do deliver consistently and others notice, you should survive (but don’t always).

If you are noticed you might not necessarily be rewarded at all or proportionately or in the way you might want to be.

Delivering tangible metrics yet without a career advocate, throws the recognition and aligned progression you deserve in to question.

Putting Your Employer to Work for You – How?

Accept responsibility for your career progression.

Always have an idea how you want to grow next even if you don’t know what you want your next challenge to be.

Have your own ‘purpose’ and pursue it, even if you don’t believe in the purpose of your employer, or its clients.

Ideally, anticipate what your next career step will be. The clearer you are about this the better able you will be to start harnessing the experience, knowledge and connections you will need to make you a shoe-in for the next role.

How to positively manage the effects of sudden changes in a new job

theendoftheroad

I regularly receive calls that talk to an individual having started a new job and a few months in, it is unrecognizable from expectations, not simply because of a changed challenge but in terms of what was promised about people, the value of their expertise in the agency/company, the culture, resources, leadership and clients. The boss that hired you leaves, the client it turns out is completely unreasonable and/or not embracing the value your expertise can bring and/or, the function you represent period, for example strategic planning.  And, the department of which you are a part, doesn’t seem to have any practical leadership. These are just a few examples of challenges I’ve heard someone newly employed describe to me as they asked what they should do.

Now, it’s true, situations in the agency and business world can and do change very quickly. The role you were hired for can become manifestly different. Where you confront such a situation in a new role (1-3 months) you should ask yourself the following three questions:

Is the change significant enough that you believe you cannot be effective in the new role?

Can you through discussion alter the changed circumstances so that you can be effective?

Is there an opportunity for professional progression/a chance to develop your expertise even with the changed circumstances?

If the answer to all the above questions is “no,’ you should leave the role. If you take no action you are very likely going to go around in circles as you fail to direct your career. A better approach, whether you leave depends on rationalizing a course of action based in my opinion, on three factors: Your sanity; Your reputation; Your resume.

Sanity

More important than your reputation or resume is your state of mental health. Being in a situation for which you are unprepared, unsuited or simply don’t desire can adversely affect your mental state of mind. Extreme stress arises due to a complete lack of support or from a role or circumstances significantly different from those you believed you were being hired for. In such a situation if you cannot, even after talking with someone you trust, get clarity or assurance that the job you are being asked to perform will, in some timeframe align with that that you were hired for, then you should seriously consider leaving the agency.

Reputation

Whenever you are delivering a product or service you have been paid to deliver, the consistency and quality of that delivery is what your reputation is in large part based. Clearly other people’s perception of you are based on other factors too significantly, being seen to be easy to work with/cultural fit. A positive/can do attitude is the ally of a great reputation but even that is not enough if the quality and consistency of your work is not up to par. So whenever there are persistent factors that are out of your control and you cannot resolve, that will materially affect the consistent quality of your work, that would also be a reason either to change your current role with your current employer or to leave. Your reputation takes time to build but it can be damaged very quickly. You cannot afford to persist with anything that damages your ability to be the best you can be.

Resume

I’m often asked, even when an individual is unhappy and is struggling in their new role, ‘Should I stay another six months?’ I’m being asked this question even though there are no obvious concerns about mental health or loss of reputation that is, they can do the job but they are not happy or motivated by it. They are considering leaving their job but hesitating because of how this might look on their resume, their leaving a job after a short period of time. Clearly, if you have left your last two jobs within six months it becomes more important to prove you can commit. The question also arises whether the individual is simply ‘unlucky’ in their job selection or failing to properly qualify the jobs they are subsequently accepting. Irrespective, if what’s at stake is your state of mental health or reputation for delivering great work, these are compelling reasons for change, irrespective of how your resume looks.

The Oscar for Self-Awareness Goes To…You?

66fde7fa-9d4e-426c-820f-4f36d2a87753

As we approach the Oscars, no few fictional accounts would be more surprising than the 2016 reality that is the Hamar tribe of southern Ethiopia. There, the rites of passage to becoming a man include the tribe member running naked, over the backs of five bulls held together by other tribal members. If the individual can run backwards and forwards three times without falling off, he achieves manhood.

In support of this effort, during the afternoon before the bull running attempt, to prove their strength and solidarity, female relatives seek out male adults and aggressively pursue the men to hit them with a cane! Further when they are struck and scarred they are happy and smiling and when they are not, they overtly disappointed.

Rewards and Punishment – Rewards are not the same for any one person (or tribe) and the same rewards’ value can vary at different times. Society defines what rewards and success are. Conventional thinking here in the west is unofficially defined as being ‘big!’ (Office, car, salary, title) But, big for you can be (self-esteem, knowledge, free time, family, spirituality, learning).

There is no ‘right’ or wrong reward. That said, what is failure for me is a lack of self-awareness as to what we regard as reward and what is a punishment. Without this self-knowledge you will not recognize a great opportunity, even when presented to you.

Bull2

Growth and Nemesis – When you think about it, there are only two career directions. Forwards or backwards, progression or regression! And, growth, or stagnation, do not manifest in an orderly fashion but tend to be staggered, altering as we are confronted by major challenges or crossroads.

When they say that life is ‘all about timing’ they are really saying, prepare for the next crossroads! And, when I talk with anyone that is at or approaching a career junction, while they think they are talking about being bored or frustrated or at a lack of pay rise or new opportunity, they are in fact talking about their lack of growth: Financial, technical, vertical, interpersonal, managerial.

So, what is forwards for you? What does growth look like?

Blamecartoon

Time – Are you making effective use of it? -Would you say that you are going through the motions, versus using your time effectively either in what you are creating now or through where the current experience will take you? If you know you could do more, much more, you owe it yourself to step up and to be more proactive. And, this is the best way to prepare for the next job (as you are more likely to be noticed when energetic/proactive.) Then again, perhaps you are you unsure whether you are using your time effectively.

Bullcartoon

What’s needed to effectively assess your own situation? – Dependent on who you ask and based on their agendas, you will receive multiple perspectives on whether you are a huge waste of space or a pillar of the business. Impartial mentors and advocates are great to have in your lives but if you don’t, you need to find a way to effectively self-assess.

To effectively self-assess you need from time to time to get out of your ‘daily skin!’ Getting context and perspective on how things are really going for you is key to knowing anything. The quality of the assessment is also important, so a quality chance to reflect is key. Earthing encapsulates a broad ability to see clearly, to feel every day and truly enjoying your existence. Living in this mode is a combination of skills and habits that take time.

Personally I find remote travel a great way to look back on my life (away from the daily fray) and dispassionately assess what’s working and not, how I want so spend my time and don’t, the impact I hope to make through my work and am currently making or not!

How do you know if you’re on track? – Goal setting is part of the answer as is intermittent assessment of those goals, of who you want to be and the actions you want to experience. As important you need to be ‘actively’ involved in your own development on an on-going basis, not just occasionally.

Mindfulness/AKA Not going through the motions like an automaton – Along with intermittent time out reflection and assessment, we all need on an on-going basis, a true sense of self, which some refer to as mindfulness. For me, this is all about not being a robot! Not going through our lives unconsciously but the opposite! And if we know there is a poor quality to our day-to-day life, we pursue this course knowing what we are making the sacrifice of poorly spent time for. This understanding then justifies the time usage. That is, if we put up with boring, frustrating work, in growth-unfriendly environments, we do this knowing at some stage there is a pay-off, for us!

Alien

Avoiding the Perfect Storm = A sudden loss of your job without any preparation to get the next one..

perfectstorm2

A Sinking Ship

It’s the middle of the night and you are awoken to a shrieking alarm piercing the beautiful world that your dreams had transported you to. Brutally torn in to consciousness, you need to get out of the cabin and on to the deck. It’s dark, you are three decks down and for all you know the ship is sinking and this is not a drill!

Approaching the end of the financial year can be a very uncertain time for agency employees, as agencies desperate to make their numbers, cut the only meaningful costs, payroll. What can you do to mitigate this uncertainty?

Life can sometimes send us a perfect storm and we should anticipate the possibility by preemptively ensuring we are able to jump to another ship. Anticipation will ensure the other vessel is a yacht sailing quickly in to calmer and more prosperous waters, versus another sinking ship!

Preparing to Evacuate – Fire drills make sense

Don’t wait to make connections with other agencies and businesses; Don’t wait to have an up-to-date resume; Don’t wait to be engaged with social media, building your own reputation. And certainly don’t wait to be building specific expertise and achieving meaningful results. When you finally decide it’s time to move from your current job, be prepared in the only way you can be, leave from a position of strength. Don’t leave it until you’re desperate, until the alarm bells are ringing rather, plan ahead and, have a clear sense of what it is you are looking for. Anticipate that there could be an emergency and avert its effects because of you preparedness.

The whole idea of ‘on-going preparedness,’ covered in my previous article, ‘Mitigating Risky Career Maneuvers’ aimed to address. (The idea of actively every day preparing yourself for your next role.) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/mitigating-risky-career-maneuvers-stuart-parkin?trk=prof-post

Significantly, even if you are prepared to leave one ship for another, you then need qualify information in order to make a fair assessment as to whether an opportunity (or ship) in front of you is the best one for you.

How to gain a true sense of the opportunity?

When somebody is desperate to hire you, be mindful that they will, whether they know it or not, try to ‘sell’ you and therefore, may be tempted to tell you what you want to hear.

Equipped with a sense of what role and circumstances will make for a great professional progression, your challenge is to ask questions which do not alert the interviewer to the information you need objective answers to.

Can I be successful in this role?

To understand whether you can be successful in a new role requires an understanding of culture, leadership style, agency goals, team, strategic style and the resources and timeframe you will have to deliver. And if working on an account, the state of the account and why the role exists for which you are being hired. You should have a clear sense of the value associated with your core skills in the new agency.

Which questions help me to truly qualify the opportunity in front of me?

So, what types of questions help you evaluate the opportunity for your next career step: Some good ones include:

Who does the agency regard as its main competition? = what type of work is ‘really done’

How does the agency primarily derive its revenue? = What is the real channel focus here?

What type of work is most celebrated here? = Creative, strategic, cost saving?

What characteristics do successful people here exhibit? = What/Who is valued?

Why is your agency successful? = What defines success here?

What is the biggest anticipated change expected here in the next year? = Gives the interviewer a chance to inform you about pending leadership, client or organizational changes.

What does a successful 2016 look like for the agency? = How ambitious are people here?

perfectstorm2