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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.