Long-time friend and former colleague Brian Kelly spoke to my Agency Management class last week about his interesting career, comparing it to the multi-stage Saturn V rocket that propelled Apollo 11′s successful landing on the moon. Like that rocket, Brian’s career has had many stages that led to what he describes as a “successful mission.”
“Building a career is a lot like getting to the moon,” Brian explained. “Each job is like an engine. Jobs cluster and create specific stages within a career. You might start out in an agency and then move on to the client side. And then back again! All along the way you must have an objective.
“The objective of any career should simply be happiness,” Brian said. “Objectives are crucial because they require you to determine what you want out of life. What makes you smile, sing or cry. Objectives require you to know yourself.”
Citing the Multiple Generations @Work study by Future Workplace that says 91% of Millennials will change jobs every three years, Brian said there’s nothing wrong with that type of early-in-your-career movement. In fact, Brian noted that he’s worked for eight different companies where he’s held 35 different jobs–equal to a new job every year since graduating from college.
Brian noted that his career in marketing communications was agile with each experience leading to the next. From client to agency and back gain, success in position lead to increasing responsibilities and eventually leadership. Brian now enjoys being on his own in a successful consulting practice brianbrands.com where he has more control over the types of work he does and the amount of time away from home. Like many other marketing and PR professionals, Brian’s decision to “go it alone” requires a lot of careful thought since it’s not easy to do. He offered four attributes that anyone pursuing a freelance career should possess or develop:
Think Horizon-tically. Neither just up, down, nor sideways but all of the above. Your mind needs to be on a swivel ready to adapt and convert opportunities as they come your way.
Listen Attentively. As a successful account person, I learned the crucial importance to confirm my understanding of a client’s need before spending a dime. That’s still necessary; however the sensitivity to nuance and unspoken communication is as critical. This is not only for your own protection but also to protect your value to your client.
Speak Carefully. Having been in and consulted to the agency business, knowing to under promise and over deliver is essential. When your name is on the door, you must be ever vigilant not only in what you say, but to whom you say it. You are your brand and you no longer can fall back upon the good graces of an employer.
Assume Ownership. I think going it alone is better once you’ve enjoyed a variety of experiences. These expand your understanding of the needs of people. Having served as CMO for several brands, I know what most of my clients are experiencing and in some cases before they do. It is in these conditions that I am able to extend my value beyond the specific assignment. Now I am able to put myself in their shoes and deliver solutions that steer clear or mitigate unforeseen obstacles. In doing so, you increase your value to your client.