Back in the good old days, an advertising agency was the quintessential revolving door enterprise, with people coming and going all the time as they moved from agency to agency every six or 12 months. It is still like that, but the industry has adapted to it and in fact seems to thrive in catering to the fickle ad man.
My resume looks a little like swiss cheese from all the jobs I've had in the past 11 years. On the positive side, I've had a chance to work with many different companies in many different industries. I've met a lot of people and learned that solutions from one industry can apply to other industries. On the negative hand, I've always had to explain to people outside the business why I (and my advertising brethren) move around so much.
But now the ad business has some competition in the revolving-door sweepstakes. Thanks to the technology industry, job-hopping no longer carries the stigma it once did. Having a resume that lists jobs in the double rather than single digits is now a badge of honor instead of a scarlet letter on your trusty interview suit.
Just the other day I was reading my Internet Week and saw there an ad for the high-tech job site Dice.com. The gist of the body copy was that some guy (obviously a grinning techie, hands behind his head, feet up on desk or something like that) just found a great tech job that gave him tons of money, great benefits, etc. But the last sentence was killer: He says something to the effect that he's going to roll the dice again in six months to see how much more he can make.
Six months! If you're in human resources, this is probably not news to you. I found it rather appalling, despite my own peripatetic career. Even I have shown loyalty to employers for at least ten months! At the same time that I was appalled, however, I was also a little bit pleased to realize my resume would be easier to explain to my family and any potential employers. (Note to boss: These are hypothetical potential employers; I'm not looking for a job.)
When someone asks how many jobs I've had, I no longer have to preface my response with a defensive "Well, in the advertising industry, it is typical for people to move around a lot to get promoted or to get a raise... yadda yadda yadda." Now that the high-tech industry has followed in the footsteps of the ad biz, everyone is accepting the professional who carries a swiss cheese resume.
The difference between ad people and techies is that there comes a point in an advertising career where you're expected to settle down: You've been around the block, you've learned from the best, you've paid your dues, and you know how to handle just about any client situation. Usually, that comes sometime between the 10th and 15th year. (Those of you at this stage in your career are nodding your heads.)
The difference between the marketing world and the technology world lies in the fact that technology is always changing, whereas the oldest marketing principles still apply today. New principles may surface, but they're usually new versions of the old ones, tailored for the new economy.
You see, for the most part I still believe things like "the customer is always right" and "building a loyal customer base that buys only from you will make you successful" and "every product goes through some variation of the standard product lifecycle."
On the other hand, the techie is doomed to keep roaming the earth to find that next job or project. He can't help it; technology is ever changing and evolving. He thirsts for the newest, hottest projects to add to his resume.
Well, I wish Technology Man good luck. And I thank him for making it no longer necessary for me to defend my variegated resume. (Not that it much matters right now, since I won't be on the road for a while.)
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Michelle Ellis is Director of Account Planning at M2K, a top-100 interactive agency. She started her career over a decade ago focusing on the retail and business-to-business industries. M2K specializes in interactive marketing solutions for clients, including strategic positioning, media planning and buying, offline and online creative, web site design, intranets, and extranets.
March 19, 2014