What I've Learned From Being at One Agency for Eight Years
I am an anomaly. A unicorn. A weirdo.
A "company man." A lifer.
I am a human being who has stayed at the same advertising agency for eight years.
That's two full terms of college. That is, if you're being an epically responsible college student for all of both terms and graduate on time.
That's a virtual eternity in the advertising business.
A veritable shitload of time.
That's eight years of missed jockeying for a new position, leveling up by jumping jobs, and climbing the corporate ladder.
And as evidence shows, that is eight years of missed opportunity to get P-A-I-D.
So why? Why do I stay?
Am I stagnant? Complacent? Too comfortable?
Am I a talentless hack who fell into this position and can't find anything decent, anywhere else?
I can't judge my merits on my own. Although I will say I've never closed my door to an opportunity or posted a strong LinkedIn missive saying, "I AM NOT OPEN TO OPPORTUNITIES."
I've never stopped building and maintaining my network, and I periodically chat with clients, other agencies, and startups about what else is out there. At times, I've even debated going freelance.
Do I stay because, at my company, WE ARE A FAMILY?
Although my particular one has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of working towards a better work/life balance, being conscious of late-night and weekend work, and creating an environment where people are comfortable being vulnerable. In short, they are really, truly trying. Management's heads and hearts are in the right place, and I can see, acknowledge and appreciate that.
It's not like the opportunities haven't arisen.
It's just that the better opportunities have continued to show themselves right in front of me.
Whether that's bringing on a new client with a totally blank creative canvas, doubling the size of our creative department (and giving me even more of a chance to lead both hands-on and by example), or via organic growth—the wonderful financial equivalent of clear trust built between agency and client—every day has brought a new challenge, and has brought me back hungry and curious for more. Plus, I've been given the runway to build and foster multiple mentorship programs inside and outside our agency walls.
Of course, I've been taken care of financially from within. (Mostly) annual pay bumps. A promotion. Bonuses.
More than that, I can see what I affect. Every day. Good or bad. And that meaningful, visceral everyday result, coupled with the opportunity to create truly strong client work from a huge range of industries (from health insurance to tourism to sports) means my attention and ambition never wander far.
I've been thinking about my ridiculously long single-entity employment tenure a lot lately, as the Great Resignation fallout has been brought to bear in the form of many, many great regrets.
That's the slippery slope we all face. When to jump. When to stay. When to go out, get another offer, then stay as your company begrudgingly matches your new offer—an ugly dance I've done while previously employed—necessarily, if not proudly.
As someone who has been employed in the same industry awhile at some different companies large and small, I feel very fortunate to have the context, the knowledge and the wisdom to weigh my standing in a non-scientific, but semi-scientific, manner.
S.W.O.T. analysis forthcoming!
My philosophy is simple (perhaps stupidly so): I've worked at enough places to identify and weigh the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats my company currently faces, then sit back and see if it feels right to me. It's not something you do once. It's something you should do quarterly, at minimum. Get too comfortable for too long, as we all know, and that's a recipe for stagnation.
But time and again, from year one to year eight, I do my S.W.O.T. analysis, then keep coming back.
Eight years at one place, all in a row, isn't for everyone. When you're younger, the grass is even more always greener. But if you don't have anything to compare your grass to, it's a lot harder to identify when it's time to move on versus when you've got a good thing going. OK, tortured grass analogy over.
Life is short. Careers are long. Do your S.W.O.T. analysis frequently, and be honest about what you find. Repeat.
Here's to another 70,080 hours.