Whilst there’s no magic formula, knowing the answers to these six questions will stand you in good stead for the future.
1. Do you like what you do?
It's a fundamental question but one often forgotten.
If you’re fortunate to be in your dream job then good for you, you lucky thing. However a whopping 80% of marketing professionals dread Mondays. If you’re experiencing ‘the fear’ every Sunday night ask yourself what the core issue is. If you aren’t happy with your current company but essentially like what you do then by all means crack on to a new challenge. If the fundamental problem is that you have fallen out of love with your industry then maybe it’s time to think about Plan B.
The most important thing is to do a job that you are interested in and are able to do well. That really and truly is a fantastic start.
2. Who’s in control of your career?
‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ said Alice.
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t care much where,’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
At the junior level, don’t freak out you’re not really sure where you are heading. Even in the hugely dynamic marketing world, your industry forefathers have already worn a well-trodden career path for you. You really could do worse than follow that until you work the rest out.
However at some point, you need to decide what your career goal is. There is no point in deciding after 15 years in the tech sector that you really want to focus on high fashion brands (or vice versa). I'd never say it’s an impossible move to make but it's certainly a lot trickier than staying in the same field.
It’s also worth remembering that your boss – however wonderful and supportive they may or may not be – is probably not having sleepless nights about where your career is heading. Don’t leave it in their hands.
3. Have you given your current company enough time? Or too much?
On average, people move companies about 11 times during their working life, which equates to a move roughly every four years.
So, if you’re consistently hopping companies every year or two, then perhaps you may want to reconsider your strategy; particularly as you enter the senior echelons of your industry. Inevitably the best jobs go to people who have demonstrated a combination of talent, longevity and commitment throughout their career.
Similarly if you have been at the same company for more than five years, consider what you are getting from the deal. If you are still learning and progressing then you’re in a great situation so it makes sense to stay. However, if all that is stopping you moving is that staying is so much easier, be aware that your career will start to stall.
4. How strong is your network of industry friends?
The industry is more connected than ever and invariably you’ll bump into previous colleagues all over the place. This can be a great shortcut into beneficial business relationships but not so good if you’ve had more than your fair share of epic fallouts. People talk. It’s the way of the world.
The best advice is wherever possible to not burn any bridges. Obviously in such a creative industry where passions run high, this can be tough so pick who you cross swords with very carefully.
5. Is the grass greener elsewhere?
When you need to find a new challenge, the golden rule really is always move towards a great opportunity rather than running screaming from your current seat.
Far too frequently people leap into a new role - any new job to get away from my current one - without considering if that move will represent an improvement. Invariably this is where mistakes can happen as the grass is not always greener. One blip on the CV can be explained. Two or more can become tricky.
6. Should you freelance?
We are often approached by candidates looking to resign from their permanent role and enter the world of freelance. Before taking this leap, however it is worth thinking about what you want to achieve from your time as a freelancer.
Don’t get me wrong. Freelancing offers a number of benefits – most obviously: increased income, new experiences, increased flexibility.
However there is a potential payoff in terms of career development. Freelancers are not always perceived to be in a role long enough to gain the necessary skills and experience to move to the next level.
In addition, once you have freelanced for an extended amount of time, there are companies who will be wary about hiring you into a perm role. "I don’t want to see freelance CVs for this" is something we often hear from MDs and CEOs and particularly for the most sought-after positions.
In essence therefore, by all means become a freelancer but go in with your eyes wide open, an objective and a plan.
If you would like to discuss how The Great & The Good can help you achieve your career goals, give us a call on 020 8622 4408 or find us at www.greatandgoodtalent.co.uk
David Love is founding partner of The Great & The Good