SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?: Your overdraft is frightening and you’re fed up with the same old faces. Time to get a better job. But do you really have to move on to move up, asks Harriet Marsh?

You joined the company at the same time, you sit next to each other and you suspect you’re better at the job than he is. Then one day your co-worker, looking smug, tells you he’s off. It’s a job at an online media company. Similar basic salary, but the prospect of great bonuses and, of course, a foot in the door of a new business with loads of potential.

You joined the company at the same time, you sit next to each other

and you suspect you’re better at the job than he is. Then one day your

co-worker, looking smug, tells you he’s off. It’s a job at an online

media company. Similar basic salary, but the prospect of great bonuses

and, of course, a foot in the door of a new business with loads of


You congratulate him, but it niggles. If he’s moving on, maybe you

should too. Online is not something that interests you, but it’s

obviously the sector to be in. You stay late and surreptitiously update

your CV, adding ’new media’ to your list of interests.

Deciding that it’s time to move jobs when someone else in the office

leaves is one of the biggest cliches in career management. It is also a

very bad idea - almost on a level with trying to get a job in online

when new technology leaves you cold, or fabricating interests on your


’The industry is littered with people who think they ought to move as a

result of peer pressure,’ says Paul Farrer, senior partner at

recruitment consultant Phee Farrer Jones. ’It’s not a good idea. Have

your own reason.’

According to Farrer, people who work in media sales have particular


You’re all driven, confident, enthusiastic, go-getters. Little surprise

that you’re often in a hurry to go-get the next big job. But it’s

important to bear in mind that shifting from company to company is a

strategy that can be misconstrued by future employers.

’A CV tells an employer about your ability to stick at something,’ says

Hugh Joslin, managing director at Media Contacts. ’We would always

advocate that people stay a given period of time in each job, probably

between 12 and 18 months if they are just starting out.’

Across the board, the advice is the same - don’t be in a hurry to move

on. One reason is that future employers will be reassured by staying

power. ’If someone pitches up who has had eight jobs in eight years I’m

going to worry,’ says Duncan George, managing director of Opus.

’Because unless they’re really experienced it is going to take them

three to four months to really get to know our stations. If they are

likely to leave soon afterwards it’s not going to be worth employing


In addition, the media industry now offers better prospects for young

media sales executives than it did ten or even five years ago. Working

for a TV sales house no longer means simply selling space on ITV. The

growth of satellite and cable and the development of digital and online

may create opportunities to move horizontally within media companies,

rather than worrying about the next vertical move. This applies across

all sectors of the industry.

’When I joined we were a one-section newspaper,’ says Carolyn McCall,

deputy managing director of The Guardian and The Observer. ’There was no

new media, no database marketing, no sponsorship. We were a sales

department and you looked vertically for any progression because that

was the way you were going to learn. Now it’s not only vertical moves

that can stretch or benefit you.’

Given this, it is not surprising that many of the bigger media companies

now put considerable effort into persuading their young recruits to stay

put. Flextech, for instance, builds this into its training scheme. ’We

hope it gives people both the skills to do the job they are paid to do,

but also reveals areas of the business not core to their ability. This

gives them the opportunity to think about things they might do with

Flextech in the future,’ says Tony Wheble, senior vice-president, sales

and commercial affairs.

Training can be an incentive to stay with a company. This is certainly

the experience of Granada Media Sales, which recently finished an

18-month training programme for its sales executives. ’When we look at

the period June 1998 to June 1999 we have very little staff turnover. At

the sales executive level at least, we put that down to our training

programme. It seemed to keep people in their seats,’ says resources

director Edwina Kenny.

In addition, Granada now produces a book, Your Career in Granada Media,

which gives people the chance to research opportunities within the


It also provides a self-assessment guide which can help to plan a career


Such initiatives are becoming more and more common. It’s clearly a good

idea to ensure that you have explored all the options before you decide

to move on.

’With 200 people working for me I can’t be expected to pick up on all

their inner hopes and dreams,’ says Kathryn Jacob, sales director at

Virgin Radio. ’So ask your existing company first if you want to do

something different. If it isn’t possible, then think where you are

going to go to get what you want.’

One recruitment consultant listed some of the reasons why people on her

books were looking for a new job. These included money - a low basic and

unrealistic targets - promises not kept by employers, not being

allocated good clients, personality clashes, a desire to move into an

area perceived as sexier and the desire for more responsibility.

Jacob can add to the list. ’People move because they are frustrated,

because they believe the grass is greener, or because they’ve talked

themselves into a certain state of mind,’ she says.

’However, if they’re sensible, it’s about moving themselves on,

broadening themselves, or taking the opportunity to work on a great


This view is backed by Gill Hollis, joint managing director at The Davis

Company, who suggests a long-term view is important when considering a

job move. ’After three or four years in the industry people should be

planning their careers,’ she says. ’They should be moving to achieve

something they can’t achieve where they are.’

Once you’ve decided that the time has come to move on, it’s important to

remember that the job market is a minefield. Recruitment consultants and

employers have their own agendas. For this reason it’s unwise to read

too much into job titles. ’Always make sure that you fully understand

the job brief,’ says Jacob at Virgin Radio. ’A big job title may mean

bugger all.’

Similarly, she suggests it can be unwise to compare salary levels

without taking into account other factors, such as the level of autonomy

and responsibility available to you. Another factor to consider is that

a new employee may find themselves an unwilling pawn in a complicated

round of office politics.

Try and find out as much as you can about the company before you


But don’t let this stop you moving at all. ’A lot of people mismanage

their careers,’ says Hollis. ’I’ve seen talented people who haven’t made

decisions early enough end up in a dead-end job.’

The fact that many people have made a bad move at some point means

employers are unlikely to judge lone incidents harshly - as long as you

can demonstrate that you handled the situation professionally and have

learned from the experience.


One of the most common motivations for moving to a new job is more cash

This is especially the case if you’re just starting out in an industry

where a pounds 5,000 rise represents a high percentage increase. But the

experts say it’s foolish to be guided by your wallet. ’Don’t make a

decision based entirely on money,’ says Gill Hollis, joint managing

director of recruitment consultant The Davis Company. ’You may think

it’s a big salary, but two months later it doesn’t mean much.’

Jane Furby, ad sales director for The Wall Street Journal, suggests that

while a good salary is a great attraction, you should think about where

you’re going to be in three years time. ’People can be working for an

established company, then they get poached for a job offering a higher

salary. The only problem is that the job goes nowhere.’

Established media companies generally offer better perks, although the

current trend is to replace benefits with a cash allowance. If you’re in

your early 20s you’re unlikely to put a pension scheme or company

healthcare high on your list or priorities, but that’s likely to change

as you get older. ’They are signs to an employee that they are valued,’

says Hollis.

The Holy Grail is a new job offering more responsibility as well as a

bigger salary. But sometimes this can conflict with career objectives,

especially if you’re seeking to move to a new area of the industry.

While the rapid growth of new media means that experience is not

generally a prerequisite for getting a job in online, moving from press

to broadcast may mean taking a step back to move forward - and a salary


Hollis suggests that the more junior you are, the easier it is to make

the move. ’Employers are not always totally honest with a bloody good

sales person,’ she says. ’They may tell you to get some management

experience first. In fact, if you want to work in a new sector you need

to get some experience as soon as possible. If you want to go into TV or

radio when you’ve never sold a broadcast medium, you’re likely to have

go in as a trainee.’


Reasons to stay put

1 You feel there are still opportunities where you are.

2 Your company invests in regular training.

3 Your boss provides structured career feedback.

4 You work for a company with a good reputation and a vision of the


5 You are working with good people in an enjoyable work environment.

Reasons to move on

1 You feel you there’s nothing more you can learn where you are and you

want to widen your experience.

2 The company does not invest in training or offer any structured career


3 You have discussed your dissatisfaction with your boss, who has been

unable to offer you the prospect of future solutions.

4 You dread going to work either because you dislike your job or feel

uncomfortable in the work environment.

5 You get offered your dream job which will set you on track for the



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