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
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.
THE CASH TRAP
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,’
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.’
THE BIG DECISION
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