How do you define a radical careerist?

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Careerists kick-start momentum, push for bigger ideas and create their own opportunities. They have the courage to envision something bigger than themselves, and the audacity to make that vision a reality. At work, careerists refuse to merely push papers and mindlessly follow bureaucracy; these professionals are all about action. They treat the word "career" as a verb, which is "careering." Think back to those times when you've performed at your best, when you blew past expectations and quite simply kicked ass. That's when you were a radical careerist.

Radical careerists and risk-takers. One and the same?

Radical careerists aren't adrenaline junkies; they take calculated risks. Instead of recklessly throwing themselves into the unknown, they strategically push themselves and their career to the next level.

When did you take a risk and succeed? Or fail? What did you learn?

A few years ago I was co-founder of my own agency and left to open the West Coast office of Crispin Porter & Bogusky as creative director/managing director. I took that very significant risk with two strategic goals: One, I wanted to push my learning curve by working with the smartest people in the industry. And two, I wanted to grow the office into a successful business.

Well, opening day was Sept. 10, 2001. And you know what day came next.

So did I learn a ton from the smartest people? Yes, definitely. Did I meet my business goals? No. And that bums me out.

What value lies in the willingness to push the envelope-in management, creativity, career, marketing strategy?

Let's face it. Your company is not going to take care of you anymore. Not only do you not get a gold watch-you might get a pink slip tomorrow. And that's fine, as long as you're consistently investing in yourself and your future by boosting your own personal market value. In "Radical Careering," I call this "portable equity": consciously investing in yourself by adding new skills, accomplishments, forms of experience, contacts and any valuable forms of career currency.

What risk-takers-in business or otherwise-have wowed you?

Richard Branson and Steve Jobs are quintessential careerists. So is Steven Hawking. And Oprah Winfrey. And so is my husband, who decided to leave his career as a creative director to become a stay-at-home dad. Radical careerists live according to what's possible, instead of being confined by what is.

What one career risk do you think most businesspeople are most afraid to make?

To find their own "ultimate competitive advantage" and then turn that into their own personal brand.

What particular career challenges do you think CMOs face regularly-and how should they best handle them?

The most dangerous risk for CMOs-or anyone who shoulders corporate risk with their decisions-is mediocrity. Their jobs come with mighty temptations to hide amid the layers of bureaucracy and avoid taking a stand.

How do you think the advertising and marketing world could benefit from more radical careerists and/or risk-takers?

When you're confident that you've got the results, reputation and network to walk away from any situation that becomes unacceptable, you've got real power. When you avoid risk, you produce crappy advertising.

But the biggest danger of avoiding risk is that you stop innovating and start settling.

That's the biggest risk for your company's brand-and your own.

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