How to Achieve Job Security: Intelligent Job-Hopping

Four Key Advantages You Might Want to Consider

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The digital agency landscape is still like the Old West, with new frontiers sprawling out before us. Over a decade ago, we spoke of "multimedia" -- what we now call digital. Those working in multimedia knew that having a single focus could mean job instability, as it was essential to have a working knowledge of print, broadcast, development, sound, motion, design and usability.

Bucking their forefathers' tradition of being "company men," digital pioneers went from shop to shop, pursuing varied experience and rounding out their skills, portfolios and resumes.

Agencies today are looking for talent with diverse abilities to meet the demands of brands and their customers. No longer can creative professionals concentrate on one discipline and expect job security. More than ever, they must be chameleons, quickly adapting to challenges to keep their work fresh, clients satisfied and personal growth healthy. Successful creatives burn bright and leave big shoes to fill.

A mono-agency environment seldom provides the necessary growth potential. Those who try to make a career from such a position find themselves serving lattes to more-savvy creatives. Though job-jumping can be riddled with pitfalls and unknowns, those courageous enough to embrace their fears will quickly outpace their peers.

A few of the advantages to responsible job-jumping:

Experience. Every agency works with different brands that require distinctive thinking and ideas. Brand diversity is potentially the most attractive attribute on any resume.

Networks. "It's all about who you know" is absolutely true as you climb the ladder. A deep Rolodex of talented agency pros is a priceless possession.

Salary bump. Switching jobs is probably the best way to increase your pay. This is your opportunity to sell yourself and justify the astronomical salary you're demanding. Be bold. Know what you're worth, and don't be afraid to ask for it.

Creative fertilizer. Most creative people need change and a chance to reinvent themselves. A new job offers a fresh start, with a new environment, new people and new ideas. Dive in and maintain the excitement.

But before you start combing job sites and cramming creative directors' inboxes, set goals and stick to them:

  • Commit at least 18 months to the next position. Anything less jeopardizes your relationships and real potential to learn.
  • Choose an environment that employs a creative pro you want to learn from. Target the expertise you desire and absorb their process.
  • Be curious and listen. Spend time getting to know and understand people outside the creative department.
  • Bring something to the party. New hires are always exciting for others. Contribute, share your knowledge and build your professional network.
  • Have an exit strategy. Seeing past your next post is crucial to long-term success.
  • Leave the agency better than you found it. Nothing ruins your plans faster than departing on bad terms. If you can't avoid burning bridges, be prepared to swim.
  • The key comes down to one simple trait: initiative. If you're not actively learning new skills on your own, creating projects to bolster your portfolio and simply being curious, you'll be hard-pressed to entice anyone to hire you.

    This is advertising. Selling yourself to a potential employer requires talent, craft and, more than anything, hard work. So get to it!

    Tom Lehmann is a partner and creative director at Blue Collar Interactive, Hood River, Ore.

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