The career opportunities in the communication industry are vast. I'd wager few other professions would have the same diversity of roles. Agency, in-house, consumer, business, public, private, industry specialist, communication product specialist, the list is extensive.
Yet, when the term 'career planning' is mentioned, it's associated with graduates who are looking to get their initial foothold in the industry. With only a limited understanding of what's ahead of them, they need the full gamut of possibilities presented to them, buffet-style, in order to help them pick a path through the vast inkiness of communications to a destination that acceptably matches their interests and ambition in four, eight or even ten years time.
From my own experience, I spent the first six years of my communications career getting on-the-job experience in agencies that were very diligent in providing training and development. I was lucky to be given a swathe of different accounts from different industries to work on. But even then, I was tagged a 'generalist'. I presumed that meant I had a wider choice of future career options. In reality, I had narrowed my options to 'generalist' agencies at a time when 'specialists' were in demand.
It's at the five to six year point that the typical communication professional looks at their experience, looks to understand the aforementioned 'vast' industry of communications and starts to plan their next role a little more carefully. This is another moment where some independent career planning can go a long way. The reality is that their next choice of job will place them on a path (or in a box) that will radically narrow their employment options post the ten year experience mark.
In my seventh year, I saw the specialist light and joined a technology agency during the dotcom bubble. Eight glorious years later and I was a senior agency technology specialist looking for a new challenge. Without consciously realising it, I had been firmly wedged in the box marked, 'technology, agency, management'. As I soon realised, there were only a handful of similar roles in Sydney and all of them held the same kind of challenge.
It's at the 15 year mark that communication professionals become masters of the core communication skills. They have built up a solid list of organisations they have either worked for or in and hopefully are doing the kind of work they have always dreamed about. The alternative is that they are suddenly realising their hard earned experiences aren't attracting the employers they really want to work for or in.
That's when the reality of career planning hits you. An agency person with 15 plus years of experience attempting to apply for in-house roles is like trying to fit a triangle peg into a square hole. Knowing that an in-house role is where you'd like to be in 10, 12 or 15 years time needs careful planning, well in advance. In-house is in-house, agency experience is not.
And that's where a career plan can make all the difference. When you reach the 15+ year experience mark, you want to know that you have the right experience and skills to help you land the senior communication job that you have always dreamed about.
So what's your plan?
Original article written by Anthony Lowe, Director, The Roxburgh Group. The Roxburgh Group provides career planning services to Australian communication professionals.