The fast road to obsolescence

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There could be 3 broad ‘levels’ in almost every department in an advertising agency: Directional, Supervisory and Execution. Each of those levels have certain expectations and job profiles (usually unwritten). In reality, the approach to ‘levels’ and designations is ‘as you please‘, especially in Account Management & Creative. A ‘Senior Account Executive’ in one agency could be equivalent to a ‘brand associate’ in another and an Account Manager could be senior to an Account Supervisor depending on which agency you work in. In Creative too, there could be Creative Group Heads managing a group of er..1 (including self) – essentially designation is a not a ‘CD si baat‘.

When it comes to ‘who does what’ – especially with Account Management, often the lines get blurred. Everyone does everything. I am not suggesting that senior people should not be ‘hands on’ or roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty on operational work. They should. Getting involved in operations is an inescapable part of our business – no matter how high up in the echelon you are. It is not all about putting your feet up and ‘strategizing’ once you become  a ‘Senior’ something. It boils down to time management – extracting the best out of others so that you find the time for the ‘thinking’ part of the business.

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But irrespective of change in skill set, mindset or experience it is customary to expect a promotion and a title change every years. Like clock work. So if someone joins the industry at say, 23 and stays on till his early 30s he is most likely to perform a directional role – as AD, CSD, Branch Manager or even a GM. Fact is, not everyone gets to become a profit center head in their early 30s. But everyone expects a promotion every 2 years. It doesn’t stop at the junior levels. Even Profit Center Heads seek a title change and maybe even a role change (larger responsibilities, geographies) pretty often. I overheard someone being introduced to a group of people as ‘Meet XYZ. He is the Branch Manager of ABC’. Immediately that person reacted with indignation: ‘No, I am the Executive Vice President’.

Yes, it is important to reward people at all levels – it could be in the form of titles, more money (yes, please!) or more responsibilities. But someone must explain to youngsters that expecting a title change & role change every 2 years like clock work is not a good thing. We could be promoting someone to a level which (s)he may not be ready for. There is value in patience and equipping ourselves with skill sets that make us ready for the next level. But since we are all in a hurry, will we have time to ask ourselves if ours is a fast road to success or obsolescence?

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