Career Mapping 2

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Why is Career Mapping important?

•Many different paths

"Not all advertising careers follow a similar or linear path, as evidenced by the number of advertising legends such as David Ogilvy, who worked as a chef in Paris, a door-to-door salesman, a social worker, and a researcher before beginning his advertising career. Many current agency managers have worked in other industries, such as entertainment, before moving to advertising. Biographies of some of the advertising “greats” read more like adventure novels than calibrated, purposeful strategic plans. And it is not unusual to hear a person who has “made it big” attribute success to “being in the right place at the right time” or to some sort of “lucky” coincidence. This can be frustrating for an employee who is looking for structure and guidance in job progression. Such is the nature of the advertising industry, where people from all types of different backgrounds, education and training converge to fill positions in advertising agencies that themselves morph with business, economic and cultural trends from year to year.


•The importance of a plan

In university advertising programs, it is not unusual for career or placement counselors and professors to emphasize the relationship between campaign planning and the entry-level job search. Students are told that in terms of obtaining a job, they are “products” that need to be marketed to prospective employers. It seems somewhat ironic that the type of focused effort on identifying personal and professional strengths and weaknesses, and analyzing “marketing” opportunities for themselves often gets lost once they get swept up in their first jobs.

And while there may be no “cookie-cutter” templates for success in the advertising world, it is important for those entering the advertising business to be aware of general or typical expectations, milestones, directions and progression that their careers have the possibility of taking. In a recent article, communication career consultants Dewhurst and FitzPatrick (2007) quoted surveys that show that communication professionals in general exhibit a lack of career planning and tend to approach career development in an ad hoc manner. While advertising professionals would insist that clients engage in strategic planning and goal-setting for their brands, they very well may not have a brand plan for themselves as individuals.

•Career mapping is a joint effort

To be effective, career mapping should be a joint effort with input from both employer and employee, and it should address both work and life goals. Employers and employees do not work in a vacuum, nor do employees abandon their life goals when they come to work. An effective career map aligns the employee’s talents and aspirations with the organization’s mission and goals, and permits the employee to have a life that reflects a “life/work balance.”

Much of the career management literature since the 1990s has focused on the shift in responsibility for career planning from employer to employee, due to a number of economic and social factors. There is a consensus that career mapping is primarily the responsibility of the employee, but that the employer plays a critical role in facilitating career planning and providing feedback and guidance for the employee.

•Cultural factors matter in career mapping

Advertising employers should provide employees with information and guidance about career mapping within the organization, and it is especially important that employers understand the different issues and approaches that multicultural employees might have in the area of career advancement. Heritage, upbringing and life views can greatly affect one’s approach to life and all of its components, including work. Understanding where an employee is “coming from” with respect to achievement, advancement and general “fit” within an organization is critical if career mapping is to be done in a wholistic manner.

•The business case for career mapping from the four points of view

In terms of financial justification for providing career mapping within the organization, management and HR can consider the following equation about the cost savings of developing and retaining good employees within the organization:

Higher retention rates = lower turnover = fewer expenses for searches, training and replacement costs

To the extent that effective career mapping will result in retention of valuable employees, including multicultural employees, management at all levels should consider the basic “business case” for maintaining a diverse workforce:

Diversity contributes to enhanced productivity, innovation and profit.

From the point of view of the multicultural employee, the benefit of self-assessment, objective-setting and “having a plan” contributes to the achievement of personal and work goals in a timely manner.

Common challenges/situations

  • Multicultural employees inquire about how their careers might progress in one of the several advertising areas of specialization such as media, account management, creative or research.
  • Employees are curious about whether or when to change employers to achieve career goals – “moving on and up.” Should they try to remain in the same organization for their entire careers? If not, how often should they change employers?
  • Managers seek to determine the proper “fit” of an employee for a position within the organization.
  • Human resource professionals desire to respect the individuality of the employee in advising about career progression.
  • Human resource professionals seek information to assess the effects that a multicultural employee’s cultural values have on career decisions and progression.
  • Senior management desires a diverse workforce at all levels of the organization, but may not know how to achieve such a goal.

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