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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Some Thoughts After 30+ Years of Recruiting


As I look back on 30 years of recruiting, much has happened. I have posted on my blog about many events and observations, but there are some additional thoughts - mostly about people - I would like to share.

I have met a lot of wonderful people over the years. I regret that I have not been able to place every one of them. And I have written several times that when a recruiter does not place somebody, it does not mean that they do not like them. In fact I have not placed some of my favorite people; their wants and needs may not be in line for opportunities that I currently have at the time they are looking. Often, when I find the right opening and I call them, they have moved on and are not now interested.

Because I meet between 5 and 15 people each week, sometimes more, I regret that I cannot keep up with all of them. There are just too many people that I like or that I think are very talented and placeable.  I wish I could call all of them to check in on a regular basis.

Over the years, I have played a game with myself. As I meet people, I try to guess early on in their careers, who are the superstars. Who will be successful? And whose career is going to crash into a pile of mud? One thing that I have discovered, is that I am often wrong. I don’t believe there are any predictors of success, at least not that I have discovered.  So much of major success has to do with place and time, much of which is almost random.  As a result, some of the least likely people become highly successful and some of the most likely people, who I thought would be fabulous, just kind of fade into oblivion; some by their own choice, others by the coincidences and chances of their careers.

As I think back, I see a few people who were potential superstars who, for reasons only known to them, just pulled themselves back from the brink of success. Some did not want to pay the price of huge success and pass by money and fame and choose, instead, family and lifestyle. I respect them immensely.

Some people make terrible decisions which cost them dearly. I actually regret that I could not help them and those decisions. It's not that I am always right, but I do have a good track record for being correct about people and jobs and what will work and what will not.

Many people whose careers where on the verge of success make very strange short cuts, thinking that those choices would more quickly lead them to greater success.  This often happens to people who are on a great track at the big, prestige companies who suddenly decide to take jobs at smaller agencies or to move out of town to take a big title.  These jobs often fail to be the short cut that the employee was looking for. Many times, these new companies have been made promises which will not be kept. (I can think of one mid-size agency where the president/owner has been on the verge of retiring for years promising to leave his company to a new hire – sadly, it simply isn’t going to happen, Ask the half dozen former presidents.)   As a result, the careers of the people who made these moves tend to crash and burn.  Once out of the mainstream, it is hard to get back on track.  From my point of view, as much as I want to place these people in a great new job, the companies that they subsequently want to go to often won’t hire someone who has taken a wrong turn in their career. 

I wish I could have helped all these people.

Then. I have also seen some people who have middling careers, but end up on a growing piece of business and they rise with it or have other circumstances which propel them forward and upward.  God bless.

I still love it all.

12 comments:

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  2. Always appreciate your wisdom, Paul. The only thing I would argue with here is that you seem to associate big with prestige and career success and small with compromise and shortcut. When I left my job at FCB for freelance at David Deutsch & Associates (later Deutsch), I got a taste of brewing greatness. When I later left a prestigious role at JWT for a freelance opportunity at little Kirshenbaum & Bond, it turned into the decision that made my career. Big isn't better. Prestige is a poor indicator, because it is often backward looking, and tends to fade more quickly than people imagine. You are quite right that luck plays a part, but I'm interested in the kind of success that is more about being as good as you can possibly be, and that comes from choosing to be in great places, working with great people, even at the cost of title and security, as long as you can afford to do so. I love my wife, I love my life, and that, Paul Gumbiner, is my kind of success! (apologies to Dickie Fox and Cameron Crowe).

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  3. Thanks for the nice comment, Mark. Next week I am going to post about small vs. big. Truth be known, my heart has always been with the smaller agencies. Big is not better, nor is big more prestigious. Success is about self-fulfillment.

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    1. Right on, Paul! I like your kind of success. You've helped a lot of people, been involved in a lot of interesting careers, helped the business evolve and have managed to have the sort of life that people dream of along the way. Young people should pursue your kind of success.

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  4. It is so hard to guess who is going to be successful. While teaching my marketing classes at the University of Richmond, I try to predict which students are going to be successful. Is it the cool college kids or the nerdy studious ones. After 10 years of teaching, I find that it is almost impossible to predict. Paul, you are so right. There are just way too many variables that lead to success. Then, again, I'm not sure how to even define success in this day and age.

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    1. Touché, Bill. There is no predictor of success - or failure, for that matter.

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  5. I have been an advertising professor at Boston University for almost 30 years. Have been teaching AdLab our student operated ad agency for 15+. The number of superstars who attended our program is amazing. Sometimes you know this kid is going to be great. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. For everyone one of them there are many who are become stars and you didn't really see it coming. That's the joy of being a teacher.

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    1. So true. But playing the game with yourself if part of the fun. Thanks for commenting. Liz says hello.

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  6. Ooops. Sorry about the typo. I never claimed to be a writing professor.....

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  7. Superb column, Paul. And, superb comment from Mark DiMassimo, too, clearly triggered by your column. (Aside to Mark - you should develop that more fully, at least into a column if not more. Much useful wisdom there.) Paul, to me this piece is equally relevant to any point in one's career arc in the industry. This may be a periodic read for me.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and your support, Michael.

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  8. Interesting comments from all. But let me say this after 40 years on Madison Avenue … The real key to success in the agency business is HARD WORK! And I don’t mean doing your best; I mean working harder than the person right next to you (at any level). Because while we’re all ego maniacs and think we are sharper than most, the truth is that there’s almost always somebody smarter and more intelligent looking for the same next-step opportunity. Problem being … you don’t really know who they are until it’s too late. So what to do? Out-work everyone! Not necessarily by putting in more manhours, but in managing your time more efficiently without meaningless distractions, and being “right” before anyone else. Having said that, I’ll close with these immortal words from my beloved Grandfather, who used to say to me when he had me scraping grass out of the cracks of our sidewalk, “Hard work isn’t easy Billy. If it were, everyone would do it.”

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I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

 
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