This summer, I was mentoring a young professional in corporate America who was concerned about making a career move. Although he loved the role and the company, he thought it might be too risky. Others told him to steer clear because it was "too challenging."
Now, I realize free advice is often worth its price, but the idea of not moving to a new opportunity because it's "risky" or "challenging" struck me as terribly naive. This is especially true in a marketing context.
After all, the days of the Mad Men martini lunches are over (insert frowny face).
There isn't a company on the planet that isn't under assault from a well-funded competitor or legacy-free upstart:
-Startups struggle to find enough customers to pay their bills.
-Agencies lose one major client and are left saddled with expensive labor.
-Google makes a policy change and it wipes out an entire ad tech ecosystem.
Big companies are also feeling the brunt:
-McDonald's is getting its lunch eaten by fast casual restaurants Chipotle and Panera.
-Consumers are checking out of hotels and into Airbnb.
-Cable is short-circuiting because of streaming services like Netflix.
-The Motor City is being left in the dust by customer and media darling Tesla.
The list goes on and on and on …
The point is this: There's no such thing as a "safe" or "easy" place. It just doesn't exist anymore.
While this is sobering (cue the Mad Men frown face again), in a way it can be liberating. If you're going to have to work your tail off, slog through mud, and climb a big mountain every day, why not do it at place you love?
I am not a happiness expert, but here are a few things I know to be true about careers and love.
Culture matters: If the people you work with are not ones you would want to meet in a bar or run into on the weekend, chances are, your culture (to borrow a phrase from Captain Obvious) may not be ideal.
Fear: Often, the biggest challenge preventing people from having the career of their dreams is themselves. If you can remove fear as a mental barrier, you will be amazed at what you can achieve.
Money: The ability to pay the bills is clearly a requirement to the job. But lots of people can live on less than what they're making. Happiness statistics point to the fact that after making $75,000 per year, most people were no more or less happy.
The spare-time test is real: Recall a place where you get a lot of new ideas. For some, it's during a jog, for others, it's while driving. We have all heard the shower is a place for intense inspiration. When you aren't working, what kind of business ideas do you think about? If you're an accountant but you keep dreaming up new ideas for a viral video, that should tell you something about what you might like to do in the future.
Actions count: The Dalai Lama once said, "Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions." If you're not in a job that allows you the freedom to unleash your intellectual and creative potential, then reread this article. From there, well, you know what to do.