Everything about the economy screams uncertainty these days. Pundits and talking heads tell you it’s recovering and just hang tight, your pocketbook tells something entirely different. I’m of the opinion that the days of 15-20 year careers with a company are of a bygone era. It’s far and few between that you find someone who’s been at a company a large chunk of their adult life. Those you do find are close to retirement age anyway, giving up the ghost themselves.
As companies got more ruthless in “streamlining” and “maximizing revenue”, the attitude rubbed off on their employees. These days, for employees, it’s about career propulsion for worker bees (or wage serfs if you like), it’s about making moves and capitalizing on market vulnerabilities to maximize your opportunities. After all, turnabout is fair play. Search marketing is no exception to this rule. In fact, I’d venture to say that it’s an industry that’s more volatile than most.
Many SEOs and SEMs are, perhaps, always looking for the next great adventure. The next place to build an expert team, or become a part of one, create big waves and do great things. Last year I wrote about SEO and SEM entrepreneurship, which is one of the possible choices when you move on. But, some people will never get there, or want to be there, and love shop-life. This post is for you. A set of guidelines and things to think about before you jump and give up the ghost.
The Nature of Leapfrogging in Search Marketing
It’s different for everyone: sometimes it’s a snap decision that hit, sometimes it’s a culmination factors over a period time. But one thing you know for certain; it’s time move on. And, it’s true that employers still hold all the power and all the cards.
Leapfrogging, in general, is not a very popular practice with businesses. Most perceive it to mean:
- Not a great team player (i.e. does not work well with others)
- Authority issues (i.e. not a very good corporate wage serf and/or you have The Man issues)
- Mercenary for Hire (i.e. you arrive, you create, you leave for the next big opportunity)
But I think that search marketing offers an exception to that rule, in that there is a core group of folks that build teams, create programs, have a masterful skill set, and for lack of better phrasing, build greatness from nothingness. If your leapfrogging is due to the first two reasons, then your best option is bail on the shop-life/corporate world altogether, and get busy doing your own thing.
But, it’s the last reason search marketing is more accepting of leapfrogging. I can’t think of a single company that doesn’t want a search mercenary in their midst to help them build something great, or extend that greatness in new directions that weren’t possible prior to their arrival.
Guidelines to Help You Decide if Leapfrogging is for You
If you’re still on the fence, and you’re facing the decision to leapfrog, in spite of a miserable economy, in spite of the risk of losing a security blanket, here are some things you think about before you make the leap.
The Direction of the Company
Do you like where it’s headed? Is the proposed destination a place you want to be in two or three years? Does that destination involve you becoming an obsolete piece or an overworked piece in the puzzle? Sometimes companies decide they have to become as dynamic as the market they serve, leading to haphazardly implemented “new services” or “value-adds”, putting them on a bullet train to nowhere.
Is the company headed for life-saving, survival cut of staff? Meaning, are they looking at lopping off a metaphorical arm in order to stay afloat, and you think you are going to end up on the cutting room floor. Is that a scent you’re catching in wind?
The Doomsday Organizational Structure
If you love the direction of the company, where they are, where they are headed, and you love what you do, sometimes it comes down to the org chart. That is, there is nowhere for you to move within it. You can go lateral, you can go down, but you can’t go up.
You want more responsibility, you want more decision-making authority (all of which most companies will gladly heap on you free of charge), but you want the title and the pay that goes with it. You’ve tried creating a new position, gone through the proper channels, making a case for management. They’ve head-nodded you to death, they’ve placated you with plausible timelines for creation, and some have been bold enough to give you the stiff-arm outright.
The Workplace Environment
Love the direction. Got the position. Hate the people and the environment. No one wants to be miserable all day, every day. Whether is back-stabbing ladder climbers, office gossip, untenable bosses, etc, it’s broken the last straw. It changes you, not the other way around.
How’s Your Plan B?
For me, this is the most important element before you leapfrog your search marketing career. A solid Plan B. Let’s be honest, even though search and online marketing is huge growth industry, it’s definitely not a guarantee you’ll be able to leap successfully and quickly, especially if you are looking for upper-level positions. Even with a great network, it takes time.
If you have to get out, and can’t wait to stitch together some transition planks to the next level, make sure you have a Plan B to fall back on. Whether that’s building up your own company, scratching by on side jobs, or falling back on an old career path, make sure you have something in place to pull through until you can leapfrog to the right place.