As I was coming up in my career I was variously pegged with descriptions like “golden boy,” “up-and-comer,” etc. Sometimes these monikers were used derisively by peers or jealous executives. I didn’t care much for the praise nor the snipes; I had set myself on a path and bulled forward; certainly I broke a few things along the way.
In other words, “I was young once, too.”
During that rung-climbing phase of my career, I recall seething at every closed door. If an important meeting was being held, why wasn’t I a part of it? Why wasn’t the Golden Boy’s opinion being sought? (Any chance those graybeards who ran the joint were discussing me, and my career, behind that closed door? If so, when was the next raise & promotion coming, dammit?)
Now that I’m invariably the guy on the other side of that closed door, I am going to reveal to all of today’s Young Guns what we are talking about.
Because you should know, Mr./Ms. Up-And-Comer, that you are right: we are talking about you.
When I meet with senior members of my team, we invariably talk about the talent. Who are the rockstars? How are they doing? What does their path look like? If they seem to have stalled, why did that happen and how can we re-ignite their growth? Are they making enough money? Are they due for a promotion? What would they need to accomplish before we considered that next rung on the ladder? Has that been communicated to them?
I am always vaguely disappointed when a team member asks for a raise or promotion. It reflects a failing: either we have failed to adequately compensate that person, or we have failed to adequately communicate their career path and progress, or (and this happens, too) the employee has failed to consider their request in a broader context; they may have become too inwardly-focused and now place their needs above the agency or team’s situation.
That’s not to say that the system could ever be perfect. Even our best intentions can be waylaid by events: the team leader might be too swamped to consider each employee’s career growth issues; the employee might find out that a peer at a competing agency makes more $$ and it gnaws away at them more than it should, etc. We all must muddle through.
I am writing this post to assure all young comms pros, across all types of agencies and in-house gigs, that “The Management” is well aware of your contributions, your compensation, and your potential. Good things come to those who do good. So don’t worry so much about that closed door meeting. Chances are, they are talking about you, wondering what they can do to make you feel valued, and how they can time it in such a way that those rewards makes sense, not only to you but to your peer group.
I wish someone had given me this advice when I was struggling to leap from Rung #1 to Rung #17 on that career ladder. It would have saved me a fair bit of angst! I could’ve walked past those closed doors and smiled.