Marketers --- Is This the Time to Strike Out on Your Own?

I have two long time friends. They are both CMO types with tremendous direct marketing backgrounds. And neither seem to be able to land jobs that make sense anymore.

One of these friends tells me that he is unemployable at age 54. No, not because of his age, but because he can't find a decent employer to work for.

That's a switch. Now employers have to make the grade with skilled employees? I know we are told to do this. But in reality, most of use do not get three executive level offers concurrently that allow us to pick and choose the best. We will accept offers even when the employers show significant weaknesses. After all, no one is perfect.

But it appears that some companies are under the illusion that there are perfect candidates out there only to realize 23 months later that neither the candidate nor the company were perfect. (According to a recent Execunet research report, the average CMO tenure is 23 months).

It reminds me of the famous Paul Newman movie Cool Hand Luke when the cruel warden said to the prisoner, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. Companies often expect far too much from their new CMOs while at the same time expecting far too little from themselves. So there exists a miscommunication with unmet expectations.

As an example, even though both of my friends have over 25 years each of marketing experience making over $150,000 base a year in the last five to ten years of their careers, they were turned down after third or fourth interviews based strictly on length of tenure in their past roles.

One candidate had 7 jobs with ever higher levels from job to job in the last 20 years with an average of 2 to 4 years at each company. His skill falls clearly in the "change agent" category. The other candidate has 30 years with one company demonstrating regular promotions and clear marketing and management contributions over time.

The reason given by the prospective companies for not hiring them sounds like the same old saw.

1. The one with the 7 jobs had too many job changes and was not offered the position even though many on the hiring committee wanted him as part of their firm.
2. The other candidate had too few jobs. The hiring company felt his long tenure with a single company demonstrated a lack of initiative and diversity.

Companies say they want change agents, diverse experiences, proven expertise, strong interpersonal skills... and the list goes on. But who can qualify on all counts? No one. So companies hire based on old maxims rather than attracting deep talent and taking responsibility for the tenure of their employees propagating people they consider desirable.

They want resilience, but seem unwilling to return the favor.

I thought maybe these were excuses for other problems on these candidates. But I see this story repeated time and again with other companies and people I know well.

So the evolution continues. Employees are now corporations unto themselves and must make their own way in the work world moving from company to company at an ever increasing rate.

Has the time come for many CMOs to ask. "You may need me, but do I really need you anymore? What will you give me that I can’t do better on my own?"

Are you having these thoughts? If so, then maybe it is time for you to expand your horizons.

Its a big world out there that is limited only by your desire and imagination.

What concerns you most about striking out on your own? Do these same risks not exist on the employer side as well? What about finding that "perfect company"? Does it exists? I'd love to hear from you and what you need to take that leap.

Posted on May 5, 2008 and filed under General.