Rich Terry is a special talent. Yes he’s creative as both a writer and director. But, he also played college basketball at Texas Christian University. That makes him special in the Palma book. I am announcing my advertising basketball all-star team soon, and Rich will probably start at the two guard. Seriously, Rich raises some good points. Online job search for senior star talent is serendipitous at best; and at its worst, career-threatening.
His story is a cautionary tale of the crypt. Enjoy:
Last March, I stood in an office building atrium in Dallas with my iPhone to my ear and my hands sweating. The conversation went something like this, “Mike? Hey man, it’s Rich. I think I made the biggest mistake of my life.” I remember there was a fountain below the stairwell I was standing on, and I was pretty sure that peaceful gurgling water was actually the sound of me drowning.
Before we get into what my mistake actually was, perhaps I should take you back ten years. I was a SVP/Creative Director at GSD&M in Austin. I felt like I’d really gotten to a good point in my career. Had a loving family, lived in a great city, worked with talented people and was doing award-winning work. All was right with the world.
Now, I can’t verify it, but somewhere around this time, I believe I suffered a head injury. Because clearly the organ between my ears wasn’t working properly. That was also exactly the time I decided to become a director.
It made all the sense in the world—leave a great job with a big salary to go be a starving artist. Sure! Why not? Actually, it was a great gig. I loved directing. But I also missed being a part of something bigger. I missed the creative work and the teams and the energy that only ad agencies have. I’m an agency guy. I felt like I wasn’t growing. So I started looking.
In February of this year, I landed a job I found posted on the Internet on one of the online job boards.
It was at a very nice, up-and-coming digital media company. It meant moving from Austin to Dallas. It meant doing absolutely nothing I was trained to do or had succeeded at doing in the past. It meant an incredibly bad fit. It meant wondering what on earth I was thinking.
It meant knowing I’d have to quit three weeks after starting.
Three f’ing weeks. I was embarrassed, disappointed, and feeling very guilty.
“I think I made the biggest mistake of my life.”
Within two weeks after that call to Michael Palma, I suddenly was the Creative Director at a great agency named Rawle Murdy in a great place, Charleston, South Carolina. I am still pinching myself.
The sad thing is, I know a lot of creative people with stories like mine. And I’ve always felt sorry for them. And then I became one of them. I don’t know what it is about so many of us, but managing our own careers seems to be like one-hand clapping—it doesn’t accomplish much and you look pretty silly doing it.
My story makes me believe career management should only be left to those who can actually manage a career. That, as recent history would indicate, wouldn’t be me.
The Internet is an environment where anything is possible. But just because anything is possible, doesn’t make it a smart thing to do. Finding a job in our particular discipline, I’m convinced, is the poster child for this way of thinking. Good recruiters like Michael are at their best when they understand who we are and who the agency they’re working with is—and then make a perfect marriage happen.
As for me, I’m clearly not someone I’d hire to manage my own career. That’s why I’m grateful to Michael Palma for his friendship and insight. And if I sound like a total shill, trust me, I have a good reason for it.
Thanks Rich. Good luck in Charleston.