We want Career Leaders to build a better industry

We want Career Leaders to build a better industry
Opinion: 100% Media 0% Nonsense

Traditional career paths are less secure or disappearing. We need new ideas and approaches when it comes to training, development and wellbeing at work. We are launching a new editorial resource to bring these ideas together.


There is one question that many of us are asked in their lifetime and, when you think about it, it’s pretty silly.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I fell for it the other day when I imagined what my daughter, who has just turned two, would do for work in a couple of decades’ time. Would she do something ‘creative’? Lucrative? Pioneering? Entrepreneurial?

This is like trying to imagine what number the die will land on next. There are too many variables beyond your control that will determine what a person will do with their life. And, even if you knew your child so well that you could predict their future aptitude and predilections, you can’t be sure how the economy will develop.

So you can’t predict the economics, the politics, or the psychology.

But there is now a more pressing reason that ‘what you do want to be’ has become particularly unhelpful in this day in age: there are very few jobs for life any more. What you will ‘become’ may not fit into a conventional category and it may change change three, four, or more times over the span of a 50-year career.

This means the career game we’ve been playing this whole time has to change in professional industries. None more so than in media, where the playing field is being disrupted by the internet, changing behaviours, and globalisation.

‘Collective inertia’

The game was: get good grades at school, go to a good university, get a good job, work your way up, make a name for yourself. Hopefully get rich, but expect to be comfortable at least.

If you continue to play like this, you are at risk. The snakes are multiplying and the ladders are becoming more complicated to navigate. Companies are incentivised to look for ways to replace you with someone younger, someone cheaper, or a machine.

And, by the way, if you are that someone younger and cheaper, you are more likely to be burned out because there are no longer a wealth of experienced ‘mid-level’ colleagues with time to help you learn ‘on the job’.

This is not just me saying this as an industry observer. It was the most frequent response to my column two weeks ago warning that this talent crisis in media isn’t being properly talked about as a reason for companies’ growth being dragged down.

Jack Cantwell, a global client lead at Dentsu, warned there is a “collective inertia” that holds back agencies, for example, from investing more in talent.

“It takes proactive thinking and actions rooted in the long term – which so many agencies really struggle to do given the short term pressures on revenue / profit margins,” Cantwell said in a reply to my LinkedIn post.

“It’s a bit like advertisers and (for many) their inability to think of both short AND long term. Maybe agencies could borrow from the book of both-ism and look ahead 2-3 years – but it takes brave leadership to instil that way of working.”

Brave, indeed, because you rarely see an agency awarded an account, or a media owner given an accolade, because they train their people better than anyone else. Training is treated as an expense, it takes people away from ‘the work’, and just means they become even more ripe for poaching from a Google or a Facebook (must I really call them Meta?).

Tomorrow we launch Career Leaders

As regular readers will know, I want The Media Leader to have values. We don’t aspire to be not ‘just another trade publication’.  We believe the future of media will be won by companies who share our values of championing excellence, inclusion and courage.

But today we want to go one step further by launching Career Leaders, a place for people in our industry to share their vision, expertise, or opinions about how to manage your career effectively in media today.

We want to hear from people and companies that are trying something innovative or experimental with how they train people, or creating management structures that empower people to develop outside of rigid hierarchies.

We want to hear from people and companies that are making strides in improving employees wellbeing, particularly as we all learn to handle hybrid and flexible working.

And we want to hear from people and companies that have learned from failure. What greater show of wisdom is there than a person or a group that can tell you ‘we messed up, we’ve learned from it, and this is what you should know to avoid repeating our mistake’.

As the extraordinary Media’s Got Talent? report by the WFA and MediaSense highlighted last month, there is a growing disconnect between what advertisers say they need from media partners — generalists that can help them navigate a complex and fragmented ecosystem — and what agencies tend to provide — an army of specialists with increasingly narrow focuses.

Yes, we’ll always need specialists, but what is special today may not be tomorrow. Few of us had heard of TikTok five years ago. What haven’t we heard of today?

We will launch our first edition of Career Leaders tomorrow as a regular feature on our UK Daily newsletter on Tuesday. Strategy Leaders, meanwhile, is moving to Thursdays.

All our UK Daily editions include the latest news analysis and opinion about the biggest issues in media of the day, but we want to express what’s important by making it a permanent fixture of our coverage.

That way, we hope, there will be a greater emphasis on training, development and wellbeing at work. The things that will really matter to people that work in media — not just now, but for the next 50 years too.

100% Media 0% Nonsense is a weekly column by the editor. Feedback is welcome in the comments or by emailing omar.oakes@the-media-leader.com

This column features in the Monday edition of our daily UK newsletter and the weekly US round-up. Sign up for our newsletters here. 

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