Is The Media Career Path An Outdated Idea?

Even discussing the concept of "career path" used to be a much more straightforward conversation, in general. For most of us, there's something very corporate, very "HR," in its root. Thinking about and planning for your career path was once more about formal  processes for promotion, pay grades and check-ins with your managers over time. Yes, we all know that regimen has changed in the business world at large. But, within media, as we travel our own paths, if we stop and really take a look at how things play today -- wow, is it different.

In an environment where individual paths may cross large public holding companies or small independent operations; corporate or entrepreneurial; agency or brand side; buy or sell side; publishing or technology; traditional, digital or cross-channel media -- career is more about individual design than corporate plan. It's more about your life's body of work than a singular corporate map. And, in my opinion, it's freeing to think about it on that kind of non-linear tableau.

Over the years, traversing print and digital publishing, agency and client side, companies large and small -- I've had these conversations with many a friend who values a colorful and storied path to building experience and credentials over a straight, explicitly planned route. In fact, in New York this week at  a group of media executives truly representing this full spectrum of  career experience  will be gathering to share insights on professional development with the New York media community. It should be a really enlightening discussion, with folks representing large media companies, emerging media, traditional broadcast and entertainment, print, and even market analysis -- all chiming in on what the concept of path means. I wanted to invite you to consider some of the themes that will be discussed, as you ponder your own life's story:

What does "career path" even mean? Is this a dated and strictly corporate concept, driven by old management and HR conventions?  Does professing a path, inking a plan, somehow limit your imagination on your own career? Does it close you off to all the opportunities inherent to the media world that come up along the way? In many ways, I would say yes, yes and yes. In my mind, it's almost as though a rough operating plan is more critical and feasible than a hardcore career path and plan. What do we want our lives to look like? What do we want to fuel our experience and engagement with the world -- and where and how do different types of business experiences fit in?

What's up in the media galaxy? It used to be that people would point to lists -- lists of the best, top, coveted companies in any given category to work for.  But, just as the concept of "work for" has totally changed -- with whole new shades of entrepreneurism in play today -- there's really no such list. It's a living, breathing document, including Fortune 500s, emerging small companies and boutiques, upstarts and all kinds of ad hoc collaborations you'd be a fool not to consider, as they crop up in your peripheral line of sight.

Blurry is not so bad. Whether we are talking about organizational structures, titles, or definitions of roles we seek, nothing is 100% according to convention any longer.  With such rampant adaptation as our industry has grown,  there's not only no norm, but the whole new face of a galaxy continues to yield new models and ways. And, as some of this is still experimental, there are countless opportunities to get in and be a part of developing paths forward. Unknowingly, as we all seek and participate in emergent opportunities, environments and models, we are pioneering new paths within the industry as a whole.

While the following quote by Christopher Hitchens is about something else entirely -- organized religion --   I find it most resonant when I think of this stuff: "There are days when I miss my old convictions as if they were an amputated limb. But in general I feel better, and no less radical, and you will feel better too, I guarantee, once you leave hold of the doctrinaire and allow your chainless mind to do its own thinking." While the opportunistic, dynamic and fluid space in which we operate might be overwhelming on your worst day, it can never be a bad day when you unchain your mind and explore your own way.



3 comments about "Is The Media Career Path An Outdated Idea?".
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  1. Yak G from the Social Method, May 24, 2010 at 12:16 p.m.

    With a direct connection between a fast paced growth in technology, and the new non-linear climb to gaining higher-profile jobs, what do you suppose the landscape will look like in 20 years when our kids do not believe in patiently moving up the ladder.

  2. Kate Gallagher from Paramore/Redd Online Marketing, May 24, 2010 at 2:14 p.m.

    Great post. My title is Media Director b/c that's a title our clients understand but I don't feel like the title accurately reflects my skill set and job responsibilities some of the time.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 24, 2010 at 2:23 p.m.

    Good luck Yak. They won't know the difference between their rump and the broad side of a barn, especially as obesity tops the charts. However, they may make room for the senior members of the media world since the teeny boppers can't convert their numbers into profit.

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