We are pleased to introduce a new feature here at Strumpette: ASK AMANDA.
Ask Amanda is a free personal-advice column. Need help with a difficult co-worker, malignant boss, office romance, dicey ethical situations? You name it... Amanda will provide personal down-to-earth practical solutions. Amanda will give you a new perspective on your questions and problems. Like an unbiased colleague, best girlfriend, mother, or mentor, Amanda tells it like it is with deep thought, professional experience and caring.
Why now? Amanda has gotten a ton of email from fans worldwide asking for her point-of-view. Here we've decided that it would be compelling and educational if we shared a few select letters with our greater audience. We think you'll find them most useful as you navigate your career in PR.
Without further ado, here's our first letter:
I am an AE at a small agency. My role primarily is to execute PR campaigns for three very big clients. While I enjoy my work, and often get praise from our senior-level clients, I find myself in a bit of a bind: a lot of my creative and strategy skills never get acknowledged. I've tried expressing my concern to my immediate manager, but there seems to be the general "you're still too young to be able to do such and such," namely client presentations.
There have been two instances where I've had to attend large client meetings and give my input and expertise on matters my supervisors had no experience on, yet I am "too young" to be able to handle bigger challenges.
What do you think Amanda? My boss is suffocating me! What should I do?
Frustrated in NY
Dear Frustrated in NY,
First, you need to know, we've all been there for sure. Here, let's put it in perspective. Here are a few things to consider: account group dynamics, first responsibilities, the job versus a career, and the misnomer of promotion. Not necessarily in that order...
Do you remember your interview? I am sure this didn't come up: Fact is, the first requirement of the job is to manage your boss; the second requirement is to make him or her look good. Ironically, both those things are at distinct odds with the prospective employer's search. They're all looking for the independent thinker. However that independent thinker naturally rails against the unwritten requirements above. I guess you could say that first dates are always seen through rose-colored glasses.
Anyway, the bottom line is this: the quicker you are able to satisfy those requirements, the easier your path will be toward assimilation in the corporate borg. If you don't learn it, expect the hard road less traveled. Also, expect that the only job you'll ever be satisfied with is the one where your name is on the door. And let me tell ya, even then, the gods will taunt you again with the ultimate realization that the same dynamics exist between your firm and your client. Arrrgh.
So you're not ready to hang out your own shingle? Okay, let's deal with the cards we've been dealt. The sad fact about account and team dynamics is that people who manage their boss well and make them look good actually don't need to work at all. That's life.
Okay, with that in mind, if you are burdened with a conscience here's what you can expect. You've got two basic types of immediate bosses (or clients): slave drivers and farmers. One spends an asset; the other nurtures an asset.
Slave drivers get the job done but turnover is typically pretty extreme. That, of course, is a hidden cost to the agency. Some large agencies can churn through personnel at better than 50 percent a year. Not good. I know of one agency whose turnover rate is 57 percent. It cost them about $19 million in various related costs. Excuse me but if your revenues are only $180 million dollars a year... $19 million hurts. (For the record, studies have shown that less than 30 percent turnover is not good either. A service firm ends up carrying a lot of deadwood which puts a huge drag on creativity and production.)
Farmers on the other hand get the job done by nurturing their reports. The object of the farmer is to convert the $150/hr producer into the $300/hr producer.
Knowing that, as an adult and a professional, your first responsibility is to fire the slave driver and go and hire a farmer boss. Not always easy when weighing the pressures of life, family, job and career aspirations.
Lastly, with regard to who gets promoted... best to understand award versus acknowledgement. Slave drivers give out awards to their favorite brown nosers. This typically has nothing to do with skill or contribution (if any). Farmers on the other hand provide opportunity and resources to those that will take it and then graciously acknowledge a job well done.
Frustrated in NY, it sounds like you need to fire your boss. It's tough to be talented and burdened with a conscience in PR. It's the good fight. I wish you all the best. Keep me posted. Let me know if I can be of further assistance.
NOTE: If you're pursuing a career in PR and you'd like professional advice, we invite you to send your questions to AskAmanda@Strumpette.com. Note: Anonymity is absolutely guaranteed.