The case for patience: why agency talent should be wary of job-hopping

As the changing nature of work and the “gig” economy continue to evolve, agencies have been forced to rethink how they attract and retain emerging talent.

We face stiff competition from other industries as well as the constant temptation for short-term promotion. But for those who have joined or are considering starting out in agency life, I urge you not to succumb to short-termism. We live in a world of instant gratification, but this is one arena that I would council patience. Agencies have a great deal to impart on talent and it’s incumbent upon them to nurture their employees by sharing what they know. The benefit for new talent to stick around and absorb as much knowledge as they can from veterans, at least for a while, far outweighs any short-term steps you might be able to make at the beginning of your career.

It is my opinion that the optimum time to remain in a job is at least three years. During that three-year period you will have gained a firm grasp of the business and understand what it means to take on increasing loads of responsibility. Contrarily, the benefits of job-hopping may result in short-term financial gains, but it also sends a clear message to future employers: “I am here for me.” Coming and going from positions is akin to stringing together a number of temporary jobs – you may have a taste for things, but just how deep is your subject knowledge?

Anyone who has spent time working as a temp knows that there is a limit to the amount of personal investment you can place in your soon-to-be-in-the rear view mirror boss. Deep learning takes commitment. If you have one eye on job postings, it is not hard to assume that your level of engagement is less than optimum. I have chosen not to hire certain talent, who would otherwise seem accomplished, due to the fact that their resume shows their propensity to job hop. In a business where clients look for stability and time spent understanding their business and customers alike, we need to provide them with talent who are willing to put in the time and make them a priority. Those clients can also teach us on the agency side a lot, and that is worth the investment.

Let your first job be your stick job. The job that begins to define you, shows that you are a dependable team player and that you possess a more-than-passing interest in the business and the industry. Take some time to listen to your peers and mentors. There is wisdom and knowledge to be gained for it. There is also trust. Creative risk takers win license to take those chances by demonstrating an aptitude for the work and exercising judgment. Those chances translate into the successes - and failures - that make you a valuable asset to your next employer.

There is also something to be said for building a reputation for yourself – one that builds value for clients, but also helps our industry do better by way of initiatives like diversity and inclusion, for example. A solid three-year span gives you the time to sink your teeth into subject matter, master it and then make it your own. While there is truth to the idea that a job-hopper is constantly facing new challenges in new settings, what they often have the propensity to lose out on is understanding how to be a valuable team player and the mastery of a skill set.

If you feel anxious, or frustrated, about your role – it is important that your first instinct is not to say, “Well, I’ll just find another job.” Instead, try to apply the same skills that you would to overcome a personal problem. Take it upon yourself to seek out feedback. And when you receive it, actually act on it. Too often the act of seeking feedback is seen as a sufficient enough step forward. When you begin to master complement and complaint alike, you are inadvertently putting yourself on a leadership track.

If you are in position where you have exercised patience and it still isn’t working out, then it isn’t meant to be. But you will never know unless you stick around and take a chance.

In surveying the crop of up-and-coming stars, I understand the desire to bounce around opportunities in search of a pay raise. But my eyes will look to those candidates that have earned their bragging rights by being part of a successful team that fostered personal development and professional expansion, before all else.

Marco Scognamiglio is global chief executive of Rapp

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.