As I typed the above title, I wondered what kind of search engine spam would come my way – we get so much e-mail about “enlargement” these days. But wow, let me get off that train of thought…
When I had a brief stint with an executive recruiter a few years ago, I noticed that many candidates were looking to change because they had grown skills since they went to work at their current job – and they couldn’t get promoted. Specifically, we recruited accounting professionals, and many who earned CPA status while working at a given firm seemed to have trouble being taken seriously as CPAs. After all, they were hired as bookkeepers, and sometimes junior ones at that. So they’d take their resume, go across town, or across country, and get hired by another firm.
This is counter-intuitive and counter-productive because the candidate had to change firms, the firm lost a known-good staffer, and the firm they switched to probably had an internal candidate of their own they ignored. But it happens because people get pigeon-holed. There’s perhaps a perceived risk or annoyance factor because whenever you promote someone, you lose their services in whatever position they were in before. But truth be told, more often bosses are just too dim to be able to see someone in a higher position than they currently hold (and I’m a boss, so I know these things).
It happens with companies too. It’s happening a bit with mine. I’m currently talking to prospects, including existing clients, about enlarging the borders of what I do for them. Getting beyond products or even programs to “give me a crack at whatever marketing problem you’ve got on your mind.”
Bless them, some of my clients or prospects are willing to talk. Others are a bit more standoffish, and it seems to come down to a pigeon-holing problem. “Aren’t you the guy who does our shirts for us?” seems to be the unspoken question. Well, yeah, we do that, and we plan to continue. But we’ve also got some additional skills under the hood.
Of course, another pigeon-holing problem is the question of what it is I want to do. Probably easier to say what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to compete with ad agencies, and I don’t want to “just consult”, in the sense of just giving advice. I want to get my hands dirty with some company’s sales and marketing problems.
We’ll probably have to post some successes before we can move that perception of being “just the shirt guys” around significantly. Fortunately, I have some clients who are willing to give us a promotion.