On the Rebound


Editor’s note: The names of all persons have been changed to protect their identity (and non-competes).

Maybe you left. Or perhaps you were left. Regardless, we all know what it is like to be on the rebound. It can be a state of frantically searching for something better, or perhaps it is an admittedly directionless stumble into the next thing.

About 18 months ago, a colleague of mine left a search engine marketing agency for a new search-related role that was not a fit. He soon jumped over to another SEM less than a year later.

I thought this double job hop was an isolated incident. That is, until another respected colleague did the same. And then, another. And another.

Just a week ago, I saved a writer from penning a profile piece on a top search media manager’s recent move to a major agency. Less than a month after the press release came out, this same media manager had already moved on again.

The editor was stunned. Perhaps I have spent too much time in search, but I suggested that the “SEM rebound job” is really quite common. Off the top of my head, I listed 15 search engine marketing professionals that had done the same. Here is what they have to say.

The grass must be greener

While this is a sentiment reiterated by many, Ben, a strategist, had a more subtle response. “It’s not so much that nothing could be worse, but the experience is bad enough that people are willing to take a chance, even when it’s not really a chance worth taking. It’s a game of career roulette, but if everything was going fine, they wouldn’t be in the casino.”

John, a senior executive, zeroed in on the obvious impetus. “At the lower levels people are overworked and think it cannot be worse elsewhere.”

All that glitters is not gold.

For Maria, also a senior executive, it can be worse. Or at least as bad. “The niche entrepreneurial agency side of search is predominately presided over by young executives with light or irrelevant experience…contributing to the volatility that keeps these companies from reaching their potential.”

To avoid fools gold, sales representative Anne suggested that candidates do due diligence. “Go beyond reporting structures and find out if the person you are reporting to has ever managed anyone before. If he/she is a first time manager, run!”

Beware of the old bait and switch

Mike, an account executive, recently walked into a job that was not accurately presented. Ben sums it up best: “new job sees candidate is desperate, promises them something heavenly based on the complaints the candidate is issuing, and winds up baiting and switching.” This is often enhanced by the fact that the rebound job will do its best to distance itself from job number one during the interview process, as John noted.

The devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t.

For some, an unsavory rebound puts the previous job in perspective. One of Anne’s moves taught her that there was value in knowing how to navigate a system. Learning a whole new devil’s tricks proved to be too much.

Money can’t buy happiness.

While we all know that money is the first thing to be dangled, Mike, points out that “one must like what he does. If the job causes lost sleep, loathing Mondays and ethical compromise then the money cannot offset that. This assumes that the person has ethics to begin with.”

Soul searching is a common theme for SEM rebound survivors. Anne stresses “you have to know what gets you excited about this business and motivates you to do good work.”

Even the top industry figures, such as Paul, have a disdain for the flash of cash. “Many companies approach and hire well-known experts without actually giving thought as to how and where they’d fit within the company. I think we’re seeing big paychecks being offered, but the offering companies are not providing a role or work environment that keeps the employee motivated.”

So how to know when the move is right? “The best companies are nimble and flexible and keep a lot of balls in the air. Just be sure your next move is to a company that has at least two balls in the air – one that says ‘happy client’ and another that says ‘happy employees,'” said Anne.

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