The average tenure for a media agency employee is less than three years. Most people consider three years a good innings. Which is probably why a lot of people often do a double take when I tell them I’ve been with my agency, Wavemaker, for 13.5 years – or my entire career.
While I understand what drives a lot of people to change employers, I believe there are many advantages to sticking around for a while, particularly in a fast-paced industry such as ours.
But first, let me give you some background.
There’s not much in my life that is the same now as it was when I was 19 years old. The only constant, of course, is my employer.
The past year has been one of the most challenging periods of my life, but also one of the most rewarding, professionally and personally.
Professionally, I was given the opportunity to spread my wings, when Wavemaker’s national head of investment, Claire Butterworth, took maternity leave in mid-2018 and I got to step into her shoes.
Personally, I separated from my husband and made every effort to become the best single working mum to my beautiful three kids – Sireli (six), Juliana (four) and Christopher (one).
Realising that I was given an extraordinary opportunity for career growth, I invested all I could into rising to the challenge.
I am so proud of what the Wavemaker investment team and I have achieved over the past year, shaping an unparalleled culture that helped us strengthen our media relationships and place Wavemaker on the front foot of trading innovation, all while delivering stronger value propositions for our clients than ever before.
Being promoted this month into the position of National Head of Investment was a proud career moment for me. Reflecting back over the past 13.5 years, I realised what an eventful decade-plus it’s been.
Since joining Wavemaker (MEC prior to the merger with Maxus) in 2005, I have:
- Moved out of home.
- Travelled to Fiji, my second home, 22 times.
- Spent three months living in a Fijian village.
- Raised funds with the support of my team members, to rebuild communities in Fiji after Cyclone Yasi.
- Celebrated my wedding.
- Welcomed my three beautiful blessings into my life.
- Bought a house.
- Travelled overseas to Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong for work.
- Spent 18 months on maternity leave.
- Garnered experience across all media categories.
- Unsuccessfully attempted to learn a new Islander dialect.
- Worked on a range of clients, of all shapes and sizes.
- Spent time on a three-day per week contract, four-day per week contract, and a full-time contract.
- Held my eldest son’s hand as he started school.
- Supported an agency merger.
- Took long-service leave.
- Progressed from media assistant to national head of investment.
I feel very lucky to be part of a company that has set me up to thrive at work and also encourages me to follow my passions outside of it.
A lot of it comes down to a great workplace culture and supportive leadership, but I also think there’s another reason I have been able to develop and grow so much during that time – and that’s tenure, a factor I believe to be very downplayed in this industry.
Having built my career at the one agency, I feel trusted, respected, empowered, considered, connected and involved.
Trusted to work autonomously and flexibly;
- Respected for my contribution;
- Empowered to lead agency initiatives;
- Considered as part of any change;
- Connected to our broader network, locally, regionally and globally;
- Involved in major agency decisions.
In turn, my agency has someone who is incredibly invested in the future of the company and in developing our IP. A true advocate who will passionately seek out any opportunity to make the agency an even more exceptional place to work.
Our client partners have comfort in knowing their agency understands the history of their brand, with knowledge and years of learning cascaded within the business.
It’s clear the benefits are threefold. So why is staying at an agency for more than a few years, still perceived by many as a negative?
I was recently disheartened to hear from one of my long-standing team members how often she is asked, with negative connotations, “why on earth she would stay with an agency for so long”.
My long tenure at the one agency hasn’t impacted my development. Five years into the industry, I certainly worried that it would.
Whenever a senior new starter joined the agency, I would be dazzled by their depth of experience spanning markets and agencies.
It wasn’t until my first major pitch, at around the five-year mark, that I really had the opportunity to work closely with our department leads on a project and realised that I didn’t need to switch agencies to diversify my learning and to progress. I saw that there was so much to learn from the broader network around me.
As many agencies adopt flatter organisational structures and diversified service offerings, there should be more development opportunities within each of the companies in our industry than ever before.
If you are passionate about seeking out new perspectives, if you’re self-motivated, patient and open to different ways of working, you’ll continue to develop.
Building a career at one agency is not feasible or desirable for all. And trust and respect should be a given, no matter how long you work for a company.
But please let us remove any negativity in our industry around tenure.