The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.
It dawned on me that in 2025, it will be 40 years since I left high school. In that time, there have been numerous class reunions, none of which I have managed to make.
But it made me wonder where everyone from the Class of 1985 is and what they are up to now. And what they would make of me and where I’m at with my career as a trainer, facilitator, and coach? Would I be considered a success or not? I certainly didn’t follow the typical trajectory I planned for when I joined the industry.
The myth of constant ascension
Since joining The Experience Advocacy Taskforce – an industry taskforce set up to make ageism a non-issue for the next generation – one of the assumptions we’ve discovered as to why only 5% of the industry is aged over 50 is that there is an expectation to either move up or move out. I’ve even heard whispers of an individual who “…must not be that good. They’ve been an account director for 15 years.”
The business world often measures success by one’s ability to climb the corporate ladder swiftly. While career progression is undoubtedly significant, so is staying in a role you love and recognising where you find your fulfilment – at whatever level of seniority you choose.
Speaking to a global creative director early in my career, I commented how exciting it must be to be flying around the world doing what he did. He responded: “Not really. I don’t get to do what I love doing…write ads. I’m too busy managing conflict and politics, sitting on planes, and in endless meetings.”
Measures of success vary for each person
Success is not solely measured by the rungs you climb, but by the impact you make, regardless of title or salary.
When I came to a crossroad in my career at the age of 40, there were two options – stay with my agency at the time and run the Vietnam office, or join the GroupM Aspire regional training team. While the first option would have been more lucrative in terms of title and salary, option two helped me to discover my passion for helping others succeed. A true measure is whether you would still do what you’re doing if you won the lottery. And in my case, it’s an emphatic yes!
Everybody wins when you stay in a role you love
Remaining in a role that resonates with your passions allows you to cultivate expertise and mastery. It’s an opportunity to hone your skills, contribute meaningfully, and become an invaluable asset to your workplace.
It’s also an impactful way to foster a positive work environment. Passion is contagious, and when individuals genuinely enjoy their work, it creates a ripple effect, boosting morale and productivity within the team.
There’s a lot to admire about the likes of Katie Rigg-Smith and Pat Crowley who have returned to their love of strategy and client servicing respectively. I also admire a senior buyer in my Saatchi & Saatchi days, who said: “Stop asking me if I want to be a manager. I just want to be a great TV buyer. What’s wrong with that?”
And the answer is… nothing! The world needs more people who are content staying and doing what they love doing.
I wonder how many companies make it OK for their employees to remain as subject experts.
Linda Robson is Executive Director of The Hummingbirds