MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Describe one make or break moment in your career–how did you navigate it? is written by Donna Wiederkehr, CMO of Dentsu Aegis Network.
A little over five years ago, I thought I had finally found my calling. I had worked hard to build a consulting business that was not just thriving, but also bringing me challenging, interesting work with terrific agencies. More importantly, I was at a point in my career where I had the time and flexibility to also focus on my life’s passion–advocating for children in Rwanda. I have been traveling to Rwanda for the past nine years to support New Hope Homes, an organization devoted to the care and education of orphaned children.
Then something unexpected happened. What began as a one-day consulting gig with media agency Carat USA, turned into a year of back-to-back projects. It was inspiring and energizing work, but I was committed to my consulting job. But later that year, Nigel Morris, then the CEO of Aegis Media North America (the parent company of Carat USA) asked me to join the company as CMO of North America. I was faced with a tough choice: do I take a chance and leave the consulting business that supported my life and passions so perfectly, or make a change and pursue something uncharted that had incredible potential? When contemplating a make or break moment in your career, remember to ask yourself these three questions:
Will it keep you energized? One of the things I loved about consulting was the opportunity to work with a lot of different agencies and people. This kept my work exciting and innovative as I was constantly faced with new challenges. Fortunately, my new company understood that I needed a dynamic environment to do my best work. We were able to develop a position that allowed me to spend 50% of my time working with Carat, and the other 50% working with other agencies in our network. Problem solved.
Will your coworkers share your values? We often spend more time with our work family than our own families, which is why a company’s values are so important. As a consultant, I had the opportunity to choose who I worked with. But as CMO of Aegis Media, I wouldn’t have the same flexibility. However, after having spent a year working closely with the team at Carat, I knew that I was in good company.
Will your voice matter? A few years back, I was given great advice by Catherine Bension, CEO of SRI, an agency search consultancy. She suggested that when weighing whether or not to join a company, you should look at the things that work within the company, and the things that don’t. If you can’t personally make an impact on the things that need to be changed, it’s not the right place for you. When contemplating if I should take the job at Carat, I was unsure if my background at creative agencies would be valued in the media space. Fortunately, they embraced my ideas from the get-go–I knew it was the perfect match.
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