Life After PR Series – “Nathan,” Part 3– It is not easy to be promoted to a VP of Communications. How was Nathan able to break through mid-level ranks to leadership of the function?

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judith cushman associates human resources consulting life after public relations prAnswer: Nathan was gifted. He had the instincts and judgment to respond to situations that demanded quick decisions. His actions and recommendations were, in retrospect, the most effective way to defuse crises and threats to his employer and its leadership.
Thrust into handling crises early in his career was a shortcut to rising up the ranks. That pace was important. It leaves time to make major career shifts before age becomes an issue.

Once he proved himself, his assignments became so demanding that he made his work his life focus. There was no “balance”.

Once Nathan transitioned to a corporate role in media relations, his career track accelerated. He was promoted quickly, by his mid 20ties, to the Corporate Affairs department in the UK (his home). He was asked to handle a crisis situation, which he defused successfully. He was then promoted to a job back in the US. By this time, he was responsible for developing strategic programs and major product launches. For 17 years he was in the US as an expatriate working for different international companies all in the same industry rising to a VP Communications in record time.

Nathan said he never planned his career. One job led to another as he succeeded in each role. He said he was in a mid-level comms job when he was offered a global communications role and thought that sounded like good experience, so he accepted. He said he had a strong work ethic and was going nonstop, traveling relentlessly. In 2003 he was approached directly by an international company with offices in Asia and the West Coast. After a year in the US he was asked to move to Asia as the head of communications.

It was a huge responsibility and he said it was an enormous test, especially considering the language issues, with a direct report to the CEO. He said he was overwhelmed initially and was working night and day—all by instinct. After 6-months he asked for feedback and was told to keep doing what he had been doing. He became the youngest corporate officer in the company’s history at 35. He was a decade ahead of his peers and that made it possible to explore his options through the prime time he was an attractive candidate.

He said the job accelerated his understanding of the world. He was at Davos, meeting Prime Ministers and heads of state. It was an incredible experience. He was less involved in employee communications and more heavily involved in leadership communications. He had oversight of all press releases worldwide and said, “the buck stopped with me.” He added, “I provided leadership and I owned success or failure. I didn’t blame others—that was my responsibility.”

Nathan said, “A job with this level of responsibility demands a high price; you make choices and trade-offs. You are married to the job. I am ‘all in’. I had to have people around to help; you can’t have it all {there is no balance.}. I’m GenX, the best generation to do what has to be done. Millennials, GenY are about work/life balance. If you have a global senior level job you are fully committed.”

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