Life After PR Series – “Nathan”, Part 8 – How do I analyze Nathan’s decision to take on one of the top 5 jobs in the industry as Chief Communications Officer? What are the risks?

Judith Cushman All Posts by Date, Life After PR - Nathan 0 Comments

judith cushman associates human resources consulting life after public relations prCommentary: There are critical moments for making career decisions that will affect all future options. One of those points is roughly mid-30ties to early 40ties when a jump to a VP Comms role is ideal. In this example, it is about assuming the CCO role at the age of late 40ties to early 50ties. That is when an executive can make the best move for the remainder of his professional career.

This is the time for thoughtful reflection about what the last major move (hopefully) should be. If an executive has been gaining valuable experience (and not doing the same job year after year), s/he should be ready for a leadership position. Once a candidate approaches retirement age, companies will hesitate to hire him/her, particularly if there are long-term challenges ahead. To delay much past early 50ties is to make it extremely challenging to find in-house work.

While considering the opportunity to consider an industry leading corporate communications role, Nathan evaluated the future with his current company. He had already been accepted into the inner circle by the company’s leadership team and was highly respected. He knew that he had their confidence to expand his role and he had already assumed bottom-line responsibilities as Chief Marketing Officer. He more recently had been given full responsibility for a major initiative to expand the brand into new business categories. He essentially was entrusted with the future growth of the organization.

As he weighed the two options, he understood that the Chief Communications Officer would be the most senior role he could expect in a Fortune 500 company. He also understood that it would take about 5+ years to accomplish what he saw as the challenges that needed to be addressed. After that, he would have the option to decide what he wanted to do either relating to a career or a completely different direction. He would be financially independent.

The risk at this point for Nathan is that he is 50 and if a job is not a match at this level, it usually takes 2-years to discover the problem and arrange for an acceptable disengagement. It then takes months of looking. He could easily be close to 55 and his window to find another corporate job would be severely limited.

As Nathan assumes a new role in a changing corporate environment, there is potentially an opportunity to implement structural and staff changes to align with his management values. Nathan has always been passionate about the products he represents and committed to a set of values about strategic communications. He has an instinct for leadership.

It is essential that he be, not only allowed, but encouraged to do work that aligns with his vision. Some communications professionals are committed to doing a professional job and say they can do that for any company or product. That is not possible for Nathan. He is well aware of how important it is that he: 1. fully supports the company he represents, 2. is excited about its products and 3. is encouraged to innovate, to do his best work.

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