Are you defined by your job?

What’s your first reaction? It will probably vary depending on a few factors.

  • How high profile is your work or job,
  • how high profile are you as an individual
  • what else is happening in your life,
  • what other things are you doing outside of work.

Most importantly:

  • Have you ever had to cope with the question

There will be others, but those will definitely be large contributing factors as to how you answer the question. I know there will be people out there who have had to deal with this question, who are still dealing with it and those that have not, so depending on that this article will either be irrelevant or perhaps a sage piece of understanding for a potential future state or you will be sat there living every word.

I have been high profile over the years, by that I don’t mean some big cheese or something conceited, I mean I have always had opinions and been vocal about them, I have always been busy on Twitter and LinkedIn, worked in sectors or companies like Spotify that have been in demand and so have stayed visible. I have enjoyed doing it. I have always taken a lot of pride in the companies I worked for and the people I worked with in those companies. I have enjoyed the wins, been excited seeing my colleagues do well and progress, it’s a buzz.

So what happens when that stops and you no longer have the big job in the big company?

What happens when the invites stop.

What happens when the journalists stop calling because you don’t ‘represent a company’

What happens when all that experience you have built up is no longer useful in the job market.

What happens when 25 years of being high profile does not get you an interview anymore, too old, too expensive.

There will be many people out there who have been or are going through it right now. It’s tough, isolating, pretty soul destroying. Yes there are people worse off and having it harder, but that does not diminish your own challenges.

Well I will tell you what happens, you have to make your own story, you have to stop relying on your company, your profile, your job. I have so much advice for people, I can’t fit it in here but I am going to tell you my experience as succinctly as possible. This has been my roadmap and here’s my advice.

  1. Help others and ask nothing. When things feel a little dark, helping others gives so much positivity to the system. I offered my LinkedIn network my time for advice about any topic. I filled 70+ meetings, it felt great and I hope helped some people. I continue to do it now, two tomorrow in fact.
  2. Stay visible and don’t be afraid to post and comment and write if you feel that way inclined, keep talking, keep meeting. Enjoy having an independent voice.
  3. Find People, companies, charities that do value your experience and will embrace your knowledge, it may be consulting, it maybe pro bono but get that inspiration going again.
  4. Dedicate time to causes you care about, do more of the stuff you could not before. I have enjoyed working with people trying to change advertising for the better and it feels good to do.
  5. Talk to people who have left the industry or are doing exciting things around it. I have been inspired by people who are not fixated with our industry and have done their own thing. It might be setting up a Gin company (Kirstine) or finding new ways to recruit (Kate) or created start ups and travelled the world (Andy) or try to change the world (Seyi / Spencer) or helping others (Shereen) They are not defined by what they used to do, but what they do.
  6. If you can then create something for yourself. Even setting up a company so as to act as a consultant feels empowering. I purposely set up http://www.bertozzi49.com to remind me of the year of my life that my career changed for ever. I have since set up a second business with a friend that is launching in the Autumn in the automotive sector and it’s been a while since I have felt such pride. Not everyone will set a business up, but if you have an idea, go for it. I had been toying with this idea but until I spoke to Andy Hart who said ‘just go and fucking talk to this guy’ I was procrastinating, so I took his advice and here we are.
  7. Even though I am doing a number of amazing things right now, I still dread the ‘what do you do question’ because I don’t have a quick answer and I know I don’t have time to explain that I do lots of things and I can’t just say ‘I am VP Spotify EMEA’. This is the definition stage, this is the what am I worth stage. It’s the toughest one, a few people say to me ‘we are waiting to see your next big job’. It makes me wince. The reason being, that’s not the path anymore. It’s not the definition of me anymore. It might be, but it’s not where I am aiming. It’s taken me 8 months to understand that by doing other things, by taking a break, by not being in the day to day I am someone else. I am now an entrepreneur, I am now a consultant (currently for the amazing Whalar), I am now a Board advisor for a really hot Music NFT platform being launched soon and so on. I am the sum of all I have done and I am working on all the new things I am going to do. Sorry, no simple ‘this is what I do’

So a message to those who are out there struggling right now, it is vital you take your own control, In the time it has taken me to start two businesses, become advisor to two amazing companies, to consult for 4 businesses I have had 3 meaningful job conversations in 8 months…3. It is vital that you create your own next steps and make your own future. You can’t allow the industry to define you. Spend some time thinking about what and who you are, what you have done, not who you work for, how many people work for you, what company it is, come up with a new answer to the ‘what do you do’.

And a message to everyone who currently does not have to answer my original question because you have a great job and the world is great. Remember you will be judged by how you act with someone in times of trouble, not when things are great. Take a second to think about how you could help a colleague, call them, intro them, meet for lunch, whatever. If they are consulting and need an hour of your time, give it to them. Journalists, go talk to those not working for big orgs, they are much more likely to talk freely about the industry, get them on some panels and help keep their names visible. This has been a tough year for many, as an industry we can all support each other.

I would like to say Thanks to all of those people who have been unrelenting in staying in touch, being helpful, encouraging even as things went up and down. I want to wish all those I have spoken to over the last few months, even those I was meant to be helping. Thank you for the time you have given up.

Good luck everyone. There is so much out there to do, lets do it.

Yours Entrepreneur, consultant, advisor, investor, mentor, job hunter and all around pain in the arse!

Consultancy vs Full time work – is it for you?

As someone who has only ever been employed by a company for the last 25 years, I was always fascinated with the concept of consultancy. It seemed to be the thing you did when you got too old to be employed in the industry (about 35). I think I always used to think it must be a slightly unsatisfactory type of work, just getting involved with the feedback and strategy but not the execution. I think overall I was naive about it and didn’t really understand how many types of consultancy there are and how many people are involved and my own involvement so far has opened my eyes to this way of working.

After leaving Spotify I started Bertozzi49, my own company that I started in my 49th year. It was time to explore what this consultancy lark was about. The first thing I would say is there is a difference between someone who has decided to do this for the rest of their career or for a temporary period of time. In my case it is for a temporary period of time, allowing me time to focus on my new business (soon to be announced and not in the media space) and any full time role interviews. I think perhaps that makes it harder as you don’t necessarily invest in marketing yourself hard and your messaging is not as focused but on the other hand, it means you are likely closer to being a practitioner vs a serial consultant and further from the sharp end of business.

I am excited by the projects I have worked on so far, one was a project evaluating sales structure and approach for a ‘grown up’ but they rightly wanted to plan for future scaling, it was short and sweet and focused and fitted into my own view of a ‘second opinion’ approach. Another was much more in depth, over a longer period and was a genuine chance to get close to a company’s business, a big media company at that. The second was tougher for me, as I really wanted to go deeper and further into the business and see our proposals executed but that’s not our job and I think that’s what you have to get used to in many cases. However, the upside of that is that you get to be really brave on your strategy, you are unencumbered by existing baggage, internal politics, personal or corporate targets etc and allows freedom of thought which is a nice change from having to cope with the day to day as well as strategising. I think the worst thing I can do as a consultant is not be straight, honest and challenge the thinking, hopefully the business you are working for is open to that and not paying people to validate their own formed views.

Interview processes are SLOW and so this kind of work is very useful to keep you sharp, thinking about the industry and importantly out in the market place talking to the wonderful network. It is also a chance to learn about an area of the business that you may not take a full time role in, but by understanding it better is adding to your overall expertise and knowledge. When I move back into a full time role, I know these experiences will be invaluable to that company. As I start my own business in the automotive sector, these learnings also help shape how we plan for the future as well.

I would also say that this is where social media comes into its own, my LinkedIn network and Twitter network has been amazing through these last few months and provided me with so many good leads and opportunities so I highly recommend to all those starting out in your career, start building your network now, don’t dismiss social and don’t be that person who says ‘do you ever do any work?’ based on someone’s social activity, more fool you in my view. These platforms could be the bedrock of future business or people helping you with your own business, I dont know where I would be without the support of the network here on Linkedin.

I am excited to announce two more projects in the coming weeks that I will be more visible as I will be representing the companies in the market to some extent, so more to come on that – they are in two incredibly exciting companies and can’t wait to get the news out there and start to get some momentum in the marketplace. Bertozzi49 well and truly firing on all cylinders.

So overall, I think this approach to work can be very fulfilling, you can learn a lot and help many people and businesses. I think if you are still heavily drawn by wanting to do the execution part and seeing all your hard work come to fruition (thats me) then perhaps there is still another salary job left in you, but if you like the strategy part and the variety of consultancy then I would highly recommend it! Whatever you do, good luck!

Internal recruitment needs to be on brand and empathetic.

As I continue to consult, mentor and devote time to myself and family I am also concurrently talking to companies about potential future roles. I wanted to reflect on my experiences of this process so far and how I have observed companies deal with me.

I have been working for nearly 25 years, held senior roles in good companies and who knows exactly what that next role will be, and yet I continue to be surprised by how little consideration and communication is given to candidates of my level and experience during these times. In this instance I am mainly focusing on in house recruitment vs agencies. I think there has been an ever growing trend towards in housing of hiring processes, especially amongst the tech companies but also traditional businesses as well. I think with that trend comes a burden on that team that I am not sure all of them realise and are probably not held accountable to from one day to the next.

If you decide as a business to have your employees engage with external candidates, especially senior ones, then they need to have the same ethos as any of your out facing teams. Those interactions set the tone, they leave lasting impressions and who knows may damage future relations depending on where that candidate lands. Bad news travels fast right? Well those looking for a role, especially those not currently employed will be particularly conscious of that brand experience, and that’s what it is, your recruitment team are representing your brand. 

In these short months that I have been engaged with in house recruiters and indeed actual managers within businesses I have experienced many different versions of that process. I have spoken to a couple of companies that have been in communication through out, followed up, did what they said they would do and that’s all one asks. On the other hand I have been blanked. Now let’s be realistic, you can’t always expect things to move forwards, perhaps they don’t like the cut of your jib or your background is not what they wanted and so things don’t progress, we are all grown ups, what I do expect though is feedback and a decline. Take Conde Nast, contacted by them after an application, interview with recruiter, followed by interview with HR and then blanked. I personally believe that if you have asked a candidate to talk twice, you owe them politeness and respect to update and decline or move forwards. 

Hiring is not personal, you should never take it personally, finding the right candidate or job is about finding the round peg to fit in the round hole and it’s easy to find a little edge that catches and stops that fit, that’s fine, it’s natural. What is personal is how you go about doing that and I am afraid there are many external facing recruitment people who are either not trained or not scrutinised as to how they engage candidates. I think it’s a shame for two simple reasons. The first is you can absolutely set the tone of your organisation through these contacts, you are sending a message and when these candidates end up in other businesses, perhaps potential clients, they will feel positively about your business or not and secondly its is not difficult, it’s simple manners, it’s simple communication that costs the recruiter nothing but gives that job hunter a feeling of knowing where they stand and what’s next. 

Finding a new role is so exciting and I am loving all the possibilities, but it’s important to be true to yourself and expect a certain level of respect. Be thoughtful everyone. Times are tough without treating people with no consideration.