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Time To Leave Marketing? … A 7 Step Quiz

by Alf Nucifora

I have to confess. I could never resist those provocative Cosmopolitan Magazine quizzes that taunted me in doctors' waiting rooms and supermarket check-out lines. Who didn't want to know how he rated as man-about-town lothario or bedroom performer. Was I capable of matching, or better still, exceeding the norm when it came to satisfying my mate, who incidentally, armed with Cosmo intelligence, was presumably measuring every element of my performance against the average, assigning points like ice skating judges at an Olympic Games competition. Sensationalism and triviality aside, and lack of nuance notwithstanding, the quizzes did serve the purpose of focusing the mind and forcing consideration of issues sometimes unexplored, or often long forgotten.

In that spirit, I give you a handy ten question quiz guaranteed to answer the question…is it time to leave marketing? Let's not assign numerical value to answers or set benchmark levels for degrees of happiness or compatibility with one's current professional state. By question 10, you'll know where you stand. And one caveat before we begin. Don't confuse workaholic habits or A-type personality behavior with career dissatisfaction. That's a separate issue and chances are you'd be equally obsessive managing a pet kennel or hardware store. There's another time and place to pursue those demons.

1. Do you taste "agita" in the morning? The term translates from the Italian as agitation or "acid discomfort in the stomach". For the career unhappy, it's that uneasy or unsettled feeling that one experiences upon awakening each day and knowing that what lies ahead are eight hours or more of drudgery, dissatisfaction, dissonance, office politics and general unhappiness with one's professional lot. (Insert your own list here). The result is an inevitable daily pang of discontent that originates in the stomach and radiates to the brain, all the while prompting the question "Why am I doing this?" If every day is an "agita" day, it's time to consider a change of location or life.

2. Am I beset by constant fear and self-doubt? Some of the world's greatest performers take self-doubt with them to their graves. For many, it goes with the territory, and serves to sharpen the edge. But when professional fear crosses the line into clinical psychosis, it's time to seek another line of work. When fear mutates from motivation to pathology, it's definitely time to move on.

3. Is the thrill gone? I've spoken to so many marketers who confirm that once they've achieved an income level that surpasses their earlier expectations, money no longer becomes the motivating factor. It's as much or more the intellectual challenge and excitement that makes the practice of marketing the exciting and satisfying profession that it can be. If the thrill is gone, and the root cause is less the current corporate or career function, it's time to hang up the spurs. An intellectually unchallenged marketer is a shopkeeper, engaging in client transaction for the sole purpose of filling the till, and with as much psychic reward.

4. Have I lost the desire to grow? In the performing arts they refer to it as "mailing it in", where the performer is in a state of remote control and the performance itself reeks of a "been there, done that" disposition. When the desire to learn, to experiment, to grow has been lost, and daily practice is nothing more than going through the motions, consider yourself to have entered the downward phase of professional life. Yes, the money may be good, as so it should be. But it's a helluva price to pay for atrophy of the mind.

5. Have I lost respect for clients and peers? It starts with derogatory or pejorative comments mouthed quietly to oneself and ultimately shared with others. Ironically, it has nothing to do with the personality or performance of the client or peer. Instead, it's cancer of self-loathing and dissatisfaction that reveals itself in wounded ego, cynicism and all around bad attitude. As with bad breath, nobody will warn you of the problem until it's too late. When realization does set in, heed the message and move on.

6. Have I lost the respect of my clients or peers? The symptoms will become obvious. They don't call you as much, involve you as much, or seek your input or involvement as much. It's not that you're not acknowledged. Professional courtesy and legacy will help maintain the fiction that you still count. But professionally and personally, your value and worth are at a minimum, a commodity to be acquired only when necessity prevails and rarely when there is the need for the wisdom and opinion of a trusted counselor or mentor. That's not to say that you can't still generate the dollars. But then one could say the same thing about a gainfully-employed street-walker.

7. Can I do this forever? That's the big question. If you cannot visualize doing what you do until you retire or die, a pertinent alternative for new times when retirement is not an automatic or preferred option, then it's definitely time to consider a change, golden hand-cuffs notwithstanding. For those, who like Shirley MacLaine believe that life comes around again, and again, one miserable stint on the planet may be no big deal. But for the majority of us who question the composition and complexion of the afterlife, making the most of the life we've got should be the paramount concern. That means an escape from career prison. I look forward to seeing you on the other side of the wall.

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