Tag Archives: Susan Thomas

Three Things You Need to Know Before Accepting Your Next Agency Job

Irrespective of where you are in your career, it’s tricky to find a new job.  Of course, we all worry about knowing the right things to say that will impress the hiring manager, but maybe you should worry as much about what they are promising you.  Just like job applicants, employers can all start to sound the same.  If you are going to throw your heart and soul into a new job, what will you really get back?

For most, especially at the beginning of a career, training and development opportunities are incredibly important.  It’s time to build your professional value, and many job seekers put a premium on opportunities to do just that.  The second most common “must have” we find from job applicants is finding a good culture to work within.  And although the company’s Instagram page may be full of alcohol-infused fun outings, it’s important to know how things go during the regular work day.   This blog is meant to help identify and ask about the key elements of a position that lead to job satisfaction.

Tip 1:  Training and Development Opportunities That Are More than Lip Service!
When asking about learning and development opportunities, almost every employer is going to say “we have those.”  Anxious to get out of your old job, and thrilled by the attention associated with the interview process, some candidates find themselves accepting exactly that answer.  Which is actually not a real answer.  Here are a few more specific questions to ask that will demonstrate your real enthusiasm for learning and development.  If an employer can’t recall or is hesitant to answer these types of questions, the job may not be for you!

NO FOLD ICON 15x15What is the training budget for the agency or budget per person?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 What are the training options?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 How do you measure training efficacy?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 How many people take training?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 Is the training provided by someone in house? OR, do you work with external trainers?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 Do you pay for team members to get certified in anything?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 Where is the training concentrated?

Tip 2:  Should You Stay or Should You Go?
Culture is another biggie that applicants at every level seem to care about.  Because the majority of your waking hours will be spent at work, it’s really important to ensure you like the way the company works, and that you appreciate the way they treat team members.  Don’t be shy about asking some pointed questions about how people work together and how transparent the organization is (if they don’t share any information, it’s likely to create a rumor-oriented culture).  The best possible way to assess your fit in the culture is to meet one or two people that you will work with that would be considered your peers in the organization.  A casual conversation with these people will help you really feel good about your career choice.  Here are a few questions that might come in handy:

NO FOLD ICON 15x15 What is the best staff outing or event you have had in the past six months?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 When and and how do staff collaborate, and do you have any tools to facilitate that collaboration?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 When is the last time the team all got together (assuming the company has multiple offices)? How often do you do that?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 How are staff members recognized for a job well done
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 How transparent is the company? Do you share financial information?  Do you share client budgets?  What company milestones are shared with the team? When are these milestones communicated?
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 What’s the churn rate at the senior level? Focus on most senior execs because they stay many several years at those jobs
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 How often do you see or interact with upper management? Do you have access to the VPs, the President, or the CEO?

Agencies that tend to hire fast also typically have problems keeping great talent. If you read D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E between the lines, you are likely walking in to a difficult situation. Click To Tweet

Tip 3:  Is it You, or Would Anyone With a Pulse Do?
It’s always flattering when a company appears to be anxious to make you an offer – but don’t be flattered into your next position.  A company that moves too fast may be desperate.  Although we would all like to believe they are simply making an exception to the hiring process because you are so wonderful, agencies that tend to hire fast also typically have problems keeping great talent.  If you read D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E between the lines, you are likely walking in to a difficult situation.  Here is a short check list of a solid hiring process that reputable agencies should offer and ask for:

NO FOLD ICON 15x15 A job description
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 An application
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 Skills testing
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 Reference
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 Background check
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 At least two people should interview you
NO FOLD ICON 15x15 The interviewers should be prepared with insightful questions that make you squirm just a little

If your potential employer doesn’t follow these steps, chances are they didn’t test or verify anyone working at the agency.  What does that say about the agency’s standards and your co-workers?

Having hired more than 200 people, my best advice is don’t fall for empty promises –  there is really no rush!  If you want a great position with a great agency, do your homework and ask great questions!  The best agencies won’t mind your questions, in fact, you might be hired because you ask them.  And, if you are in the market for a new position, check out the 10Fold website!

By Susan Thomas
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How to Play Your Cards in Getting that Promotion

One of the biggest considerations most people have in their careers is when to expect, or ask for, their next promotion. Let’s face it: a promotion sounds like it solves a lot of problems. It demonstrates that your efforts have actually meant something meaningful, and it validates your successes to those that care about you, as well as to those in the industry. Most importantly, a promotion often comes with a nice bump in salary which helps you pay for an upgrade in your San Francisco apartment, makes the payment on your new Tesla, or affords the Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, or Lyft account you just opened (depending on the promotion we are talking about). Promotion criteria can change, depending on the phase the industry you work in may be in. During times of steep growth, experienced people for high-level jobs may be few and far between – creating earlier-than-normal opportunities for faster promotions. But how do you know if the time is right for a promotion? Read on…

Differentiating Promotions from Raises
It may be obvious to most of you, but let’s start with the basics: a promotion is different than a raise. A raise is recognition for doing a good job – and perhaps a bit of an incentive for continuing to do a great job. A promotion means you will be taking a new job, with new (and sometimes added) responsibilities. When asking for a promotion, carefully consider what you are asking for. Sure, you would like the additional cash associated with the next level – but are you ready to deliver the work at that level? One common “myth” that I sometimes find people adhering to is that time is the marker to identify someone who deserves a promotion. I’ve heard on more than one occasion, “I’ve been here two years, I deserve a promotion.” My contention is that time has little, if anything, to do with it (that’s the good and the bad news). Time often suggests you have been assigned a task a certain number of times – but does not indicate your level of success or the quality of your work, nor does it suggest the initiative you have put into your job. The good news about not using time as the primary measuring stick is that if you demonstrate repeatedly the ability to do something successfully, even after only a short period of time, you may be ready to move to the next level. The point is, don’t let yourself be bound by time.

Are You Ready?
Admittedly It’s hard to be totally objective about your own work – but before you have that conversation with your manager, it’s good to think through your personal readiness for the next job. Here are a few tips that should help you:

1. Read your current job description (and if your company doesn’t make that easily accessible to you, you should ask that they do). How many of the objectives have you met? Try to differentiate the things you have done successfully once or twice from the things you have done successfully on a repeated basis. If you have accomplished 80 percent or more of the items on the job description, that’s a good thing! Onto step two!

2. Read the job description for the level above your current position. How many of those objectives are you successfully meeting? Pay special attention to whether you can demonstrate that you have done those several times, without assistance.

3. If you feel you are not only doing the job you currently hold successfully, but are doing 25 to 30 percent of the job above yours successfully, it’s time to sit down with your manager and make sure that his or her opinions align with yours. In this conversation, check for qualitative differences, which are typically the basis of any misalignment. Ask for training or a mentor to help you work on those things. Most importantly, get specific on what success does look like and ask how long they think it will take you to get to the point of being successful at whatever is holding you back. It is really important that you have a trusting relationship with your manager, and the manager above him or her. They should definitely be advocating for you in this process.

Is it Worth the Wait?
It’s easy to get discouraged when you are waiting on a promotion. The important thing to understand is why your company is also waiting. Sometimes promotions are not made at the time people are “ready,” but instead made when it suits the business. Some businesses plan only a specific number of promotions per year, and the other people who are ready for a promotion simply have to wait until the next time the business is ready – which sets up an unhealthy competitive dynamic, a la Hunger Games. For example, some European PR firms promote only every 16 months – and have only a few promotions to offer based on profitability goals. And some small PR agencies simply cannot afford the higher salaries associated with promotions, because their revenue stream is unpredictable. If these are the reasons given to you about the wait on your promotion, then my advice is to seek another employer. This type of system is unpredictable and the owners or key executives are putting profit before staff – and you deserve better.

Another consideration is how long you have been waiting. As mentioned earlier, while time is far from the only factor in determining a promotion, let’s face it, it does take a certain amount of time to repetitively accomplish a task successfully. If your job is to do tasks that require only a short time frame to complete (such as a few hours to a couple of days), then a promotion in less than a year is feasible. When the tasks become more complex and take longer to measure success, you might have to wait 18 months to two years.

Finally, when seeking a promotion within your place of business, or if you are looking to take a higher position in a new company than one you’ve had in the past, make sure your references align with your title aspirations. A couple of years ago I had an account executive interview for an account manager position. His only references referred to his work as an intern. They couldn’t speak to his work quality at the account manager level – only that he was a nice guy. Recent examples and references that speak to you doing some or most of the job you are going after are really important.

Are all the Boxes Checked?
What is most important is that you can demonstrate readiness for the promotion you are seeking. This will demonstrate that you are thoughtful, strategic and not impatient (which makes a big difference to your perspective employer). Demonstrating that you’ve spent time to devise an ambitious yet realistic career path will create even more trust with your current or future employer. Talk to your manager, make sure they are advocating for you, and have a realistic (and as objective as possible) perspective of your strengths and your gaps, and practice talking about both comfortably.
Good luck as you climb the career ladder!

By Susan Thomas

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Cryptocurrency and the Digital Economy

Today I had the pleasure of attending a Chertoff Group Conference, #TCGSecuritySeries. I was fascinated with the cryptocurrency discussion led by Jason Cook – Managing Director of the Chertoff Group.  Panel members included Rich Baich, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Security Officer of Wells Fargo & Company;  Dave Jevans, Chief Executive Officer at CipherTrace; and Mance Harmon, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of Swirlds.

Below are just a few tidbits from this thought-provoking discussion.

What’s the big deal about cryptocurrencies?
1. Cryptocurrencies fuel a multi-billion dollar economy
2. In one year, if all continues on course, the cryptocurrency economy will represent more than a trillion Dollars – which has more value than Canada’s GDP.
3. The vast majority of ransomware is powered by Bitcoin

What’s important to know in regards to cryptocurrencies and security trends?
1. The Darkweb is being used to sell your private data (credit cards).
2. There is now a whole class of crime called data extortion. This entails the theft of customer data and private information., which cybercriminals then threaten to make public unless they get paid a ransom.
3. One step organizations can take to address this threat is by developing a definition for an enterprise-grade consensus server for connecting organizations
4.From there, they need to implement that consensus server — a trust layer to go across the internet to connect the organizations and take advantage of improved security models.

A Few Surprising Facts about Blockchain:
1. Blockchain, a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly, has real potential from a currency perspective, but there is no real production Blockchain project underway
2. If anyone wants to bring these systems into the open and transact for value, security is going to be a massive concern.
3. If we move to blockchain, every bank will have to develop a security system that is just as secure as SWIFT (the current security solution used by banks to transfer money).  This will be a huge challenge for banks
4. Cryptocurrency is the killer app for blockchain technology. There are potentially thousands of others.

The Biggest Digital Economy Security Concerns
Distributed ledger technology is at the heart of the security concern because it’s the technology’s engine that acts like a database.  There may be multiple ledgers, and one or more may act as the master.  Copies are used for disaster recovery.  If you make the copies a master as well, you are writing to both simultaneously.  When you have a write conflict (two transactions come in simultaneously), then the community has to agree on the order to execute the transactions.  You can take a master out of one organization and give administration to a different party.  You can take all the masters and put them in control of many different organizations.  They can run each securely.

1. You should not be able to execute a DDOS attack against the network and bring it down.
2. You should not be able to change the actual order of transactions and no one should be prevented from transactions.
3. Protection of security encryption keys is also an issue.  If you have the encryption keys, you can effectively become the transacting party.

A Few Words of Security Advice
Going forward, organizations and the security community will need to:
1. Cultivate security education based on a deeper understanding of the threat
2. Implement regular “reality checks” of their security and compliance posture.
3. Thoroughly assess and prioritize risks and implement solutions and strategies for risk mitigation
4. Develop a government body for the crypto economy – possibly like the Federal Reserve Board for world governments.

Thanks to the Chertoff Group, and Secretary Chertoff, for inviting us to this very interesting event in Palo Alto, California.

By Susan Thomas

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Giving Back with a Purpose

My daughter Katy and I had the extraordinary opportunity to be in the presence of excellence last week, when we attended and I delivered the keynote speech for the SEBA Baccalaureate Celebration for Saint Mary’s College of California. My role was to give these students a glimpse of what lies ahead, offer them strategies about how to persevere, and inspire them to continue to strive for excellence.


My speech was entitled
An Ordinary Life of Extraordinary Experiences, and it chronicled my journey as an entrepreneur, detailing my successes and my failures. I was transparent about the challenges and the emotional and physical costs associated with those challenges. My message was simple: every person in the room had the opportunity to achieve their goals irrespective of their socioeconomic status, gender, religious or political beliefs, or where they live. Each person in that room could (and should) accomplish amazing things – even beyond their wildest dreams. My caution was that it would not be easy. It would take courage, perseverance, preparation, support, and a lot of hard work. I provided examples of people from all walks of life who have embraced the opportunities before them to achieve greatness and make global change; affect policies and the direction of nations; improve their communities, schools, companies, and industries; and most importantly, change lives for the better. I explained that the key was to define a meaningful purpose and then expect failures along the way. In fact, plan for failure and also plan to fail as fast as possible. And most importantly, never, never give up!

It was a humbling experience, knowing I was among the best and brightest students in one of the top 10 regional universities in the West. I’m not sure who got more from that event: me, or the students in the audience. It was inspiring and wonderful to have had the opportunity and to provide the opportunity to my daughter. A big thank you (and a huge hug) goes out to the always elegant and sophisticated Dr. Larisa Genin, the Associate Dean, School of Economics and Business Administration at Saint Mary’s College of California, who honored me with the invitation to speak.