“Measure twice, cut once.” That’s one of my dad’s favourite bits of advice to impart.
As well as helping to avoid wonky shelves and stodgy cakes, it’s also good advice when looking to move from agency-side to your first in-house position.
We see a lot of people make the move and it doesn’t always go according to plan with the first move. These moves are often with good brands and into roles that looks good on paper. Their flaws and limitations often reveal themselves a little further down the line.
This happens for all sorts of different reasons, but from what I’ve seen I think it can often be avoided. I always give people the same two bits of advice when looking to move in-house:
- Don’t get too caught up in the brand. To be open (within reason) with the sorts of companies they entertain talking to – some of the best roles are with companies who sound dry on paper (and the same in reverse).
- Be picky. When it comes to the role itself, be choosey. For this bit, it’s about knowing the questions to ask.
Here are a few questions that I’d always encourage people to ask or reflect on when evaluating an in-house role:
How digitally-focussed is the company?
This is almost like asking how important your role is in the business. It could have an impact on how decisions are prioritised and what investment is like in your specialism. If the company is a pure-play digital company it’s likely to invest more in digital and generally speaking, more likely to be doing cutting edge work.
That’s not to say that more traditional business can’t be a good move (which brings me neatly to my next question)…
Is digital marketing represented at board level?
It may be that the company isn’t a digital-first business (high street retail, publishing or energy as a few examples). I think the important thing is that there’s an understanding of digital in the business and an appetite to support it. This means it needs a voice and people championing it at a senior level.
Does the CEO/board understand what you actually do for the company and why it’s important? This could directly impact the investment in your area.
Who’s looking after the neighbouring channels?
If you’re going in as a specialist (eg. PPC or SEO) this is especially important I think – if you’re in PPC, who’s responsible for paid social, remarketing, RTB? If you’re in SEO, who looks after social media and who’s responsible for content marketing ideas?
You’ll get an understanding of the limitations of your role this way, where other roles start and stop and what your room to progress is beyond your existing channel specialism. You can also get a feel for how much support and cooperation you’re likely to get from other teams you’ll be working alongside.
What’s the appetite like to test and learn?
Being and the cutting edge and staying at the cutting edge aren’t the same thing. Does the company embrace new ideas, new methods, new technology, new channels? Is there a budget to test and experiment? This could effect your scope to evolve and develop in the role.
How is the team structured?
Team structures in-house vary a lot more than they do at agencies. Where’s your logical progression within the company and would you want to move towards the role above the one you’re going for? How would you progress outside of pure promotion? You can even ask for examples of how others have advanced from the sort of position you’re interviewing for.
Where is the office based?
This is less about knowing where the office is and more to do with understanding how the location may affect the culture. The main reason for asking this one is because it will often impact the pace of the work. People who live outside of Central London and work locally often choose to do so for a reason, and it’s not always for the role itself as it usually is in London. As Dan explored with Ercan last week, the pace in an in-house set up in Central London is similar to that of an agency, but come outside of Central London and the pace can slow down (talking very sweepingly, still quite subjective as it reflects company culture to a large degree).
I’ll add that it’s not the end of the world if you make a wrong turn, if you make the cut without measuring properly it just might mean you’ll need to buy more wood (or make a smaller shelf).