July 10, 2016


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Your best career pathway: linear or dynamic?

We are each a product of the life (and job) choices that we make. We may choose our jobs based on our career goals, circumstances or necessity. At times we have the power to select our ideal job, and at other times we have to take whatever we can get. There is no right or wrong career pathway, and no two paths will ever be the same.

A career in agency account management is made up of a series of clearly defined levels, which create a linear pathway from the time you graduate from university, through to senior management.

Given that our life journeys will be so diverse, is it generally considered better to stay on the account management ladder and have a "linear" career (agency only), or deviate off the ladder and have a more "dynamic" career (e.g. agency-side, client-side, marketing, sales, starting your own business, voluntary work, travel, having a family)?


Things to consider 

The economy

In a healthy economy, business confidence will be high and jobs aplenty. It will be far easier for you to take a dynamic path (outside of AgencyLand) when the world is your oyster; it's quite a different story when jobs are scarce. 

Your ambition

How high and how quickly do you want to climb the account management career ladder? The longer you stay within AgencyLand (on the accepted pathway) the more quickly you will ascend. If fame and fortune are not your main drivers, you may enjoy deviating here and there for variety and job satisfaction.

Your goals

Where would you like your career to be in 5 to 10 years' time? If you have a clear idea of where you'd like to end up, then it pays to make choices that help you achieve your goals. Any deviation may mean a longer, tougher road to your destination.


Has your job been made redundant and you need to find another immediately? Are you new to the country and eager to secure any job in order to get local experience? Sometimes the need for employment trumps the ability to choose your ideal role, and often that means taking work outside of AgencyLand on a forced dynamic pathway.


Changing jobs will always come with an element of risk. Will this be a good career move? Will you be able to keep moving in the direction you want to go? If this is a dynamic move, will you be able to jump back onto the account management ladder at some point in the future?

If you are risk-averse you will be more likely to stay on the linear-ladder. If you are adventurous, a more risky (dynamic) pathway could be the perfect choice. 

Employer perceptions

If your CV shows a dynamic pathway, your suitability for a role becomes open to biased interpretation. Some employers will see a dynamic CV as interesting and well-rounded. Some will be confused (or put off) because you don't tick the obvious boxes. Always remember that beauty is in the eye of the CV-beholder. What one agency employer dislikes, another will think is fantastic - it just may take longer to find a like-minded employer.



Every single career choice you make (be it linear or dynamic) will come with it's own set of consequences (some good and some not so good).

There is no doubt that staying on the account management ladder will enable you to move up through the ranks more quickly, and your salary will increase accordingly.

There may come a time where you gaze at the green grass on the other side of the fence and decide to do something  different. As long as you understand that a move away from AgencyLand may mean it will be more difficult (depending on the stage you are at in your career) to get back onto the account management ladder in the future.

It's best to weigh up your options carefully, and analyse the pros and cons. Ultimately you have to do what is best for yourself and your family, and nobody but you can say if your choice is right or wrong.



    Sarah Ritchie
    Sarah Ritchie


    Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.

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