CMO Impact
Achieving Personal & Career Success

One Topic CMOs Aren’t Discussing…And Should Be

Averi Melcher
January 11, 2016

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At the Fall Innovation and Inspiration SummitHeather Newman, CMO of Content Panda, and Kim Feil, CEO of bizHive, led a refreshingly open discussion on one previously taboo topic: getting fired. After seeing several of her fellow marketers change positions around the same time – and with little to no conversations being held on the subject – Newman decided it was time for a candid conversation.

“You have this group of people that are at all different levels, but we still don’t talk about it when it happens. That’s when you want support most,” said Newman.

With the average ‘shelf life’ of a CMO falling between 24 and 36 months, being asked to step down from a position is something many will experience in their career. Even still, it can be a very isolating time. That’s why Newman didn’t want to just talk about the experience, but prepare for it.

Sometimes the experience is pleasant – mutual, even – and directly leads to greener pastures. Other times….not so much. But, no matter what brought on the career transition, here’s some great advice for turning failure into your most fortuitous moment:

Have Awareness of The Situation

No one is immune to the risk of losing their position. That being said, there may be some internal or external factors that led up to this moment. Take stock of the situation: Be mindful of your performance, your role within the company, the corporate culture, and even the internal politics – it’s important to know if there was an area where you could have stepped up a bit, or if your skill set was simply not a match for the company.

Regardless of the reason, maintain your personal reputation by having an exceptional (in the good sort of way) exit that will set the tone for how future companies perceive you.

On that note, Feil shared a quote she had once heard: “Be gracious, be grateful and then be gone.”

Before completely severing ties, remember to perform due diligence on severance, unemployment and finance planning (and here’s some tips on negotiating your next compensation package).

Newman reminded CMOs to not get too wrapped up in the persona of the brand they worked for, but rather to focus on what you brought to the brand. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile with this in mind. Does it read like an advertisement for your previous company? It’s time to change that.

Welcome the Growth in Your Career

Take a deep breath; you’ve survived the fall. Now, it’s time to tackle the job search.

For CMOs who’ve held one position for a long time, this may seem like a daunting task. Newman suggested starting a daily ritual to get yourself up to speed: catch up on tech news, emerging social media platforms and what’s happening in the marketing industry. Then, schedule in the time to blog and create your own social posts. You’re the CEO of your personal brand, so treat your identity as a business.

“Take a little time just for you – the business of you,” said Newman. “Do you own your positioning statement about yourself? Is it updated – can you rehearse it?”

Another thing to remember is to network more – not less – after moving on from a position. By keeping your network open and highlighting your marketing successes, new opportunities will present themselves sooner than you may have thought, and in completely unexpected places.

After Feil left her position at Walgreens, a previous business connection invited her to work with their company – in NASCAR. A little uncertain of this unfamiliar industry, she rose to the challenge and had the opportunity to learn about a new marketing sector, audience and sales strategies.

“It gave me confidence that I could do something completely different,” said Feil.

Follow her lead and build a network of mentors, referrals and peers that will vouch for your work. Don’t forget to strengthen these relationships by returning the favor and helping others, too. Take advantage of your free time to join a charity; volunteer for a cause you feel passionate about; or, lead an organization that could use your expertise. Think of it as an opportunity to take back your person.

Embrace this time of personal and professional growth by setting goals, exceeding them and knowing you can tackle any challenge life may throw your way.

“Honestly, it’s about being brave and sharing your story with your peers,” said Newman.

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