August 08, 2007

Career Advice: Jane

This character, "Jane", is a composite of numerous individuals I've met during the past three years. At the end of this brief career description, you are encouraged to offer "Jane" career advice.

Jane is the Director of Circulation for a multichannel cataloger. She worked her way up the corporate ladder, from an entry-level merge/purge analyst in 1992, to a housefile circulation analyst in 1995, to a housefile planning analyst in 1997, to a circulation manager in 1998, to her current position, which she was named to in 2002.

During the past five years, Jane has helped her organization go through a significant transition. In 2002, just twenty percent of transactions occurred online. Today, sixty-five percent of purchases occur online, and half of the online transactions are driven by Jane's catalog mailings.

Earlier this year, Jane's boss, the Vice President of Marketing, left the company to pursue other interests. The CEO decided to name the Online Marketing Director as the new Vice President. This angered Jane. The new VP of Marketing had just six years of total experience, though all of it was in e-mail marketing, paid search, affiliate marketing, portal marketing, and shopping comparison site management.

Since the promotion, the new VP of Marketing and Jane are not getting along. The focus of marketing has clearly shifted toward the online channel. With catalog marketing appearing to be less effective, the new VP asked that Jane give up catalog advertising dollars, so that the dollars could be allocated to online marketing activities, regardless whether the catalog marketing activities drive online sales or not.

Jane mentioned that her "file forecast" indicates that if this strategy is employed, the online channel is likely to lose sales, not gain sales. The VP of Marketing chided Jane for her comments, pointing out that online conversion rates are at a two-year high of 3.294%, thirty percent of all site visitors come from paid search, and that online sales are up thirteen percent over last year. Conversely, "telephone" sales are down seventeen percent vs. last year.

Jane also inquired about taking over the Online Marketing Director position. The new VP of Marketing informed Jane that catalog marketing skills are not relevant to the needs of the Online Marketing Director position.

If you were in Jane's shoes, what should the next step be in her career?


  1. This is a no-brainer. Jane must exit stage left.

  2. Once she exits, where does she go?

    This example is happening to talented catalog folks all over the place, leaving them with an ever-decreasing number of good career options.

  3. Anonymous7:49 PM

    Jane needs to adapt and gain skills in the new business environment. No one is owed anything in business, and her excellent track record and advancement on the catalogue side was the result of hard work and a desire to learn. She must not hold on to her outdated expertise, but rather seek expertise in web marketing and embrace the new marketing world (perhaps in a new firm.) Once she does this, she'll be best able to reach synergy between print and online marketing, and she'll land the VP position.

  4. Ray, if online folks at other companies give her a chance, then yes, your point of view is right.

    It's going to be fascinating to watch what happens to today's online marketers when Web 4.0 or whatever the next big thing is runs over our two-dimensional search-based internet marketing world.

  5. There is insufficient info to offer advice.

    Some questions for Jane:

    1. Will she relocate?
    2. If so, will her spouse's job complicate her relocation?
    3. Will her kids' education complicate her relocation?
    4. Will the sale of her house complicate her relocation?

    Perhaps Jane can make it through this minefield of questions ...

    Onward, then.

    Jane has been at this company a long time. Regardless of what Jane decides, it behooves her to say to her current employer "I have been here a long time and I have a track record of giving you folks my very best efforts. I'M GOING TO RELY ON YOUR SENSE OF FAIR PLAY HERE. How can I begin to integrate myself into the online channel? (wait for response ....) WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE ME?"

    The bits in all caps are the lines that have worked exceptionally well for my candidates. Use those expressions word-for-word.

    Harry Joiner

  6. Jane, if you're out there, take Harry's advice and run with it!!!


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