What's Holding You Back? You Are.

What's Holding You Back? You Are.

The more insidious of life's obstacles are your internal obstacles.

People, institutions, rules, regulations, and hierarchies all play major roles in our life. They get in our way, they make us stumble, we get frustrated, and we give up.

The Best Time To Find A New Job Is When You Don't Need It.

The Best Time To Find A New Job Is When You Don't Need It.

In other words — Always be prepared to leave a job, because your employer is always prepared to leave you. More and more, many companies (not all, mind you) find themselves letting employees go for a number of different reasons.

What Do I Need To Do To Move UP?

People ask me all the time for advice — I frequently answer questions on Reddit, Quora, and LinkedIn to a mix of executives, business owners, and job seekers. The other day, a potential client sent me a set of questions — so instead of just sending them to him, I thought I'd let you all in on how I responded:

"Hey, Rich. I'm pretty well focused on my goals and have a pathway to achieve — It's more about assessing next steps in the corporate world, such as what do I need to do to become a CMO for a mid-size company in 4 years. What classes and skills are requisite? Speaking engagements? What projects should have I lead? Whom should I create a relationship with? What personal habits should I break, etc? What is size of P&L I should run? Do you have an example of how you help executives at major companies reach their professional goals?"

To your questions — broadly — one needs experience, knowledge, gravitas, tools, communication skills, connections and exposure to become a CMO. Let me cover each one and I'll include your questions:


You need a requisite amount of experience to become a CMO. It's not 'how many years', it's more about how many areas do you feel comfortable in the marketing arena? I come from a marketing background — you need creative, technical, statistical, client, financial and communication experience to make CMO. You need to know all the areas you will manage — so many newly minted CMO's who hit the top rung usually are lacking in many of these areas and it shows in their performance. I'm not saying you need to be an expert in all areas — although you should have leveraged each one during your career.


It's what you know. Where has the industry been and where is it going? What is your competition doing? Where has your company failed and succeeded? What CAN you do to move forward? Knowledge is power and when you're at the pinnacle of your organization, you need to have a adequate grounding in the past, present, and future of your industry. People will be looking up to you and it's imperative that you have a good base to lead them forward. Or, surround yourself with people who do.

Gravitas (Leadership)

Leadership happens instantly. You can't train for it — I can tell a novice a mile away by how they comport themselves in certain situations and with people. Guess what — your people can too. You need to clearly develop good leadership behaviors with positive engagement, enthusiasm, energy, and motivation. Unfortunately, gravitas comes with time — if you compare me with my 35 year old me, you will instantly see how cool, calm, and collected I am during critical situations.

Management Tools & Techniques

It's what you know. Most people aren't open to better ways of doing things. "I've done it this way for years" is the death knell of any job or business because something better or someone faster comes along. As with knowledge, you need to re-assess your toolbox of tool and techniques and see if they're still effective and motivating. Bottom line, as a CMO, you need to leverage many motivational, time-management, and process-driven skills to stay at the top and succeed.

Communication Skills

If you've been a doer (worker-bee) during your career, you need to ramp up your interpersonal communication skills. I've worked with and seen many C-Level people who are incredible at getting things done, but suck at getting people to help them. When you approach the big positions, it's less doing and more communicating. In fact, it hinges on evangelizing. You need to inspire the people around you and help you achieve your vision for the future. If you aren't communicating effectively, you will lose the troops who will make that happen.

Also, you should be speaking ALL THE TIME. Sample topic: Where will your type of marketing/industry be in 5/10 years?

Connections & Exposure

You should connect with key people in (and outside) of your organization. Connections are the currency of influence and success when you want to become a CMO. Marketing needs the assistance of every other department in your organization, so it's imperative that you develop critical connections to ensure a smooth flow of information, assistance, and resources. The more 'friends' you acquire, the more currency you have to spend when you need to lean on them for a favor.

Get out of your bubble. So many people tend to stay and communicate with the same 10 people regularly. You need to build your connections and get out and meet better tennis players who play better tennis.

I can go SO much deeper with each area - but I wanted to give you a brief intro on what you need to do to move up.

Great Tips From A Retained Recruiter.

I love Reddit. Many years ago, a retained recruiter hosted a huge 'AMA' (Ask Me Anything) post. They delivered great responses which were spot on. Here are some of the best (please disregard the grammar - I wanted to preserve the questions asked):

What To Wear

Q: I have an interview at a small eCommerce company (~10 people). I was told by the recruiter that they hired, that they have no dress code and they wear sweat pants and stuff. If the atmosphere is that casual, would it be unwise to suit up for the interview like I normally would?

A: I think you should always wear a suit and tie to a first round interview. If one of the interviewers tells you that you can come back more casually for a second round, then do so, but always a suit in the first.

Q: What is the best thing for a girl to wear for a business professional interview? I've googled, done research, asked people and I keep getting conflicting answers. What is your take?

A: Just look professional. I said before that a pants suit/skirt suit doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference these days except to maybe an ancient law firm partner who thinks pants are for men and the kitchen is for women. Jacket, blouse, skirt or pants suit, you'll be fine.

Leaving Your Company

Q: How do you answer the question "Why are leaving current company?"

A: With an honest answer. Either they're not offering you new challenges or the opportunity for advancement, you see a downward trend, you have a genuine interest in the business of the company you're interviewing with, any number of reasons. You better have a damn good, honest and compelling answer for this one because this is an extremely important interview question.

I'm A Bad Interviewer

Q: Do you think there's ever a case where someone interviews poorly but is otherwise a great worker?

A: Yes and good interviewing techniques should be able to distinguish this. A truly "poor" interview by a good candidate should only be due to nervousness. Those who can't clearly articulate their experience and positions usually aren't top candidates.

Short Time At A Company

Q: What's the best way to handle a very short period at a company? For example, a candidate that switched jobs only to find that the new position isn't a good fit or the company is collapsing and now they're looking again after six months. Should you list the month of hire on the resume, or just leave the year and let the recruiter/manager infer a range? Is this a big hurdle or a little one when it comes to getting an interview?

A: Here's the Catch 22 with this. It's not appropriate to list "reasons for leaving" with every job on your resume but it also doesn't look great when you only have 6 months at one place. It's also kind of tough to fudge by using years only instead of years with months - unless you've been in the workforce a while, it looks like you're hiding something. If you've had a bunch of jobs for about a year, you're going to look like a job-hopper anyway so I wouldn't worry any more about it. If it's an aberration, then you might want to put an RFL as a small subtext but I'd stay still skip it.

Salary Discussion (remember - this is a recruiter answering)

Q: What's your advice for handling the "what are your salary requirements?" question. Sometimes, I hear this right off the bat; I don't like to answer because it depends on benefits and other factors. Some recruiters insist on getting a number and get sort of angry when I say "no".

A: You can't avoid this. It absolutely needs to be discussed. First you need to know what your motivation is in seeking a new job. If it's money, that's fine. If it's skills, that's even better. If it's money, phrase it like this: "I'm currently making $X with a planned yearly raise coming in June that will bring me to $X. While I'm happy at my current role, I feel under compensated based on what my colleagues at other firms are earning and I would be looking to earn $X+10 for this role based on my experience and what the market is bearing." If it's experience: "I'm currently making $X and can live comfortably on that. I don't see much in the way of future growth where I'm currently at so I'd be looking for an equivalent package with your company, ideally with a small cost of living bump to cover me during the transition between jobs."

Summary & Purpose Areas On Résumé

Q: Most resumes open with a "purpose" or "summary" or some such thing. Simply put, what should you put in there? Action-sounding or attention-grabbing words? Aggrandize yourself? Make demands? Maybe even a dry joke?

A: These sections seem to be getting longer and longer, mostly as a result of lousy "outplacement" services. Summary and Objective are two different things. A summary is only appropriate for a senior level professional and even then, I'm not a huge fan of them. They're more a tool to explain a skill set when a person has had a non-traditional or (for lack of a better word) "choppy" work history. An objective line should in one or two sentences, relate your experience to the job you are applying for. These should always be short, to the point and relate both to YOUR SKILLS and the SPECIFIC JOB YOU ARE APPLYING FOR.

College Degree Different From Past Jobs

Q: I work in a technical field but have a BofA degree in a totally unrelated non-technical subject. How should I handle it? Sometimes I get asked about it in interviews. Should I even bother mentioning it in my resume?

A: Sure, always mention your degree. You don't want people to think you didn't go to college! Just tell them how it is - you pursued your passion in college, enjoyed it, realized it wasn't a career and then got a job where you learned the skills you need in your current career. Stress the "on the job" training part of it. What you learn in college is rarely translatable to what you end up doing day to day and showing a hiring manager that you understand this will demonstrate that you are aware of your own strengths and weaknesses... which ties nicely into another standard interview question.

Should I Make That Résumé Follow-Up Phone Call?

Q: All day I've been browsing advice on the "resume follow-up phone call". Some hiring managers say it is annoying when someone calls just to check in with no purpose, while others say it shows they care about the job? Thoughts? Also, I see widely differing opinions on whether you should try to set up an interview during the follow-up call. Please help me navigate this, I need to do it tomorrow!

A: If you can take an honest look at your application and think you are a good fit for the job, not someone a company should "take a chance on" then you should make the follow-up call. If you have the ability to push for an interview then by all means go for it but I think in most situations you'd come off as overly aggressive.

Why Aren't They Calling Me Back?

Q: Here's a question, because I can't keep stressing about it silently. What's the deal with small companies that bring you in for around 10 interviews (you meet and get on with everyone there), give you homework to do, are totally impressed and need the weekend to 'talk to some people and figure out an offer, but we'll be in touch on Monday." Then Monday comes and goes and you don't hear anything, so you email them nicely on Thursday to 'stay on their radar' and they say they'll discuss the next Monday. Then THAT Monday goes by, you send another email, and this one isn't responded to. That was last week. What's going on?

A: They're meeting other candidates. Don't stress about it. Any company is going to do this and smaller ones are pretty notorious about letting feedback deadlines slip, with candidates and otherwise. Pick up the phone and give someone a call there. A voicemail might not get you a callback in this situation so I'd block your number (*67), call the switchboard or a direct line and if you don't get the person you want, try back again later, don't leave a VM. Bottom line here is they brought you in ten times because they're interested. They still are, just looking at other candidates to feel secure in their decision to hopefully hire you!