Career path of the social business professional

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed some interesting transitions in career paths by people from services to client-side:

Jeremiah Owyang is tracking these moves regularly; as you can tell, these professionals have expertise in marketing and communications disciplines.

An interesting contrast exists for E2.0/IT professionals, where practitioners are moving from industry to vendors:

Movement is inevitable and as budgets come back, we’ll certainly be seeing plenty of additional switching. The overarching thread I’m seeing here is that business expertise matters. The days of talking head gurus are numbered, as their visibility decreases. I created this thumbnail sketch to outline what I’m seeing:

Very general, as the labels cover a variety of situations. Top-right isn’t necessarily the ideal position here either, as I avoided using an axis to chart out compensation. Some thoughts on the labels:

  • Carpetbaggers are often referred to as snake oil salespeople, these consultants have low credibility but can fool buyers into believing they’ve got the goods. Once in a while, these people are caught red-handed e.g. when you hear about a job announcement only to discover a quiet separation weeks or days later, or in some cases, flat out convicted.
  • Independents are a dying breed. They were flying the “purist” banner high while straddling the clue-train, like the major in Dr. Strangelove. Visibility is tougher to maintain as social business evolves and these people will need a safe haven unless they’ve already reached escape velocity. Writing an industry book is a common tactic here.
  • Consultants come in many forms, but the way I’m using the label is to describe advisers backed by a brand larger than one’s name, with the ability to leverage a pyramid of different cost resources and skill sets. In supporting their company’s brand, consultants are behind the scenes with low visibility to the outside world, often in exchange for stable compensation.
  • Analysts play in the space between corporate and vendor/service – as a result they enjoy a balance of visibility and relative stability. It’s not an easy job and success requires a high degree of commercial empathy, genuine intellectual curiosity, and ability to forgo sleep. Think Altimeter Group.
  • Corporates are a mix; on the marketing/communications side these professionals typically carry higher visibility than IT/operations folks. Yes, the stereotypes apply here. The days of the “rockstar CMO” have faded and external visibility for these folks may be low, but their importance and internal visibility are quickly on the rise. The external recognition will follow.

Having been corporate, consultant, and analyst, I’m intrigued by watching the space evolve. I’m sure we’ll see natural, common paths emerge as the social business industry matures.