Talk to a lot of people in advertising & media and you’ll hear a similar story. Many didn’t plan to be in the industry or the job they’re in. Instead, a series of chance meetings, conversations or events led to opportunities that excited them and one thing led to another. Depending on where you get your stats, between 60 and 90% of the workforce aren’t in a job they actually planned.

Good for diversity

Stanford Professor John Krumboltz is an established career theorist who says that career indecision can often be desirable and even sensible because it creates space for chance opportunity. He calls it Planned Happenstance. 

I’ve spent 25 years in the industry but originally, I’d never even considered it. As a youngster, I was a keen sportsman who was interested in playing AFL and considering Sports Science or Physiotherapy as a career if the footy didn’t work out. One day, I carried golf clubs for someone who worked at Channel 9 and, without any industry skills or experience, I was given a shot. Every day, I hear stories like mine often from some of the industry’s most senior and influential people.

I don’t believe it’s always necessary to plan a career in the conventional sense, particularly in an industry where many roles don’t require formal education. If the industry embraces that, there’s an opportunity to entice a lot more people who haven’t considered advertising and media as a career option, into the mix. More people, more pipeline, more diversity!

What about career guidance?

There are around 140 or so jobs you can have in the advertising and media industry. Most people couldn’t name anywhere near that many. Even if they did know the title of a role, in many cases they wouldn’t know that the role involved or whether it was right for them. A lot of career advice doesn’t go into near enough detail on our industry and it certainly doesn’t ‘sell the sizzle’. For an industry that advises our clients every day on the importance of consumer education, brand building and nurturing, I sometimes question whether we’re missing those same points where talent attraction is concerned.


A young person between the age of 15 – 24 who is not in employment, education or training is a NEET. On average, by the age of 24, 15% of Australians are NEETs, the number at any given time being close to 400,000 people! (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare). As the parent of a son who is almost finished school and is still grappling with what he wants to do, these stats hit home for me. My belief is that the advertising and media industry is in a great position to look outside the box and create early opportunities for more people who don’t fit the standard mould. And, it’s in our interest to do so with the global advertising market predicted to tip over a trillion dollars by 2028.

Maximising our opportunity

If you think about it, our industry should have the best recruitment marketing there is. We have the reach, we understand brand building, and storytelling is our bread and butter. Often individual businesses have the resources to implement recruitment initiatives, graduate programs and so on but at the end of the day it would work better if we all worked together. We can still compete with each other but at the same time implement industry wide initiatives to raise awareness at all levels about the amazing opportunities we have to provide. It makes sense.

Playing by the book

If hiring policies are stringent around candidates fitting a certain mould, the industry risks missing out on good people and hiring the same types again and again. Yes, we get there are business gains to be had by hiring someone who is functional day one and doesn’t need much training but over time, we miss out on the richness and diversity that comes with casting a wider net. Not only that. Chances are when someone is comfortable with a certain amount of happenstance, they are also the types who are more optimistic, curious, keen to learn and capable of dealing with ambiguity – all skills that can be superpowers in your business.  

Article by Adam Elliott of AIC. First appeared in B&T, September 2023.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


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