I Want to Work in Shangri-La.


When I was growing up I loved watching movies about Shangri-La.  Just the name evoked numerous  senses and sensors.  The word Shangri-La danced in my young ears. A place that was the epicenter of enchantment.  I am still looking for Shangri-La.  I have had a glimpse from time to time.  A little peak. A taste from time to time. A vaporous kiss.

I was copied on a mass email update recently from somebody that I didn’t even know if I knew them. I  do not have enough time to go into that basement.  It was their personal update on their search for their next career opportunity.  The person didn’t come into focus but I remembered that  I had received a previous blast from them before.  They were still on the beach. Their email  blast made me easily accessible but their elusive job for them was still out of reach.

He or she updated us all on what they were looking for. A big plus for them would be to find a company that balances the importance of  people, the planet along with profits.  Ah Shangri-La.  I thought for a bit.  What kind of company would that be?  Do they exist?  Starbucks could come to mind although I don’t think that the Baristas at Starbucks would think it was Shangri-La.

I could probably get my e mail friend a job in Shanghai quicker than finding them Shangri-La. My college roommate’s sons live in Shanghai.    That is the New Normal reality.  The quicker we realize it the smarter we will be.

I recently met a young person wanting to get into the advertising game. I meet with young people a lot.  I find them future valuable. We all are going to age. Age is a parallel path no matter how old we are. What kind of accounts would you want to work on I asked?  Only the types of accounts I like he said.  I chucked to myself.

I am always careful about disillusioning young people with the reality of practicality. It is a difficult and a precious dance because you are dealing with the delicateness of  impressionable youth. You never want to thwart passion at any age.  If all my dreams were extinguished I wouldn’t be sitting in a Starbucks in Southern CA talking to him. I would still be living in Toronto being embarrassed by its Mayor.

My young friend immediately  reminded me of another young friend I know that works for an agency in Chicago.  I worked in Chicago as well. When I walked down Michigan Avenue at night I felt I was in Shangri-La.  Hundred story buildings all lit up all around me. It felt like I was walking inside a Christmas tree.

My young friend in Chicago was frustrated because his agency took him off an account that he wanted to work on and asked him to concentrate on an account he didn’t want to work on. Agency expediency. But then bait and switch staffing  has always been part of the agency hiring and career development process.  It is all about putting out fires. People get moved around primarily based on agency priorities versus people priorities.  Happy clients and more revenue trump people 100% of the time.

It reminded me of when I was recruited to work for an agency in Chicago.  They put me up at the Park Hyatt.  I am a Young Turk. I rule the world.  This is pretty nice I thought.  I am in Shangri-La.   When I arrived for work the first day after moving from another country my office looked like it was being used as a storage room.  I got a strong dose of practicality that probably clouded my experience there but made me much smarter on how the game is really played. All bets were off I learned.

You see companies create images, perceptions and messaging but those promises don’t often reflect internal employee brand delivery.

It’s just the facts ma’am.

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