Taking a senior marketing job can be a gamble at the best of times, and success can depend to a great extent on several factors outside a candidate's control. However, add in a new employer with a reputation for regular upheaval, and a lengthy period of economic uncertainty, and the risks become all-too apparent.
Clare Sheikh's appointment as Vodafone's group brand director brings these issues into sharp focus. The former senior ITV marketer, who left her job as group strategy, marketing and customer director at RSA in May, after four years with the insurance group, joins a company that has been notable for turbulence in its marketing function in the past couple of years.
Vodafone's previous global brand director, David Wheldon, left the mobile network operator in February 2010 after six years. Last September, Vodafone also dropped its group chief marketing officer role, occupied at the time by Wendy Becker, as part of a major restructure. This came only two months after it axed 100 jobs from its 900-strong group marketing function.
This degree of change may not be unattractive for marketers hoping to introduce a fresh approach. Nonetheless, when considering such a move, they should first use their own networks and sound out their peers to find out more about their prospective employer's culture and key personalities, according to Rob Rees, interim marketing director at Bernard Matthews Farms.
Rees, who describes himself as a 'serial interim chief marketing officer', and who was interim marketing director and UK brand director at Vodafone from 2000 to 2001, says candidates should be wary if there is instability at senior level.
'If there's a track record of people coming in and out, you've got to question whether the person hiring you is very fickle,' he adds.
Jimmy Ingram, head of marketing recruitment at Major Players, a head-hunting firm that specialises in marketing, advertising and creative posts, says candidates should try to find out why their potential job has become available.
Ingram believes the market for senior jobs is buoyant - at present, most notably in financial services, technology, retail and charities - as brands prepare for an improvement in market conditions. 'It's a good time for senior people to be joining a brand, as long as they have done their due diligence and know the reasons for the hire are valid,' he adds.
Moira Benigson, managing partner at MBS Group, which recruits senior executives for roles in the retail and consumer industries, says job-hunters should examine whether they have good chemistry with potential senior colleagues.
'At a senior level, people take the nitty gritty of the job for granted,' she says. 'The most important thing you have to check is the culture.'
Rees warns that a lack of chemistry with colleagues could lead to a quick parting of ways. 'It's hard for a leopard to change its spots,' he says. 'You might not get on with someone on the board and that normally manifests itself quite quickly.'
There may also be particular risks attached when moving between market sectors, adds Rees. 'Mobile phones is a completely fluid business; it's so different from the organised FMCG world, where most people have come from.'
Global roles also present their own particular challenges. 'The trick is to have the right people on the ground with knowledge of different markets,' says Ingram. 'We are seeing more regional and global roles as the world gets smaller, but cultural sensitivity is required to do that.'
No matter how prepared and well-informed you are about a company's culture and internal dynamics, however, there is no guarantee of seamless immersion and long-lasting service in a new role, even for the most senior marketers.
Only last week, Marketing reported on the departure from Channel 5 of Zoe Harris, just four months after she joined the broadcaster in the new post of controller of marketing.
In February, meanwhile, Kerris Bright took flight from British Airways only seven months into her role as its head of global marketing.
Such dramatic changes are not necessarily damaging to a marketer's career in the long term, however.
'The market allows for people moving more often these days,' says Ingram. 'It's a bit more forgiving - people can accept career breaks or shorter stints in jobs.'
The career for life is a 'dead beast', adds Rees. 'At senior level, you might be in and out within a year. The person recruiting you might have lost their support or might be going through a bad time, or the company might decide to cut marketing spend.'
These risks, although potentially a serious impediment to success, are worth taking for some senior marketers, especially with the lure of a plum job on offer. Ugly issues, though, may well start to rear their heads in a new post once the initial honeymoon period is over.
Length of tenure for marketing directors
1-2 years - 29%
2-4 years - 36%
4+ years - 19%
8+ years - 16
Source: Major Players.
Based on a random selection of 50 marketing directors looking for roles
in the past 18 months