Hired Your Agent Yet? – [Your Career]

Cover of "Jerry Maguire"

Cover of Jerry Maguire

Two data points but heck, that’s how suspicion about global warning started; unless you’re Oklahoma Senator Jim Imhofe, we all know what that data ended up demonstrating.

What might these two data points be, and what do they mean for you?

Last week Martin Burns (@RecruiterMoe) one of my Twitter friends was tweeting the joys and skills of a software engineer. Best friend or brother-in-law? No, a job candidate they were  helping to place. While (some) contingent headhunters are notorious for spamming employers with resumes, this was a smart use of social media to flush out potentially interested recruiters. My Twitter friend will get a piece of the action if the candidate is placed.

This week a lunch mate mentioned that they have hired a writing agent to help place their work in the online blogs such as Fortune, HBR, etc. The agent will do some editing, some shaping and positioning, and through their contacts hope to get my lunch partner published. While the agent will get paid by the hour, my lunch mate will get nothing for getting their content posted; it will, however position them for consulting work, which is their main focus. Turns out apparently, that something like 50% of the online content for a publication like Forbes is free; in essence posted advertisements for the writers to leverage opportunities in other areas.

Jerry Maguire these two examples of “agents” may not be but the role is the same; figuring out how to pitch their clients by using their savvy, smarts, and connections.

Agents have been around forever; some suggest for example that the snake in the Garden of Evil was simply an agent acting for Satan. Hollywood’s talent agents emerged in the 1920’s; literary agents have been around likely even longer. Agents frequently handle the contracts of entertainers, athletes, big-time sports coaches, and senior executives such as CEO’s not infrequently have lawyers involved in any contract negotiations or reviews. Joe Meissner, who I know from his time in San Francisco, pitches his executive PR business from his office in Portland; while in the City Meissner combined outplacement services with something for employed executives more akin to staging a house for sale. The goal was to have the client be in the right spot, speak at the right conferences, and create a favorable image to facilitate their next career move.

As the recruiting, and the being recruited market continues to change, it makes a certain amount of sense that room for agents – people who can effectively promote their clients to better jobs and opportunities – will start to flourish in the employment world.

While Dan Pink might suggest it’s a “free agent nation,” my hunch is that those free agents (and even those in the employ of corporations), will increasingly have agents to help them in their careers.

It’s two data points but this trend line can be predicted.


Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.