There was a time when children used to dream of becoming doctors. It was a caring profession and, if you wanted to be crass, there was enough scope to make money. Today, the new medicine man may well be the politician. These are the people who make real money.
Yet a streak of idealism persists when it comes to choosing “respected” careers — not your own, of course. If somebody does an analysis, he will probably find an inverse relationship between “respected” careers and the amount people make through it. In the US, professors at B-schools are getting hefty packets these days. They are earning even more through consultancy assignments from the corporate world. The absent-minded don of popular fiction is now a marketing wizard, very skilled at selling himself. Take a poll; these high-profile board members of scam-tainted companies — dons doing double duty — will be down in the nether regions in terms of image.
Who’s at the bottom in the respectability stakes? There is quite a crowd. According to a survey by Adobe (see chart), dancers, actors, and advertising, marketing and PR professionals are respected the least. (The Adobe study was based on interviews with 1,250 adults, including 1,000 from the general population and 250 marketing decision-makers in the US. The big surprise is that the marketing decision-makers had as poor an opinion of advertising and allied professions as the general population.)
What makes this tribe so disliked? “They are all seen as selling you goldbricks,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh. Cosmetics giant Revlon founder Charles Revson once said: “In our factories, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.” Advertising is seen as something which convinces you to buy something you do not need or something that will not live up to its promise at a price you will be hard pressed to pay. Marketing is just the bigger brother of advertising.
PR is seen as even more insidious; it is the real hidden persuader. The function of a PR professional is to doctor the truth. And he operates through the media, which means that he sells his client through editorial space, not the more suspect advertising.
But before you decide that these professions are beyond the pale, you should realise that they pay the best. Fads like finance and IT won’t take you anywhere unless you can add a marketing dimension to them. The top finance cats from the IIMs are now selling gold coins to the unwary. And they are working for the country’s top banks, which have struck gold in more ways than one. In IT, your excellent programming skills will not rescue you from cyber coolie-dom if you don’t have the glib tongue and the PowerPoint presentation to sell projects to dollar-paying customers.
So if you want a good job, don’t look for respect. Look for money instead. Accumulate enough of that and you will get all the respect you want.
If this seems rather grim, here’s another list — largely anecdotal — from the Hub Pages. The 10 most-hated careers (in reverse order) are: The mail carrier (even dogs are biting about his charms); the solicitor (a marketing man in another guise); the car salesperson (wheeler-dealer); most medical professionals that end with the suffix "ologist"; the retail clerk with an attitude; the newscaster (there is never good news); the auto mechanic (why are so many disliked professions associated with vehicles?); politicians (there is another profession starting with ‘P’); the boss (a politician in the making); and the dentist (does he have no other time to gossip on the phone save when he has just told you “open wider”?).
Don’t malign the marketing man too much. He is only trying to extract your money. The dentist has more painful extractions in mind.