Unexpected Pandemic Side Effect: Many Rethink Personal and Career Goals

By David Gallagher

Last week I posted some news on my personal social media feeds about a – my –  decision to leave a good job with nice people. Here’s the post as it appeared, first on Instagram (reposted automatically to Facebook), and then on Twitter as a thread, and ultimately LinkedIn:

Work news …

I’ve made a somewhat nerve-wracking decision to leave Omnicom later this year and see if there’s another act left in my career.

I’ve taken two other professional leaps before. First, in Texas, boarding my second-ever flight (the other was as a baby) on a one-way ticket to Washington, DC with two hundred bucks and a résumé. That was on my own, and worked out ok, eventually.

Second, packing up and moving to London, a place I’d visited only once before, to take on a European role covering a region I had never seen. That was with a young family and it didn’t go too badly, either.

And now, a leap from Omnicom into the great unknown. No idea what’s on the other side, but I can no longer ignore the call to explore. This time, with an entire global community of friends, colleagues and mentors around me.

As work experiences go, my time at Ketchum and later with the agencies in the group – including those we started anew – I hit the jackpot. I can never adequately thank all of the friends, colleagues, clients, guides and others for the wisdom, opportunity and patience so generously given along the way, but I’ll try when I see you next!

Special thanks to Chris Foster for his support over these past weeks, and Olivier Beheydt for stepping up to add my duties to his in the interim. We’ll work on transitions through September, with a plan for me to be on my way by October.

Stay tuned, and let’s stay in touch (and I’ll be around a bit longer).

David Gallagher, Omnicom PR Group


My intentions were self-serving: (a) to explain to friends and colleagues – many who I hired – why I would leave the security of a good-paying job and the comfort of well-established friendships and (b) to signal my availability later this year for new opportunities.

But judging from the response – a few thousand comments and messages on the various platforms – I inadvertently struck an external chord, too. Lots of people, it seems, are emerging from the past two anxiety-filled years with a bend toward personal or professional renewal, fueled with a now-or-never sense of urgency.

Maybe I should have seen this coming; earlier this year I published a book with friend and colleague John O’Brien, Truth Be Told: How Authentic Marketing And Communications Wins In The Purposeful Age. Our premise is that now more than ever, people – consumers, employees, investors – want brands and businesses to engage honestly and collaboratively, on the issues that really matter, not just to shareholders, but to entire communities. But maybe this ‘purposeful age’ extends well past marketing and PR and into far more important aspects of who we are how we see ourselves through our work, our sense of self-determination, and the impact we would like to make on others? There’s a reason people are leaving jobs in unprecedented numbers.

The pandemic has certainly altered my own sense of purpose, and the personal identity I associate with a ‘job’, even if just to confirm what I am no longer am. Discovering who I will be, at least in job terms, will require a leap of faith.

Quitting your job isn’t the only way forward, of course. Many told me they’re using this opportunity to start anew not with a change in employer or career path, but with a fresh attitude or commitment to improving their performance or learning new skills in their current roles or mentoring others and sharing what they have learned. Which is great; sometimes the biggest, bravest leaps we can take are in our own minds or with our relationships with others.

In any case, whether you’re just starting your career, shifting to something new or winding things down, I can now share one piece of advice learned from experience: gather your people, tell them what you’re doing and ask for their support. They won’t let you down.

David Gallagher is wrapping up a 25-year stint at Omnicom and it’s Ketchum subsidiary later this autumn. Find him on social media under @TBoneGallagher.

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