Rocker Turned Strategist: Brendan Brown’s Jungle Gym Career Climb


Sometimes you zig, sometimes you zag, and Brendan Brown advises you to embrace it. From sharing a dressing room with MC Hammer at the Meadowlands, to searching the “Wanted” ads for a job that pays enough to support a family of three, Brown may be the ultimate monkey bar climber.

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder…The ability to forge a unique path, with occasional dips, detours, and even dead ends presents a better chance of fulfilment. Plus a jungle gym provides great views for many people, not just those at the top.” – Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook  

Brown’s story inspired us, as it’s full of risk and some really awesome perks and pay-outs. His background is diverse to say the least. He’s gone from dropping out of college to headlining for Incubus to selling vacuums, with a few stops along the way. His current gig? Syncing a traditional advertising agency with new media and the digital world.

Choosing to abandon his successful music career – two full-length records and a few international tours – to settle down with his wife and newborn son was a huge risk, but Brown wanted to put his family first. Without a college degree supporting his family was a huge concern, so he took the first “customer service” job he was offered after responding to an ad in the paper. After a few days he realized he would be selling $2,000 vacuums door to door, but to this day doesn’t regret his choice. He says he learned grit, determination and developed his craft of storytelling. Not to mention, it was a vacuum sale that ultimately landed him his first salaried position at a top sales organization. A few successful years later, Brown took another leap of faith as he returned to his creative roots. Since then, he has founded a social media management company for the music industry, worked as lead strategist at a digital experience agency and is now making moves at a traditional agency, helping them reposition themselves as the industry goes digital.

On stage

Brown and son Parker on stage during a 2012 reunion show

You could argue that being in a band, selling vacuums and working at an ad agency have little in common. But Brown argues that they all thrive on connection. Whether you’re writing a song, selling a product or promoting a brand, the challenge and desire to connect with and affect the person on the other side of your art remains the same. Brown stresses this common thread can be extended to the job hunt as well, “It’s all about creating your personal narrative, weaving your experiences together and crafting a story. Once they buy in to your story, they will want to be a part of the next chapter.” No experience is wasted if it is a means to fulfill your dreams.

Are you navigating through a career jungle gym? We’d love to hear your story. Or maybe you’re stuck and need some help getting to the next bar. If you are, we’re here to help. Just ask Brown, we might have lent a little resume help his way.

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