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How to Turn Your Career Into a Hero’s Journey, According to Julian Duncan and Jabari Hearn


Brandweek 2020 brought something different: a fifth day dedicated to career development for the many marketing industry professionals experiencing the shifting landscape of layoffs or furloughs in the Covid-19 era. To help guide those newly unemployed colleagues, Jacksonville Jaguars CMO Julian Duncan and former Lyft vp of brand Jabari Hearn joined Brandweek with an uplifting presentation on career trajectory and integrity.

The fundamental takeaway? You should drive your career based on values and purpose, and not let your values be driven by your career. Using the analogy of the literary hero’s journey and referencing Hollywood hits from Black Panther to the Hunger Games, Duncan and Hearn kept viewers entertained and somehow managed to quote both Big Sean and mythology expert Joseph Campbell.

Step one of the hero’s career journey, Duncan said, is to “get people emotionally invested in you,” developing your personal brand identity, mission and purpose. From there, you’ll know whether a particular career move is instinctually right—even if it goes against the grain. Hearn, who sits on Adweek’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, agreed, saying, “People looked at me like I was damn near insane” when he left a high-ranking position at Nike.


The importance of self-trust was raised repeatedly. While it can sometimes feel like our careers drag us along and we aren’t in the driver’s seat, know that you can always use your resources and networks to find a workplace that truly feels like home.

“If the company is going to the right, why are you going to the left? That’s wasted motion, wasted energy and you’re betraying the time and energy you invested in yourself,” Duncan said.

Both men—who are close friends and were teased in the Brandweek live chat for having an enviable “bromance”—stressed the importance of mentors, as well as supportive networks that act as a “cheer squad.” To make career decisions with integrity and stay authentic to yourself, you need people around you that really know what you’re all about.

“Who can you talk to about money,” Hearn asked, “about negotiating your salary? About religion, about gender, about sexuality?” Many so-called taboo subjects in the professional sphere are also important personal aspects of identity that should be taken into account when making career decisions. With that in mind, Hearn and Duncan pointed to the Black Lives Matter slogan as more than just the logo adorning Duncan’s T-shirt, but a fundamental value that informs both of their professional lives.

Duncan’s own recent career transition, from CMO to CMO and svp of social responsibility and impact, is a perfect example of bridging the gap between work and values. As one of just two Black marketing leaders in the NFL, Duncan will now focus more of the Jaguars marketing efforts on reflecting communities of color and other underrepresented groups. It’s an entirely new kind of role for the NFL, and Duncan is proof that by staying focused on purpose and values, our careers can evolve to fit us—rather than the reverse.

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