I have been asked by Marketing Magazine to write a career advice letter for publication in an upcoming edition.
Here’s their brief:
“Your breadth of experiences throughout your career have shaped what you know about marketing. Imagine you could send a letter back in time. What advice would you give yourself?”
And here is my response:
Please strive to be braver and bolder as your career unfolds.
Life, both professional and personal, is characterised by compromise. Many concessions are, of course, practical and necessary, but others are not. Don’t be afraid. Don’t let fear hold you back. Take chances.
Start by defining your vision and destination, and then continually review and assess your progress.
Change course when necessary, but don’t stop. Momentum is critical. This doesn’t have to be defined as progress forever upwards, but learning and personal development should never slow down.
Without the focus of a personal roadmap be aware that the fog of uncertainty could overtake and drag you down, wasting days, months and even years.
Here’s a must-do hit list:
- Recognise that marketing will soon be a 360-degree game where you will need to orchestrate a diverse portfolio of internal and external stakeholders, influencers, detractors and contributors. If you fail to synchronize your organisation the quality and authenticity of the customer experience will be not be the decisive differentiator it must be.
- Embrace the business technology world. As a marketer you will soon confront an environment where you cannot build brands, stimulate demand and promote sales without a high degree of tech literacy. Know where the CIO’s office is located and engage as an equal partner with IT.
- Critically, be cross-functionally aware and develop cross-functional skills. Commit to spending time outside of Marketing in not only IT but also Sales, Finance and HR.
- Consider career options on both the agency and corporate sides of the fence in a conscious attempt to develop and build a blended career.
- Learn to be comfortable with numbers and the art of extracting actionable insights. Excel may be evil, but it is unavoidable. Genuine data-driven marketing decision making is coming.
- Know your customers. Who are they? What are their issues? And how are your products and services helping them address these challenges?
- Welcome direct accountability for revenue generation. Step up and earn Marketing’s seat at the top table.
- Be agile. Learn both formerly at the best business education institutions and informally in the real world of work. Experiment early and often with new processes, tools and ways of working.
- Step outside the bubble. Attend and contribute to industry events and conferences. Build your network in all directions, horizontal and vertical. Seek out mentors and smart people. Be direct. Make it clear that you wish to learn and receive advice and consultation.
- Be transparent. The reality is that open will always beat closed. You can’t hide. Get the negatives out there with your managers, your team and, critically, customers and deal with them. Treat your suppliers, agencies, consultants and vendors as partners. Sign NDAs and share the good, the bad and ugly in the pursuit of a common agenda.
- Work outside the small Australian market as often as you can and for as long as you can. Test yourself on the bigger battlefields. Seek short-term assignments and permanent roles with companies that have a genuine global orientation, preferably operations in the principal triad regions of Europe, North America and, of course, Asia. Critically, as an Australian, you must strive to understand and be comfortable in our Asian neighbourhood. Develop insights into Japanese, South-East Asian, Korean, Indian, and, of course, Chinese attitudes and habits. Manage a multi-national team. Secure at least one role in your career which entitles you to an APEC Business Travel Card and the joy of skipping the arrivals queue at Hong Kong airport’s passport control zone.
- Consider learning Mandarin. Not an insignificant challenge, for sure. So, if you are not up for that challenge, recognize that having English as your mother tongue is both a blessing and a curse. Thanks to the British empire, plus victories in two world wars and one cold war, English works almost everywhere; which is great but it does mean that, unlike your German and Chinese colleagues, you don’t have their motivation to learn a second language. Respect their efforts to engage and allow for the fact that their vernacular English may be lacking. If you are a resident or repeat visitor, make the effort to learn some of your host country’s language.
- Learn to lead, who to follow and who to work with. People quit their managers, not companies. Strive to inspire. Embrace the responsibility of mentoring others. Be generous with your time and knowledge. An energised and loyal team can change entire games and upend markets.
- And don’t forget to actively maintain a personal-professional balance in your life. Do not lose focus on what is important, your health, well-being and your family. Definitely don’t sweat the small stuff. Ask yourself, is this XYZ issue going to matter in six months?
Finally, always consider what will be your legacy? What people, processes and structures are you going to be leaving behind? Will your influence live on once you have moved on? Have you impacted the culture? Did you change the game for the better?