I haven’t always been a consultant. In my client-side career, I’ve held positions ranging from Brand Assistant to VP-Marketing. And in 14 years of consulting, I’ve worked with marketing teams of just about every size, shape and industry you can name. I regularly meet with young marketers, many of whom ask for advice as they start out on their career path. The following are some thoughts that I’ve shared (with absolutely no claim that I got them right myself):
Stop worrying about your “personal brand.” Do consistently excellent work, be of good character, and be emotionally mature. You’ll become known as a trustworthy achiever, and your “brand” will take care of itself. Let’s talk a bit more about a few of these ideas…
Do excellent work, on time. “Excellent work” and “on time” are equally important. Let neither suffer. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised.
Be emotionally mature. Nobody looks at a shouter, a gossip or a back-stabber and says, “That’s a future leader of the company.” If in doubt, behave in a manner that would make your parents proud.
Raise your hand. Be someone who signs up for the larger challenges, and finds a way to deliver.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Marketing requires a unique blend of skills, and nobody is born with them all. If you feel deficient in a particular area, seek help – formal training, mentoring, tutoring, or whatever you need. Don’t let pride keep you from growing.
Be humble. You’re not better than your agency, the purchasing department, the factory personnel or anybody else on the team. Everyone plays an important part in bringing the brand to life. You’ll never go wrong starting from a position of respect for others.
Have opinions… Your job is to contribute to the business every day, not to just show up and do what you’re told. As a boss once told me: “We hired your brain, not your ass.”
…But share them respectfully. You could add a new point of view to the conversation, or you could be an indignant contrarian. Stay on the right side of that line. On that note…
Be a productive communicator. The clarity of your language reflects the clarity of your thinking. Communicate with intent. Get to the point. Don’t litter your language with “ums,” “likes” and “you knows.” Know when and how to best employ a meeting, a phone call and email.
Work a “level up.” If you’re a Brand Assistant, demonstrate that you can handle the work of an Associate. If you’re an Associate, show that you’re ready to be a Brand Manager. You can’t get promoted if people don’t believe you can do the job. So work against your job description AND that of the next level.
Get out of Marketing. The department, that is. Hit the field with the sales team. Work the production floor. Spend a day with a finance leader. You’ll learn things that pay immediate dividends, and you’ll strengthen personal bonds in the process.
Read. Target a minimum of six business books per year. That’s one every two months. You can make time for that, and it will pay off.
Save your money. You don’t need the BMW 5-series, nor do you need to surround yourself with people who are impressed by things like that. As quickly as possible, set aside at least six month’s worth of living expenses. At some point, you may find yourself in a job you hate, or wanting to launch a new venture, or unceremoniously downsized. You’ll be glad you knitted yourself a safety net. A solid financial base is freedom.
There’s more to life than Marketing. Family, friends, fitness, travel, the arts… Whatever moves you, these pursuits will make you a happier, well-rounded person – and thus a better marketer. And if you find yourself in an environment where 70-hour workweeks are the norm, the best advice I can give you is to resign.
What would you add to this list? What great advice have you given (or received)? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.
About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win. Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.” His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation. Contact Matthew here. He calls Chicago home.
Copyright 2014 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.