As I’m in the final stretch of my fifth lap around the sun as a marketer, here are the five lessons I've learned on my marketing journey so far.
Lesson One: Ask Questions
Asking questions is the only way you’ll learn. The most challenging part of being a marketer in the making is that you often don’t know what you don’t know. For that reason, listen to marketing podcasts, read articles on marketing fundamentals and talk to your peers. This process allows you to develop a base level of understanding which means you can better define the questions you need answers to.
Top tip: Rather than focusing on flash in the pan marketing trends, aim to understand the fundamentals first. I recommend starting with inbound marketing and then working your way out. Think digital, content, social media, email and SEO.
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Lesson Two: Make Bold Moves
One of my mentors gave me this advice earlier in the year. Over a mojito, I asked him “What’s your greatest career regret?” He said: “I should have taken more risks”. Early in your career, the impact of risk is typically less significant. So, take that role with the company who has an ambitious growth plan which it may or may not pull off. At the conclusion of your tenure, you likely will have learned something. Even if you learned that it was a mistake to take that leap, you’ll learn what you want out of a workplace in relation to team culture, the types of learning opportunities available and your boss' management style.
Top Tip:A bold career move looks different to everyone. Whether it’s the traditional Kiwi OE or joining a family business to take it to the next level, follow your gut to decide what the best move is for you.
Lesson Three: Pick your Player: Generalist vs Specialist
In a recent conversation with an early career marketer, I was asked whether they should remain a marketing generalist or specialise in an area of marketing. My answer: It depends.
Firstly, it’s critical to break down the misconception that a marketing generalist is a Jack of all trades, master of none. A talented marketing generalist has a breadth of skill which is supported by some depth of knowledge in various, in-demand areas. They’re the family doctor of the business world. They know enough to define the problem with an ability to bring in and support the work of other experts.
Your decision to specialise should be informed by your areas of interest and long-term career goals. If you are looking to move into a marketing management role, I’d suggest seeking generalist roles. If you’re a technical marketer looking to advance your career without taking on a people management function, specialising is an option worth exploring.
The generalist vs specialist debate is often viewed in relation to the areas of marketing the individual is skilled in. However, it's also an option to specialise in a marketing for a particular industry which interests you. Think FMCG, construction and more.
Top Tip:Seek generalist opportunities early in your career. This will provide you with a breadth of exposure which helps you to explore different areas of marketing so you can discover what best aligns with your skills and areas of interest.
Lesson Four: Complete a Career Toolkit Audit
I thoroughly recommend completing a career toolkit audit. I completed this process with the support of a mentor. We started by creating a list of my hard and soft skills relevant to my current career stage. Then, I rated my degree of skill in these areas with 1 being no knowledge and 10 being expert level.
I repeated this rating process for the skills of relevance to next role I saw myself in. I did some research and identified the skills I needed to attain or existing skills I needed to develop to successfully take that next step in my career.
With a clear picture of the skills I needed to develop, I got to work. I read articles on marketing blogs, completed free online courses and put my hand up for work projects which allowed me to hone the skills I had identified as absent or requiring development in my career toolkit.
In the pursuit of personal development, I also contracted marketing services to two tech startups and other local businesses on a part-time basis. This was certainly not in my initial career plan. However, I followed my own advice and decided to make a bold move to expand my career toolkit.
Top Tip:If you don’t have a mentor, you can compare career toolkits with a peer or colleague. In marketing, there’s little you can’t Google. So, get searching.
Lesson Five: Develop a Mentoring Panel
In the way the board of directors in made up by different people with various skills, you need a mentoring panel to help you carve out your career path as each mentor brings different skills and a unique perspective to the table.
For me, I have a mentor I meet with on a near monthly basis for a whiteboarding session or coffee catch up. I have several additional mentors I meet up with less frequently for a coaching-style meeting over dinner. I also have a mentor who would be my first port of call in a moment of panic.
In the meantime, look within your organisation, and businesses you’ve been a part of in the past. Ask yourself, who did I admire in those businesses?
Your first meeting with your potential mentor can be as non-committal as a one-off coffee catch up. It’s similar to a first date: don’t pop the question right away. Enjoy the ride and give the potential mentoring relationship time to develop without shoehorning it into a formalised structure too early. To get started, check out thisHarvard Business Reviewarticle on the power of mentorship.
Top Tip:Remember, senior people often enjoy paying it forward by guiding early career professionals on their marketing journeys. Hence why I’m writing this article.
Charlotte is a member of our new group for marketers (name pending). If you are looking for a space to share your career journey, learn from other marketers or feel supported,join this new group through the slack channel for monthly meet-ups, ongoing support, insights and more!
Charlotte Ashmore is a Marketing Maven with a passion for digital, content and social media marketing strategy and execution. She currently holds the position of Marketing Manager with Snell Packaging & Safety. Prior to joining the Snell team, Charlotte held a variety of marketing roles with large corporates, tech start-ups and everything in between. Charlotte is passionate about sharing her knowledge with marketers in the making as they take those crucial first steps on their own marketing journey.