Just Get A Job – early career steps for Marketers

I’m on my couch, with my back against the window, sun streaming in. I can see over the park to my left. I’m looking out the window, frankly, in total disbelief at what I’m hearing.

My mind starts to wander. So here it goes. What my fat, squishy middle-aged arse is sitting on, is presently a 1950’s structure, all fly-away curves and bought for $100.00, including the arm chairs, in 1993 in Hampton, sort of a half-way suburb. Not Aristocracy, not down-and out. Typical of middle Australia – unsure of where it sits in the great scheme of things. And full to the gunnels of divorcees and people who wish they were.

Hampton is plastered with people wanting to be chiropractors, who can’t be bothered to sit 7 years of exams and have three kids to support anyway. People who’d like to be I.T. experts but can’t download the latest copy of word without calling assistance, or corporate drones who want to own their own business, but can’t be bothered with planning, executing plans or chasing money.

This is your future, fellow marketer. Your mission, should you wish to accept it, is to take these punters on a ride through the skies of life. To inspire, to cajole, to manipulate, to move to action the entire public of the globe.

Yes, you can vote with your feet. Your behavior. Vote for mediocrity and ordinariness and we’ll never see you. But go for the least popular, the anti-market, the road less traveled and I’ll (and the rest of marketing land) will be standing besides you screaming GO ON YOU FUCKER like the cheer squad your lazy step Mum and boring Aunt Katriona never were.

We in marketing land want to be inspired. We want to be given stories that excite us. We want people around us who will fight for the right, go for the hard, bite into the bitter apple of life and at spitting it out say, fuck you! I wanted a better deal for my fellow humans you bastards can get stuffed!

So here I am on my couch, not being inspired. Not able to concentrate, cause it’s so mind-bogglingly hopeless. I’m talking with a person who wants a job in an ad agency, who has no life experience, no working background whatsoever, but because she’s managed to pass a few exams at Uni, she feels she’s in a position to dictate to clients how things ought to be done. And she tells me how she’ll tell them and what she’ll tell them. My politely delivered (sure) advice?

Go get a real job before you want to work in ad land. Don’t be another mindless wanker in an industry packed to the ceilings with them.  Go find out what it’s like to get up at 3.30 am and load milk cartons in a dairy for 10 hours straight. The only person in the whole factory who hasn’t spent at least 12 months in jail. Go dig fence posts into freezing ground for weeks and pull hi-tensile steel with your bare hands cause your gloves have torn to shreds. Go put thousands of price tags on bikinis. Or stand for days on a street corner asking people their opinion of Vegemite’s latest cheese mix monstrosity.

I had hundreds of jobs in lots of industries before I got to ad land and I still don’t feel qualified to tell clients how it goes down. You can only sit in a client’s seat when you have done what they do day in, day out. If you haven’t experienced their pressures, their customer’s problems, you are simply being a wanker if you tell them how to do things. Now what was it you wanted to do again?

Career paths

Nice segway, hey? Should I be more generous? Should I think that people with the right core training ought to be running business in Australia just cause they have the degree? No. There are no prisoners taken in the business world today, regardless of how nicely people smile to our face. People get the jobs they win by what they say, but only keep them if they deserve to. A degree is the start, not the end of your learning cycle.

But aren’t there ways I could ensure I’ll be more successful in the future? Well, you’d like to think there were career paths, like being a lawyer:- you study law. You do the professional year, either in a law firm or with a group like Leo Cussens Institute, you work as a scummy low lawyer dog for say 10 years. You become a partner. You buy a yacht and an apartment in Albert Park. If you know how to select a good red and which shoes to wear with which suit, you might even become a barrister or a QC. You work another 10 years and then get appointed as a judge after sucking up to the right blokes and shaving your golf score. You end up on the Federal Court, ruining the plans of several governments before you die, in a frigging ugly, smelly old horse hair wig, which nicely hides your ugly, smelly old bald head, still on the bench. Then they make a brass plaque with your name on it that hangs in a big hall in Canberra and the only people who remember you 10 years later are the poor crims you put away and the guy who has to clean your plaque once a year.

There are no established career paths for great marketers. You can go via sales. You can go via academia. You can go via the seat of your pants and many great marketers have gone via the weird and wonderful, like accountancy or law, doctorism or politics. Best, to be taken seriously, to go through a degree like marketing at Monash or Deakin, Swiny or Melboring. Next step is something you can get your fetid teeth into, I’m hoping you can spend time in product marketing, research, media, bit of creative, prahaps even costings or finance, before you end up as a senior marketer or on a board tossing your gism on the scrap heap of other people’s lives.

There should be solid career paths. There are some career tracks, but many of them peter out. It’s easy to get lost and stray into areas you would never have dreamed, like owning companies, going bankrupt or becoming a squillionaire, being on the UN food for drugs program, running guns to Somalia and all the countless other interesting gigs people I went through UNI with have done. I blame the professional bodies, several of which I am a member of, for not establishing and promoting career paths for younger marketers.

One career step idea I do like, and I’ve recently been involved with, is the AMI mentors program which is essentially the AMI finds a bunch of middle-aged marketers and makes them sit through lunches and/or coffees with young kids just out of Uni who want to drill the old buggers for ideas, contacts, tactics of how to get a raise and other useful stuff the Uni’s would have absolutely no idea about and most older employees don’t not want to arm you with. It’s similar to teaching a starving person how to fish – if you do that, they might not buy fish from you again.

Experiences versus careers

A career is just a long period of time doing similar things. This is not necessarily what will make for a great marketer. A great marketer has worked with a lot of different people, knows lots of different things and therefore understands how the full gambit of our community thinks. That’s how she can hopefully think up strategies that will work to get them to do things.

We are a career that is ultimately judged on our ability to change people’s behavior for a reasonable cost. For this you need experience. Experience in things you think have nothing to do with marketing, like flipping burgers or washing windows. If you are ever taking a brief for a window spray or trying to win the maccas account, you’d be grateful you’d done those jobs.

Get a perspective on time

Time is an ephemeral thing. If you are running the 100 metres and aiming for ten seconds, say in the Olympic finals, you would remember those ten seconds very clearly. Ten seconds while you’re driving to our Mum’s place will fly past so fast. Ten hours or even ten days in a dreary job can go incredibly slowly. Time is a relative measurement, the more fun you are having, the quicker it goes, but the sweeter is the memory. My point? There’s nothing wrong with spending a few months or even years doing something that you enjoy or are learning lots from, that isn’t necessarily ‘full-on’ marketing. It probably won’t hurt your career and it may really add to your ability to do part of it very well. Also keep in mind that you will be on this planet for some 90 or so years, most of them will be working, given there’s almost no retirement age anymore, so you might have 60 or 70 years of working life ahead of you. Who gives a fig if you spend one or two of them fishing for prawns in the Spencer Gulf or walking across the Chilian Glaciers as a tour guide?

And who the fuck are you?

People smell experience and career path. They smell success, and they smell people with potential. It’s not about what you say, it’s often how you carry yourself. When you smile, what you put with what, how you shake a hand or if you wink at a stranger to say hello or ‘I get your point’. Look to develop character traits that make you stand out, help people to remember you. One of my favorite clients has hair that is just wrong. Wrong era, wrong color. He does it very intentionally and no-one can forget him.

What to do to get the Gig

Know people

This is not as hard as it sounds. Socializing in Australia is the number one best method of getting good jobs. It’s also the best way to generate new business, but that’s a whole other article. People know other people. Everyone knows of at least one company which needs such and such a person. You only have to talk about yourself, and most marketers love to do that.

Be proactive

You can sit around hoping Ford will put ‘Marketing Manager’ on Seek, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Lots of the best jobs never get to the public space. If you don’t find the job you want through your own networking, decide what it is you want and go out and get it.

Select a range of companies

In the same or similar industries. That way you can know what you’re talking about when the interview hits the fan. Look for players of a size that will suit you. Some people do very well in smaller companies where they can throw their weight around and get into every issue, but small companies are often vulnerable to market swings and you never have much budget. Other people blossom best in biggish companies where they have more resources and more safety nets. Some people might kid themselves they are business-like, but really need the disciplines/ restrictions of the public service or major international corporates to operate at peak efficiency.

Find out about them

Do some research. Go on their web site, read their press releases etc. Everyone wants to employ someone who’s keen enough to know lots about the company they want to work for.

Use the force

If you know what you want register for those sorts of jobs on seek, my career and whatever else you can find that will notify you of the gigs. Similarly, see the relevant head hunters and register on their databases.

Drop in

No-one has the balls to drop in to an office and say hello. Tells you a lot about whether you actually want to work there, whether you really want to drive the 35 k’s every morning, and makes you instant besties with at least one person.

Relevant/courageous CV

Put in the quirky jobs. Don’t listen to those dumb as dish water people who type up CV’s in personnel agencies who tell you to only put in your glamorous jobs. If they had any brains they’d be running clubs or flight-testing fighter jets. They are typing fucking resumes. They don’t know a thing. Put in the interesting jobs you’ve done and give them really colorful detail. You’re a marketer, not a frickin accountant. Sell yourself.

Put in a picture

If you are not as ugly as a cats bum, use it. It is much easier to like a person if you see their face. A name is just another bit of the human virus. A face is a person.

Write in long hand

No-one does, most people can. Makes you human and a bit ‘creative’ without even trying.

Fix your image

It has to fit their culture. Find out about their dress code and reflect it. The number of people who come to me in suits who don’t know how badly dressed/casual we are really scares me. What do they think ad land is, Banking? On that subject, fix your facebook up. Most people hiring today check your face-book/linked-in/xing etc. presence as a matter of course. If they are conservative and you’ve got shots of you rogering chickens and setting fire to police cars, it’s not a good look. Conversely, if you’re a secret born-again Christian but you’re trying to get a job with a condom supplier, do yourself a favor and dirty up your act.

Be proactive in the interview

You don’t want to scare them, but there’s nothing wrong with being interested, not just begging. Ask how they got started or ‘Tell me what an average day is like in here’ may be enough…

Be careful to pick your cultures

Some cultures are slow poison – seem nice enough on the first sip, but look around. If they are all going slowly downhill, don’t get involved. If they are happy and relaxed, it’s probably worth really fighting for the gig.

Lie, a little

I don’t mean totally, but if they ask you if you can do something, and you’re pretty sure you can, have a go. Nobody can do everything, but also, nobody got to try something unless they gave it a shot. Keep in mind you better study it up/practice – cause they’ll find out soon enough.

In the right place, take anything

There’s an old saying ‘If you’re prepared to do anything you won’t have to do anything very long’. That means if you will do lots of stuff, you’ll never get bored and you’ll learn way more. They may not have a place for an account manager, but if you’re prepared to do the filing, the selling or the phone answering, they will probably slot you into the better job when they trust you can do it. That may only take a few months. In my humble opinion, you’re way better off to be in the right group of people, but doing the washing, than in the wrong group of people, doing the marketing role. It’s much easier to switch tasks, by demonstrating ability, than to switch to companies that may be hard to get into.

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