Recently I conducted interviews for an open position on my marketing team. During my interviews, I was struck at how many of the interviewees complained “I only do sales support, I’m tired of it, I’m looking for a more strategic role.” That sounds so George Costanza. While that’s funny on tv, I cannot help but to wonder if the person is not equipped with a broader set of skills, and therefore, not capable of assuming a larger role.
BUILD A STRATEGIC MARKETING SKILL SET
None of us is born to be a marketeers. We tend to gravitate towards a job like this because our personal skill set (creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.) lends itself to this discipline. So when we get out of b-school, none of us has the practice to walk into a world-class organization and demand to work on the most strategic company imperatives. We all need to crawl before we run.
LEARN THE BASICS OF MARKETING EXECUTION
In my humble opinion, you need at least 2 years of basic marketing training – regardless of what business school your diploma is from. So if you find yourself in this stage, embrace it and know that down the line, you’ll be able to speak from a position of credibility. Your strategies will have a greater opportunity of success because you will not undermine the details of execution, down to the lowest levels.
We need to “cut our teeth” doing basic marketing jobs, like developing PowerPoints, answering sales requests (no matter how small), and dealing with ALL the execution details. I recall with fondness my first marketing job where I would literally stuff envelopes, create sales tools with word documents and excel spreadsheets, and serve as a the on demand pre-call coach for new representatives. That is HOW I LEARNED the basics. Marketing executives who’ve skipped this step fail to motivate, as they tend to oversimplify execution, leaving their teams disconnected and discontent.
TAKE OWNERSHIP FOR YOUR DEVELOPMENT
No one is going to come to your cube one day and say “you’ve done such a great job, we’d like you to lead our new ABC initiative.” You really have to put yourself in a position where the company has no choice but to select you – usually because YOU have a unique skill set. In my personal experience, this best accomplished by doing.
Volunteer to take additional roles that stretch you strategically. Start doing jobs, without asking for permission. Take a class, teach a course, mentor others (even if you’re not ready – you will be), select good role models to mirror… etc…. just do it!
Colleagues, I certainly don’t know everything nor do I profess to be an expert. I’m a simple marketeer, who makes a living through the practice of marketing. But one tip I do offer, the next time you’re interviewing for a marketing job, don’t say “I only do sales support, I’m tired of it, I’m looking for a more strategic role” – if you avoid saying this you’ll avoid sounding like George Constanza and I promise you, you’ll have a better chance of landing the job!