After more years working in marketing than I care to count, I can truly say that it is the best career choice out there.
Why do I say that?
- You get to be creative – you may not be a designer, but you’ll be good at coming up with ideas – and you get to work with brilliant creative people
- Your day will be full of variety
- You will be forever learning new skills and techniques
There are two main career routes for marketers – client-side and agency-side.
This is where you will work within the marketing department of an organisation, promoting their products and services. The career progression will generally be from marketing assistant, through executive, manager, director and maybe CMO (chief marketing officer), if the company is into American-style job titles!
The advantages of working client side are:
- You will have the opportunity for more in-depth knowledge of the products/services sold by your company
- You will work with other departments and learn more about business generally
- There may be good employee benefits, especially if you are working for a larger employer
- You will probably be working with good creative agencies
- You will be the budget holder
This is working with an agency that provides marketing services to the client. The agency may specialise in one or more disciplines, for example: advertising, digital, sales promotion, events, integrated (combining several disciplines under one roof).
Unless you are a designer, you are more likely to be an account handler, where you manage client’s accounts to deliver services. You will be coming up with campaign ideas (getting more strategic the further up the ladder you progress), selling them in to the client, working with creatives and possibly suppliers such as printer, and then project managing the campaign through to its completion.
The account handler career path is likely to start with account executive, through to manager, director and client services director.
If this is the route that interests you, apply straight after you finish your training. Most agencies like to take people straight from university and if you have worked in-house (i.e. within a client organisation) for a few years, it can be hard to get taken on by an agency.
I made the transition from in-house to agency and never looked back, but many agencies don’t believe it’s possible!
However, it generally is possible to move from agency to client without any problems.
The advantages of working agency-side are:
- Variety – you will be working on multiple accounts simultaneously. It’s challenging but exciting
- You can progress more quickly at an agency than you would in-house, but only if you are good at your job
- You will learn awesome project management skills
- You will have plenty of opportunities to develop skills and expertise by working on other accounts/across disciplines
- You will learn how to present and sell. It’s not a sales job, but you do need to be able to get people to accept your proposals and account handlers are usually involved in new business pitches from quite early
As with any career, qualifications always help! Not all marketers have a degree in marketing, so if you decide to go into marketing after university, or you decide not to go to university at all, there are excellent courses and qualifications offered by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).
My career path
After university, I started in-house, working in the mobile phone industry, then moved agency-side (to an agency that wanted me to manage a mobile phone account). I did my CIM postgraduate diploma and a Masters degree in business (MBA) and then moved back in-house to become the marketing director of a well-funded start-up.
In late 2000, I decided to take the plunge and start Scaramanga. We are a marketing consultancy, so we provide strategic marketing and planning, as well as delivering marketing services where clients need that agency-style support.