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Moving on up

25 Oct 11:00 by Richard Walters

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Does becoming a manager mean abandoning the exciting marketing work that you signed up to do?

Most people choose a career in marketing because they have a passion for it – they enjoy the creativity and the drive, and the profession feels an ideal fit. Then, after a few years of moving from role to role, they begin to climb the career ladder. 

Once you move beyond that first, ideal job into something more managerial, you sometimes find you’ve stopped doing the thing that you love – whatever it was that you initially signed up for. Before you know it, you’re focusing more on the behind-the-scenes business and less on creating campaigns, getting close to consumers and performing original analysis. 

While moving up is usually a good thing – after all, few people remain truly motivated by staying in the same job for years on end – it’s not just your job title that will change. You’ll have to be prepared to adopt a new mindset, too. 

A core part of a managerial post is strategy. This means letting go of the day-to-day details of the business and freeing your mind to think about the bigger picture. It’s less about tactics and immediate results, and more about higher-level issues that offer direction. But does this mean that your job can no longer be fun?

John Webb, EMEA marketing director at Spiceworks – a vertical professional network for IT professionals – went into marketing because he saw it as a key hub within a business. “Marketing enabled me to get close to the customer, who – in my mind – led all decision making,” he explains. “Marketing is constantly changing. You’re learning all the time, and there are always new approaches and ways of thinking to apply and experiment with.”

His decision to move into management was two-fold. Firstly, it enabled him to get more done by building teams who could support and add to his plans. And secondly, it gave him the opportunity to pass on his knowledge and insight to others.

Progressing into management has been a good move for Webb. “Moving up the ladder has given me greater scope and ability to apply my own ideas and thinking,” he says. “No matter what brand you’re working on, there’s a huge amount that you can learn by looking at other sectors and countries. I’ve gained a broader perspective on what marketing is, and a greater appreciation of what it can achieve.”

Even though he’s moved up the ranks, Webb still gets to do what he first signed up for: “As a marketing leader, it’s important to roll your sleeves up and dig in,” he says. “This ensures that you constantly understand the customer dynamics, allows your skills to stay sharp, and builds confidence within your team.”

Moving into management was a natural progression for Ben Aronsten, chief marketing officer at equity crowdfunding site Seedrs. “The next challenge I wanted to take in my career was to lead teams strategically and define overarching business goals related to wider marketing activity,” he explains. “I still get to do what l have previously done in my marketing roles, but at a much more strategic level, which is something I really enjoy. Being more strategic and less operational at this point in my career is highly rewarding.”

For Jonathan Birch, creative strategy director at online marketing agency Glass Digital, progressing from his first job as a marketing executive into management has allowed him and fellow directors to apply hindsight, and make sure that they always keep their feet planted when it comes to being specialists.

“I joined my old company at a time when my department was just two people, so I naturally grew into a leadership role, helping other staff with my experience and knowledge,” he says. “However, it was always my ambition to take up a managerial position.” 

Even so, he’s still happy to get involved with the grassroots marketing. “I, along with several other directors – who have also progressed from entry-level marketing jobs to managerial positions – always make sure we have time to get stuck into campaigns,” he explains. “It’s something we struggled with in our last place of work, but we couldn’t possibly manage and expect staff to deliver a cutting-edge service if we weren’t deeply involved with it ourselves. We build teams around us, rather than below us, so we can still be involved in – and learn from – our work.”

Although a lot of his time is spent on directorate-level responsibilities such as strategising, training and organising, he still works on client campaigns by reaching out to relevant publications and promoting content marketing pieces the company produces for clients.

“We owe a lot of our success to our commitment of always being involved with client campaigns, which is critical in a fast-paced and ever-changing industry like digital marketing,” says Birch.

Moving into management doesn’t necessarily mean you have to let go of the things you love. The key is to balance your role: make sure you’re not trying to do two jobs at once, and understand when is the right time to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in, and when you should sit back and strategise. 

By Tracey Lattimore, CPL Journalist

 

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