How to plan a successful career

One of the consequences of being in this game for a while, apart from becoming a little cynical about the latest ideas (see last week’s column), is that people come to you for advice – you become a wise old sage of the industry.

Secret Marketer

This week, three people have contacted me to ask for my opinion on their future careers. The first works as a HR manager for my previous company and has decided that after 10 years, she would like to switch to a career in marketing. The second, after 20 years as a brand manager for the same organisation, is ‘taking the money’ and wanted my advice on how to get a new role in marketing. The third, who is at the early stage of their career, is contemplating taking a year off to do an MBA, and wanted to know what I thought.

Although I felt a warm glow that people valued my opinion, I was a little shocked at their perceived arrogance – that someone could change spots overnight and walk into a new career, or up sticks and march into another brand without batting an eyelid, or take a year off and assume that employers would be queuing up to sign them.

I’ve worked hard to get where I am; each career choice has been taken with the next in mind and a clear logical story behind each move.

I did offer advice: to have a very clear story about why they had taken this direction, but also to be able to wow potential new employers with a USP that others could not offer. In this day and age, recruiters are looking for reasons to bin CVs, so that they have a smaller number to work with – you need to ensure your CV makes the cut.

The HR manager needs to explain how employees are the most discerning customer segment; the long-timer has done some special work for me on partner marketing – a rare skill; and the career-breakist will need to show how time out of the job scene did not blunt their market awareness.

Time will tell if they heed my advice and make the successful changes. I think they will. They have made their decisions, following their hearts, and their clear passion and desire will carry them through – and that is something I cannot teach them – “attitude” over “aptitude” every time.”

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