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How to Take Control of Your Marketing Career

Debbie Qaqish

Joystick of a vintage arcade video game

Setting a vision for the future starts by defining your passion, taking a skills inventory and realizing your career barriers and accelerators

Once a year, I run a half-day MBA program class at the College of William and Mary. I focus on revenue marketing and digital transformation, topics not typically covered in most college core curricula. Last year, I invited my good friend Dan Brown of analytics company Verint Systems, where he works as VP of marketing operations and is a pioneer in building and operationalizing all elements of a mature marketing operations practice.

Brown discussed his charter as a marketing operations group, its history of growth, key roles and responsibilities, its impact on marketing, how he built and now manages his tech stack and career advice for the MBA students. This was followed by a Q&A session, and the first question Brown received was, “How would I get hired to work in marketing operations?” Brown answered, “I would not hire any of you.” At that point, you could hear a pin drop. Even I was caught off-guard. Brown explained that today’s marketer—and especially today’s marketing operations professional—requires a skill set and a career path that is not taught in school. He also noted that he only hires experienced professionals because he does not have time to train employees.

Every day, I work with marketers who are frustrated with the velocity and direction of their careers. And they have good reason to be frustrated, because companies are not investing in holistic training for marketers. Training, at best, is piecemeal and tactically focused. At most companies, training for marketers is completely absent.

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Consider what motivates, delights and challenges you and makes you want to come to work every day. Pinpoint that passion and write a passion statement. This becomes the North Star for your career.

Marketing careers can feel like the lottery. If you get the right ticket (work for the right company), you’ll win. If you get the wrong ticket (work for the wrong company), you will lose. I get calls every week from marketers who work in very traditional marketing departments and are looking for digital education and training, which includes everything from marketing automation systems to building customer-centric campaigns. My advice to them is to find a company that values marketing and is a leader in revenue marketing, customer centricity and digital transformation.

Setting a Career Vision

I have a passion for mentoring marketers who are excited about the profession and are hungry to learn, grow, advance and become pioneers. Through the years, I have developed a set of effective career strategies, the first of which may surprise you.

It begins with creating a vision for what you want your career to look like. Christopher Reeve said, “If you don’t have a vision, nothing happens.” As a marketer in today’s dynamic environment, being intentional and planning for your career will accelerate your growth. Do anything less than this and you will miss many opportunities.

Defining Your Passion

Key elements of creating your vision include defining your passion, determining the required skill set for your future and acknowledging the barriers and accelerators to your vision. Passion is incredibly important for a career marketer. My passion is transforming marketing organizations to successfully address the challenges of digital transformation, customer centricity and financial accountability. I’ve built my entire marketing career around that passion. Consider what motivates, delights and challenges you and makes you want to come to work every day. Pinpoint that passion and write a passion statement. This becomes the North Star for your career.

Career Skills Inventory

The next step is to conduct an inventory of your skills and compare it to those you will need for the future. Self-assessment can be challenging, so you might want to talk this through with a trusted colleague. Once you know what skills you are missing, you can calculate your education requirements.

Without this practical list, you will waste both time and opportunities. For example, you might need to develop finance skills or a particular technology fluency. With this knowledge, you can look for internal or external company opportunities to gain these skills. You might even need to find a different company for this skill development.

Career Barriers and Accelerators

As part of your career vision, also consider the barriers and accelerators that will help you with velocity and direction. Barriers might be where you live or the time you have to commit to your career. I have a very good friend who is a brilliant marketer, but it took her almost two years to find the right company to help her accelerate her career path because of her location. Whatever your situation, be very honest about these barriers and address them head-on.

Accelerators are anything that can move you career trajectory forward. Accelerators might be who you know in your network, a special skill you have that gets you placed on a special team or it might simply be your persistence. Identify your career accelerators and leverage them to the hilt.

Conclusion

Marketers now have more career opportunities than at any other time in history. Technology and the customer-driven economy are driving rapid changes in the role of marketing. It is now up to you to manage your career, seek these new opportunities and enjoy an exciting and fulfilling career as a marketer.

Debbie Qaqish, Ph.D., is principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group. She manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B-to-B companies drive revenue growth for over 35 years.