Marketing Career Stuck in Neutral? 5 Things You Can Do Today
Tell us if this sounds familiar: You’re a marketing manager focused on email. Or maybe it’s paid media or search. Or content and social media. Whatever the case, your specialty is what you do, day in and day out. You want to take on new things in marketing and move up but don’t have the skills or experience in other areas. After a while, your role starts to get monotonous and your career gets stuck in neutral.
You’re not alone.
In an era when marketing roles have become increasingly specialized, the problem has become more pervasive. And given there’s rarely enough budget for you to continue to grow in the role you’re in, you may soon get too expensive to keep. We’ve seen it happen at a number of organizations. So, what can you do? Here are five tips to help get your career unstuck.
- Make the case for crossing training (a mini job rotation).
It’s not hard to see why roles are so specialized in marketing. To do any of them well, you need in-depth knowledge of the tools, tactics, and strategies for using different platforms and an understanding of the wide variety of potential approaches in each. From the perspective of a marketing director or VP, it almost has to be that way. You can’t just hire a generalist to do manage your paid search, for example. The learning curve is too steep. That said, your boss might be amenable to developing a job rotation, where one manager can train another in the day-to-day operations of another specialty. For instance, perhaps a social media manager can be trained by the email manager on the ins and outs of sending and segmenting email, or vice versa? How do you make the case? You can argue a such a program does few things: a. Creates a backup for your operations should a member of the team go on vacation; b. Breaks up the monotony of everyone’s role, allowing them to get a break in the day-to-day, and; c. Helps employees learn a new area on the job, the best way to gain experience. For you, it’s critical experience that you can gain and put on your resume to round out your current expertise.
- Propose a campaign and ask to develop it.
It takes some initiative on your part and the willingness to take on extra work, but if you think long term about your career prospects, there’s probably nothing more impressive for a marketer than being able to not only conceive but also lead a new campaign. The ability to demonstrate that you can think creatively and see the bigger picture is critical to moving up or being hired for a supervisory role – and an integrated marketing campaign using different channels certainly accomplishes that. Be forewarned: It won’t be easy. But if you have ideas, put them forth! It might lead to something or evolve into something you didn’t imagine. One tip: Work with your boss to evolve it, involve him or her and make sure you focus on the benefits, not just for you but the department as whole.
- Start building your network.
It may seem obvious, but many marketing professionals forget about the networking aspect of their career – or simply feel they don’t have the time. Regardless of whether your career is stuck in neutral, or you’re moving up at your role, it’s critical to continue to develop your network, especially in social platforms such as LinkedIn. Start by connecting with those in your own company. Remember, in a couple years, many won’t be in the same role or will likely be at another organization so getting connected now makes sense. If you’ve been at a previous organization, connect with the individuals you knew there as well. And while you’re at it, why not ask your network if they know of a good mentor or leader who you can talk to, or ask advice. A good mentor can not only help give you context about this particular moment in your career, they also tend to know a number of connected people at various organizations, and hence can be a conduit for other bigger opportunities.
- Become a thought leader in your specialty.
After building their connections, some marketers simply don’t engage on social platforms in particular, which almost defeats the purpose of having a network in the first place. After all, the point is to become visible in your network for sharing valuable content and insights. That thought leadership is critical for you to gain visibility among both your peer group and those who might one day hire you into their organizations. How do you become a thought leader if you haven’t done much posting? We’d suggest the following:
- Start by following your own company and sharing posts that resonate with you.
- Develop content. For example, you could build your own website and begin a marketing blog on your expertise, then share your insights within your social network. If something doesn’t quite resonate, test another approach. Here are six styles (or approaches) you can use.
- Don’t like to write? How about learning to develop a podcast or doing video interviews on topics in and around marketing? Similarly, share your podcast with those in social.
- Find like-minded marketing groups (or groups within your particular specialty) to join and then add your perspective to their discussions.
Remember to share not just your content but other interesting things your audience might like. Keep testing and refining what resonates. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Over time, you’ll be able to build your thought leadership and your voice in the profession.
- Ask for training. Use your professional development dollars.
As we approach the end of the year, there’s probably a limited amount of time left to use any fiscal professional development dollars. It’s likely, with a lot of organizations facing some hardship in the coming year, that some of those dollars have either have evaporated or may be in danger of not being available in the next cycle. But what you can do is check with your boss or HR department and see if there are any funds remaining for you to use. What type of training? If you’re a specialist, it will certainly help to look at a broadening of your knowledge. You might start with a ½-day or one-day bootcamp course. (Marketing Nice Guys will have several upcoming in the next year). Or maybe you want to a more personalized training to dive in to a particular topic area or another specialty. At Marketing Nice Guys, we offer ½-day, 1-to-1 marketing training right now for SEO fundamentals and Paid Media/PPC. If neither of those work for you, what about doing a team training with other members of the marketing department? With the end of the year, why not talk to the boss about giving the gift of training where the team could take a day on several key topics. Marketing Nice Guys also provides 1/2-day, 1-day, and 2-day virtual marketing training for companies that we can customize for each organization.
Trust us, we know it’s not easy to get your career unstuck. And you can certainly slide into a certain ambivalence when it comes to thinking about the future as your current path probably has some built-in aspects of security and predictability in the short-term. However, in the long term, you won’t be doing yourself any favors by standing still. Day to day, we know you have to get things done with immediate-term tasks. But why not dedicate a few hours per week on that long-term view? Spend that time developing your own content, building your network or suggesting that new campaign. At some point, we think you’ll see such time investments pay off. And even better, you’ll learn a few things about yourself and how to better define your own personal brand. We wish you the best of luck in all your marketing endeavors!