Dear aspiring marketers,
This is an industry that requires you to learn endlessly and behold a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses in order to succeed. I hope by sharing my story, you will be inspired on your own journey.
I did not embark on my career knowing what I was doing. Armed with my ignorance and a bank debt from my failed business, I had to do what I was most confident in at that point. Event Management. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was put into a management position because of my entrepreneurial background and a “gung ho” attitude towards getting things done. I recall sitting in a creative meeting once and the term “through-the-line” was being used over and over again. I had no idea what that was. I went back and read up everything I could get my hands on “TTL, ATL, BTL”, “360 marketing”, “experiential marketing”, “buzz marketing”, “guerilla marketing”, whatever you called it. For a short period of time when I first joined the company, I didn’t even know how “rate card” was spelt. I thought it was “red card” because most of the cards we collected from the media happens to be red in colour. I couldn’t tell the different between “long-arms” and “spotlights”, or how to cost for production. Of course, I did screw up. But about 6 years after I left this company, I was invited back to give a workshop on integrated marketing.
Then from event management, I moved on to PR. In fact, when I first tried to interview for a PR company, due to my lack of experience in communications, I was not granted any attention. I went all the way to the MD of my target companies and asked for an opportunity. I was granted not one interview, but thirteen. A position with an attractive package was offered to me, despite my lack of knowledge in PR then, but which I declined due to its location (Shanghai). However, that interview process clearly defined the role I’d like to play in communications, aligned with my strengths and interests; digital. While I continued my event management career, I decided to brush up my digital knowledge profusely. I knew I needed to do two things. One is to fill in my knowledge gap, the other is to network with the right people who will get me there. Thus, the birth of this blog. Apart from my day-to-day engagement on social media with industry experts, I also gave myself a quota to meet at least one new person a week. That makes at least 52 new contacts a year. In fact, there are times I schedule 3 new persons a week and attended as many networking events I could, ask as many questions as I can and share my thoughts as much as possible whether or not they may sound silly. One fine day, I was referred by an acquaintance to my next monumental opportunity, to lead up digital in a PR agency.
Without communications experience nor academic major, joining a PR agency is a totally new learning curve. I had no idea what does lingo like “AVE” meant and I could not make out the difference between PR writing and business writing. It was demoralising to find myself with the poorest command of English in the entire office since I was used to writing with marketing fluff and ambiguity. It also does not help that my department is an isolated one that does not fit into any of the other “normal” functions within the company. And so, I requested to sit into as many meetings as I can, citing the excuse of identifying opportunities to clients. While that is indeed one of the agenda, the other agenda is to absorb and learn as much about PR as I can and to understand the operations within the structure. I even suggested to my boss to send me to a PR writing course despite that was not within my scope of work. She was very supportive but unfortunately PR Academy by then, was more or less defunct. I spent a lot of time engaging with my superiors locally and regionally; not because I was trying to play in their favour but because I was seeking mentorship to fill in my knowledge gap. I was not afraid to post suggestions and proposals or ideas to my bosses even if I knew it was not “normal”, the discussion plays a significant role in the moulding of my foundations and school of thought.
Years passed, and I run my own agency today, train regionally and counsel clients at C-Level. But my learning does not stop here. Moving on from marketing concepts, marketing is increasingly becoming a science; behavioural psychology and data-driven communications. Disruption in the industry, trends and even management models is a key learning interest for me currently. All of us have different gaps at different points of our life. It is not who we are today that determines our success, it is who we want to be that does.
So long story short, here are a few tips I’d like to share with aspiring marketers.
- Ask as many questions as you can. Even when you get slammed in the face, ignored, trampled on, ask anyway.
- Read as many books and/or articles as you can across all functions of marketing, the lines are blurring and you need to be in the best position to counsel your clients.
- Network. It may bring you unprecedented opportunities.
- Pursue opportunities proactively. It is not for you to judge if you are apt for the job, but it is your responsibility to sell yourself in a manner that will prove to be an asset to your target employer.
- Attitude and aptitude are far more treasured traits than experience.