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How to get ahead in advertising: Top tips for securing that next promotion

How to get ahead in advertising: Top tips for securing that next promotion

By Chris Freeland, managing director, creative communications agency Tullo Marshall Warren

None of us (I hope!) want to go to the same ruthless lengths as Richard E. Grant’s second head in the legendary film, How To Get Ahead In Advertising, to move up the career ladder.  However, typically, the people who are attracted to the marketing industry are an ambitious lot.  And, even when the economy is not faring well, there will always be opportunities for good people to grow and flourish.

From an employer’s perspective, we want to keep the people that we have worked hard to attract and train (and paid recruitment fees for).  We understand that, in order to do this, we must create opportunities for individuals to progress.

However, promotion is not a given. You need to earn it. We have made a number of promotions here within the business in the past twelve months, which made me wonder, what are the key ingredients to getting noticed?

1.  Sparkle

In this industry, people buy people.  After all, most agencies these days offer similar services.  What differentiates them are the personalities involved.  It’s true to say that some individuals naturally have more charisma than others.  However, personality can also come from putting a bit more effort into every situation – showing that you’re keen and interested. In the long term, building strong relationships with clients is invaluable as often these will stand you in good stead when things don’t go according to plan. Essentially, if you are well regarded by your employer and consistently produce good work, you’ve already upped your chances of promotion.

2.  Emotional Intelligence

Developing positive relationships, both internally and with clients, is imperative – and the more time and effort you invest in this, the more you will stand out.  Look for the common ground you have with others, be it sport, children or the pub.

Those who possess a greater sense of emotional intelligence will naturally build stronger relationships. What I find most impressive is a person’s capacity to read a room. By this I mean having the ability to decipher what someone is really saying by interpreting both their words and body language. This is a real skill that allows you to adapt your approach accordingly and can ultimately make the difference between a long and short lived relationship or between winning or losing a pitch.

3.  Care

You need to show that you really care, and not just about yourself or your job, but about the business as a whole.  It is those people who go above and beyond the day to day demands of their job and contribute to the fabric of the company they work for that stand out. There are many ways to get involved, such as helping arrange social events (rather than just turning up to them), coming up with ideas on how things can be done better, helping others and working late when necessary.  We’re all busy, but we notice those who, despite this, go that extra mile without shouting about it.

4.  Promote yourself

Create opportunities to shine.  This doesn’t mean shouting to everyone about how great you are, however.  It’s about doing a great job and adding value with what you do so that others take note.  I am always much more impressed when I hear from a client or account director about excellent work, rather than being told about it by a member of the team that wants recognition.

5.  It’s not just you

Great marketing is about teamwork.  You won’t succeed by trampling on others.  As you move up the organisational structure, you inevitably earn more business responsibility and this also tends to mean greater responsibility for other people.  Employers therefore need to see that you are a good team player who will get the best out of everybody for the good of the business, rather than for your own agenda.  It’s worth bearing in mind that making the most of individual talents can only reflect well on you!

6.  Be proactive about promotion

Whilst employers understand the importance of career progression in their staff, few have the time to reflect on it as much as they should.  

Being proactive and taking charge of your own career development is key to achieving success. With increasingly tight schedules, individuals need to take control of their destiny and employ a certain amount of drive and determination to push things forward. Why not take the lead and arrange your next review meeting and be prepared to talk about what you have achieved and why you think you add value to the business?

This may all sound like common sense, but it’s surprising how few people really think about it.  The main thing to remember, though, is that promotion should never be a surprise.  If it is, this probably doesn’t bode well for either you or your employer.  

Finally, if you tick all these boxes already, perhaps you should be sending me your CV!

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