Figuring out the right career path can be stressful. It’s been a blessing to be surrounded by mentors who have inspired me in my professional life, but it has also caused active debates in my head about the steps I should take towards a “successful future.” How did these people figure it out? What decisions did they make to get them to where they are today? Am I making a huge mistake for my career path right now? Will I make a huge mistake next?
These are the questions that came flooding in when I was at the first major intersection of my career. I had spent a few years working at a large media agency as a digital media planner/buyer on a fun entertainment brand. I loved the people I worked with and the growth opportunities I was given, and I was excited to work towards a specific career goal – being promoted to my manager’s position. However, over time, I wondered if I was committing myself to a very specific, long-term career path that wasn’t necessarily right for me.
I took some time to self reflect, and decided to make the jump to brand management on the creative side of advertising, which would allow me to explore the other facets of the industry I was interested in.
The biggest challenge that stood out was how to transfer my media background to brand management. Meeting with advertising agencies, most told me that I would likely need to start all over again to tick the skill set boxes they were looking for. Then I met with The Many (Mistress at the time), who immediately saw how my background could be an asset to the agency to help bridge creative and media thinking together as digital and mobile continued to explode. I found a way to make my experience work, because I found a place that was open to non-traditional creative solutions.
Four years later, I can look back at the naysayers who shut the door before giving me a chance, who made me question the decision to make this shift in my career path, and thank them for ultimately leading me to where I am today. I feel lucky to have been immersed in a unique approach to modern media culture, which has continued to inspire me and build upon the value I contribute to the agency.
For anyone who is considering making a career shift similar to mine, here are a few tips that I learned along the way:
1) Do Your Homework: Research various marketing and advertising roles to identify which position sounds interesting and how your previous experience can transfer over. After I identified account/brand management as my interest, I had a number of informational interviews with people that worked in this area to hear about their experiences, likes and dislikes. This helped to confirm that I was on the right track.
2) Be Clear On Your Goal(s): Be clear on your must-haves and nice-to-haves and where you are open to compromise. My main driving factor for making this career shift was to gain multifaceted experience within the industry, but there were facets of my existing job that I didn’t want to lose (and that I haven’t had to) – finding a company culture that was supportive and inspiring, having a positive working dynamic that fosters growth, and having work/life balance.
3) Surround Yourself With Good People: This might be a no-brainer, but it’s important to get a gauge on company culture during the meeting and interview process to see if you might enjoy your time there. I’ve learned that I thrive in passionate, collaborative, smart and ego-less environments, and I’m not willing to compromise that for the sake of a career move.
4) Stay Up To Date On Industry News: Subscribe to publications like AdAge, Adweek, Campaign, Digiday and The Verge (the list goes on) so that you can stay on the pulse of what is happening. Having a clear picture of the work that brands are doing across the industry and becoming an expert in the constantly changing media landscape are invaluable no matter what new position you pursue.
5) Don’t Give Up: Stay patient, believe in your choice and commit to your path. That was the hardest part for me, but it couldn’t have been more worth it. As I mentioned earlier, most doors were shut in my face when I was looking to make a career transition. It took just one company to see my potential and give me the chance to prove I could rise up to the challenge. If you believe in yourself and the value you have to offer, things have a way of working themselves out in the end – you’ll see.
Kylie Wu is a Brand Director at The Many.