Recently, we sat down with Emma Cookson, Partner at Brandtech group, You & Mr. Jones, for a candid interview, where we broached the subject of the new cadre of 2019 marketers entering the workforce. While many entering the workforce have already worked tirelessly to build their resumes, there’s nothing like the real world advice of a seasoned professional, whose background has involved over two decades in advertising/marketing, and whose current company is an investor and works with the likes of Niantic, Pinterest, and Pixlee! For the graduates of 2019 looking for their first marketing jobs – Emma has some handy advice for you.
Prioritize a Great Team and Culture
The latest generations of marketers are looking for their muses in the workplace to inspire greatness. For your day-to-day work, you’ll want to find managers you admire and can learn from. Great managers inspire great work, often as a model of their own.
Emma’s Take: “It does matter to work for people who are talented experts. I spent a lot of time in my career just making sure I was working with companies and with groups where I had leaders who I thought were great. This is not the same as mentors. You need to be in the orbit of people who you know are very good in certain spheres that you can copy. To me, 80% of learning is pattern recognition, copying other people, seeing how a situation is handled, seeing a problem, seeing the intellectual process that cracked it. You need to be around people worth emulating.”
There is no Replacement for Work Ethic
Your GPA, your technical skills and area of expertise will get you in the door to your first interviews and your first jobs. What improves your abilities in practice and thus gets you promoted faster is your work ethic.
Emma’s Take: “I would say 99 times out of 100 persistence, hard work, and putting in the grind is more fruitful than instinctive and passion-based energy. There's a lot of data on this. For the vast amount of people - possibly excepting the 0.0001% who are true geniuses - native talent gets you less far than persistence and hard work today. Most times when you hear a manager say about a new hire 'oh my god, they're amazing', it's usually followed by something like 'and they are so committed, they make such a big contribution to the group/company/team.”
Finding the Right Manager and Learning to Problem Solve
Marketers are problem solvers – they‘re hired to solve brand problems, visibility problems, but on a granular level, there are day-to-day problems that require a professional touch. Your managers want problem solvers that are willing to solve problems and take the harder tasks. Furthermore - remember your managers have a completely different tasklist than you, so autonomy can always work in your favor.
Emma’s Take: “A good piece of advice for anyone looking to progress a career is to lean into problems. You get so much more credit and power when you are willing to embrace painful, intractable, unpopular challenges. And honestly, if you personally require a relatively low amount of time and effort to manage, it is very appreciated. While running a team, company, or an account, you only have so many hours in the day – so people in your team who don't take up so much of your time with a stream of demands and requests, those ‘low maintenance’ people become very valuable. It's maybe unfashionable to say this sort of thing – no one wants to be an uncaring or inattentive leader, but it's true that being easier to manage can be highly appreciated. Don't think that because you're not always demanding and asking that is not appreciated.”
Working for the Right Company
Younger employees are looking for the same thing in their workplaces: Companies with great direction, moral compasses, and happy coworkers. As technology, fashion, and other industries commit to improving the world, workers are looking to throw their efforts behind companies that share their values.
Emma’s Take: “I think a positive company culture carries you a long, long way. Because life is short and people want to know that their days are not to be spent in unhappy, dull or fruitless work. And I also think being a company that is a positive force in the world is a major motivator, for most people, especially younger people. Some of the most powerful things that companies can do, to motivate and get the best talent are all about giving people the opportunity to be part of a force for good in the world.”
As brands ready themselves for new talent and new ideas from the 2019 graduating class, take note of what can shape your own success and how you can either mentor or grow in the coming year.