A recent report identified that 85% of the jobs today’s learners will be doing in 2030 have not yet been invented. In a world where roles are emerging and disappearing with increased frequency, how do marketers build a successful career?
In our profession, we are given certain advice on where to get the best training – a position with one of the big brands, international experience or joining a big tech firm. Exposure to a number of roles while we’re still in our twenties. Perhaps a mix of agency and client-side work.
Apart from the obvious goal of role advancement, what should we be seeking from each of these positions?
You are your own CEO
Firstly, it’s important to remember no-one owes you a career. In that sense, we are all ultimately self-employed. This is a difficult but essential message to absorb. As your own CEO, how are you investing to improve your skills and the value you generate as a marketer?
Would you invest in a company that wasn’t setting aside resources to upskill and develop its staff? Why should it be any different for an individual in the current market?
“Managing oneself demands that each knowledge worker think and behave like a chief executive officer.” Peter Drucker
Build your Career Capital
So what steps can we take to reinforce our employability and job options?
A great way to frame your thinking is the concept of Career Capital, discussed by author Cal Newport in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. He posits that by developing a set of rare and valuable skills, employees can increase control over their career.
Doing this requires a craftsperson’s mindset. Forget the idea that you have arrived at the conclusion of your training; rather, consider each day how you can improve and add to your existing skillset. In this respect, it is very similar to the idea of a growth mindset that I have discussed previously.
These skills will deliver what Newport identifies as the ultimate goal for any career – autonomy to choose the roles you want, competence in your chosen area, and a related set of skills that give flexibility and insurance against the vagaries of the job market.
A core element is commitment to continuous personal improvement. It seems simple, but the compound effect of your actions means that any activity you devote time to consistently on a daily basis will deliver substantial results if done correctly.
Undertake Deliberate Practice
The next step is to use deliberate practice. This involves improving specific skills in a targeted and strategic manner. It is how sportspeople and musicians improve. They identify a weakness and focus their regime on strengthening this area through repeated training.
“This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.” Anders Ericsson
Athletes build muscle and endurance through exercises that push them to the edge of their current ability. Musicians practice their scales for hours to improve speed and dexterity. Newport argues that developing your own skillset is no different; there is an element of strain involved in order to push through to the next level of accomplishment.
How do you know if you have really absorbed and understood a new skill? Try presenting at your next team meeting, write a blog article or contribute to an industry or in-house journal on the subject.
“No one learns as much as the person who must teach his subject.” Peter Drucker
Develop a Routine
So, how to build this into a workable plan that fits within our own busy lives?
Firstly, identify your current skillset. Then assess which aspects of your career capital need enhancing. There can be a trade-off. Do you focus on improving existing strengths or on reducing a weakness? Some experts such as Drucker advise to take the former route – in many cases it’s easier to go from good to great in an area where you are already showing competence.
Next, take steps daily towards your goal. This will provide small wins that will give you encouragement and motivation to progress further.
Build a routine. Ultimately, so much of life comes down to process and habit. It could be taking 30 minutes in the morning or evening and devoting this specifically to skills development.
If that doesn’t fit your schedule, try setting aside a chunk of time once or twice a week where you can really immerse yourself. Focus on the process first, results will follow.
If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive – no matter how skilled or talented you are. Cal Newport.
None of us can predict the future. However, taking a focused, strategic approach to our career capital and skills development will pay dividends no matter what challenges we face in our working lives.
About the author
Steven Roberts is head of marketing at Griffith College and a certified data protection officer. He writes on marketing, GDPR, data protection and personal development.