Usually, we tend to start thinking about our career in the beginning of the New Year—a time for resolution, reflection and rebirth.

To help you focus on taking your marketing career to the next level, here are five key elements of a successful strategy.

1. Know what you want and what you don't

The best career management starts with focused aspiration. Yogi Berra once said, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else."

As a well-trained marketer, you start every advertising campaign, product launch and market research project with a goal.

But have you established the goals for your career? I often speak with marketing execs whose default goal is to become the VP of Marketing; but when they think long and hard about it, that's often not what they're really after at all.

Step one in career management is to visualize what you want—what you really want—and keep that image fresh in your mind. This will ensure that you make day-to-day decisions that will propel you toward your goal.

If you haven't documented your goals, take the time to do so. Just writing something down makes it twice as likely that you will accomplish it. And you will increase those odds if you post your goals where you will see them every day (like your bathroom mirror or office wall).

2. Take inventory

Take a look at your skills and determine which are most relevant to the current needs of your current or potential employers.

If you scan job announcements, you will see lots of familiar job titles: Product Marketing Manager, Director of Marketing Communications, Partner Marketing Manager, etc. But if you read the ads more closely, you will see the evolution of the job responsibilities associated with these positions.

There are three primary trends to connect yourself with:

  1. External customers. Understanding the customer has always been an important component of every marketing job, from market research to advertising. But it is becoming even more important to demonstrate your understanding of customers and ability to build trust and loyalty with them. Marketing is more and more being seen as the link to customers. Make sure that you have a story to tell about your connection to and support of customers.

  2. Technology. This area was once reserved for just Web marketers. Now, it is essential that you have a command of the technology associated with your chosen field, whether CRM software, Web trend assessment, campaign metrics management or search engine optimization. You don't need to be an IT nerd, but you must be able to demonstrate how technology can provide information, efficiency or control.

  3. Internal customers. Marketers once had almost autonomous control of a large budget and very little resistance from inside the organization. Now, you must prove your worth not only to your manager but also to your internal constituencies. That means having a clear understanding of the needs and desires of your peers throughout the organization and being able to demonstrate the value of your marketing activity.

According to Roy Young, author of Making Marketing Matter: How to Win Respect for Marketing Inside Your Organization and adviser to senior marketing executives about building the brand of marketing inside the company, "Marketers must recognize that it's the equity that marketing builds within the organization, rather than the equity that marketing builds with customers, that often makes the difference between gaining a seat at the strategy table on the one hand and powerlessness and marginality on the other." (Roy is, of course, also a member of the MarketingProfs management team.)

3. It's the 'Me Millennium'

We are living in the Me Millennium. Everything is about me, me, me—custom-cut Levis, custom-designed Nikes and even personalized postage stamps. You are probably inundated with CRM projects and one-to-one marketing meetings at work. You need this same "me, me, me" attitude to succeed in your career.

It wasn't long ago that your employer took control of your career. As long as you conformed and didn't make too many waves, you could stay with the company for 30 years, retire with a pension and move somewhere warm and sunny.

Well, those days are over. You can still move somewhere warm and sunny if you want. But you need to manage all aspects of your career that precede those relaxing retirement years.

In the Me Millennium, the one who is 100% in charge of your career is you. Not the CMO or the president of your company, not your executive recruiter or career coach. You call the shots.

You therefore need to get your head around the fact that you have to build your brand, because there are numerous others with similar degrees and experience competing for the same positions. As a marketer, you have all the tools. Take care of number one, and put your personal brand plan in place.

4. 'Fine' is a four-letter word that begins with 'f'

When it comes to succeeding in today's competitive marketplace, the word 'fine' is just as vulgar and undesirable as other four-letter words that begin with F. If your reputation is fine, you're in trouble. People rarely get excited in life about things that are fine, and they rarely have emotional connections to them.

If you were to win the marketer of the year award next year, what would you win for?

Succeeding as a marketer in the new millennium is all about being outstanding and standing out. It's about having a reputation for something, not a hundred things. So if your career plan involves improving all of your weaknesses so that you become average at everything, forget it. Success moving forward is about flaunting your strengths.

If you are the most creative copywriter, focus on that. If you are the most efficient and organized account executive, make it more visible. If you are the zany team leader who gets all of the marketing functions talking and laughing, be more of that. Just don't be fine.

5. Resumes are dead: long live Web portfolios

The days of creating a fantastic resume or CV to get you your dream job are long gone. That is, if they ever existed. You can write your resume with incredible wit, make sure the spelling and grammar are perfect, print it on the most expensive, highest-quality paper and send it by FedEx, but it's not likely to get the attention of the hiring manager.

The fact is, it's sitting among numerous other resumes in an unattractive and unappealing pile on the hiring manager's desk. And, to him, they all look the same.

There are thousands of other product managers, interactive marketing directors and even CMOs competing for the same jobs. You need to stand out among all of them, and that's hard to do on a sheet of paper—no matter how great your credentials are.

Marketing brochures are online. Advertising is online. Direct response is online. Shouldn't you be online? As a marketing executive, you have all the tools and know-how to build yourself a compelling Web site—one that will help you communicate your unique promise of value and help you reach your goals (remember the first tip?).

Moreover, if your Google search comes up empty, you don't exist. When people want to know about you, they will type your name into the world's leading search engine to see what it reveals about you. Whether you are applying to be the VP of Marketing or pitching some work as an advertising consultant, you can count on being Googled. So, managing your online identity is crucial.


If you put these five tips into action at the beginning of this year and continue to act on them throughout, you'll look back at 2005 as the pivotal year in the advancement of your professional success and fulfillment.

Note: Don't miss William Arruda's January 6th seminar, Marketing Career Turbocharger: Put Your Marketing Career in Overdrive in 2005. Get more information of sign up here.

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image of William Arruda

William Arruda is a personal branding pioneer, the founder and CEO of Reach Personal Branding, and the author of Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives.

Twitter: @williamarruda

LinkedIn: William Arruda