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An early-career marketer eager to collect insights on content strategy and storytelling, I attended the 2016 MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum. I enjoyed multiple sessions on various topics, from artificial intelligence to customer experience, SEO strategy, and more.

But perhaps most inspiring was a panel of senior leaders gathered to discuss the twists and turns their careers had taken and offer advice on the path from modern marketer to CMO or CEO.

The panel consisted of Margaret Molloy, global CMO of brand strategy firm Siegel+Gale; Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, SVP of global brand marketing and communications at American Express; and Doug Bewsher, CEO of Leadspace. They responded candidly to questions from an audience of marketers at various career stages.

It turns out that although each had taken a distinct call path, they all had four approaches in common.

1. Be deliberate about decisions and choices

When asked about the best career advice they ever received, both Mary Ann and Doug emphasized the power of making deliberate choices. Setting boundaries had enabled them to maximize success where it was most possible.

Mary Ann said part of making choices involves a deliberate decision to set aside time to network. Margaret insisted that in this exercise, it is crucial to diversify your network. Deliberately looking beyond those in your own industry brings you in contact with disparate input that provide a marketer more informed and nuanced perspectives.

For the panelists, making choices extends into deciding what advice not to follow. Mary Ann recalled ignoring advice to look two roles ahead of where she was as a means to govern her actions. She avoided that advice as too prescriptive, because following it would risk missing opportunities that did not fall within that rigid framework. Margaret ignored those who told her "life is too short. Avoid conflict." She asserted that she knew that having tough conversations was necessary, but added that they could still be managed graciously. Doug spoke of defying instruction to avoid his gut instincts, which, he argued, often prove correct.

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image of Clare Pearson

Clare Pearson is marketing and business development coordinator at Siegel+Gale, a global brand strategy, design and experience agency.

LinkedIn: Clare Pearson