So you’re pursuing or about to embark on a career in marketing. Do you want to know what skills and experiences you need on your CV to get to the top and earn a big salary?
Here, I reveal the 10 key career insights from CEOs, CMOs and Marketing Leaders, that I wish I had known about earlier in my marketing career.
Reading this will genuinely save you a lot of time and uncertainty as well as help you make better decisions and achieve greater levels of career and salary success in the marketing industry.
1. You’re on the right gravy train!
Marketing is not only a fulfilling career it’s also a highly paid one and can be used as a stepping stone to even higher paid professions.
Let’s not gloss over this point.
It’s important in a world where your personal expenses will likely only increase as time goes by (trust me!), you want to know that you’re on a trajectory that will be able to keep up with your lifestyle.
Let’s talk numbers.
The average salary of a Marketing Graduate today starts at around £25,000 to £30,000 per annum, if you’re lucky enough to start with a blue chip company. Smaller companies will usually pay you in the lower half of £20,000.
Being honest, at this stage I wouldn’t say it’s the most lucrative option as I know areas such banking, finance, management consulting and legal professions will probably trump this salary range.
BUT if you look at it from a work/life balance point of view, I think taking a slightly lower salary to have more regular working hours, more fun at work (yep!) and use/nurture a broader skill set (more on this later), the monetary trade off is worth it.
Also, if you do a per hour calculation you will find that marketing is comparable to the professions I mentioned, as there isn’t the same expectation to ‘work all hours’ saving your valuable mental health.
Mid to Senior Management
The good news is as you progress through your career, your salary can increase significantly over time (if you play your cards right ofcourse!). The average salary of a mid-company Marketing Director is well over £100,000 per annum and I have seen large company Marketing Directors on at least 50% more than this.
Chief marketing officer
In fact, if you aspire to lofty heights and get right to the top of some of the largest companies in the world you can earn a compensation of more than £500,000 per annum (total package). Now you will notice in the graph above, I have included a + sign. This is because as you get more senior things get a lot more nuanced and it’s important to look at the total package (bonus, equity, pension, benefits plus basic). It’s really a negotiation and you want to put yourself in the best possible position, using the advice presented here.
Marketing Careers and Salaries are not linear
I would say a marketing career is not a straight linear journey and the possibilities to earn are varied depending on the skills you have and your risk appetite. Everybody’s trajectory is different, however in my experience it comes in bursts, which are long periods of low/slow growth (and in some cases having to go down a notch) followed by periods of high growth and salary increments.
I know Marketing Consultants/Specialists in their 30s who earn well over £200k a year and Founder Agency owners who even exceeded this amount. But these routes require you to be willing to be self employed or work on a freelance basis. I’m not going to overly glorify this route, since there is a wide variance of earning potential depending on so many factors, some out of your control but its good to know if you strike it right, the rewards will be waiting.
“The best piece of advice that I would give someone early in their career is don’t worry to much about either your starting or early salaries as long as they keep you going and then some left over. If you put the effort in, you will likely see that your salary doesn’t grow in a linear fashion but rather in upwards bumps where you will get some good pay increases in one go.”
Ritchie Mehta, CEO of School of Marketing
2. Gain skills, not titles
I’m not sure why but we all idolise the destination rather than the journey. I think it’s cause when we are starting out we build a mental picture of what it would be like to be ‘in charge’ and of being a CEO or in our case a Chief Marketing Officer.
Ironically, we try and charge up the ladder as quick as possible to earn status and the respect of our peers.
We can’t help but look at all those that started their journey at a similar time as us and constantly compare ourselves to them. Its only natural but I assure you in the long run its completely unhelpful.
A game of snakes and ladders
“A career is like a game of snakes and ladders not just ladders. Sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes you’re behind but you’re only really playing the game with yourself.”
Mark Evans, Chairman of School of Marketing
I’ve know some of the highest paying CMOs leave a job and really struggle to get another as they don’t have the right marketing skills on their CV, so really don’t panic that your not moving up quick enough. A career really is a marathon, not a sprint.
You see careers happen in stages and if you don’t learn the ropes at the right time, it’s actually pretty difficult to go back.
Learn your craft and skills at the right time
So take your time to learn the craft and skills, build up your CV and if you aspire to be a CMO, you would be better off doing a number of roles at the same level (so picking up new marketing skills) then chasing the next promotion and job title. If you want to learn more about what skills are in important for the Future of Marketing, read our report here:
The best piece of advice I could give in the early parts of your career develop marketing skills that enable you to be an executional expert. A safe pair of hands. Your given a task and you nail it, each and every time, on time. This is the single biggest way to earning a stellar reputation and have tangible achievements on your CV.
He wished he had broadened his skill set out in the early part of his career, rather than getting so focussed on the next job. He believes he would have benefited even more had he done so.
Paul Coxhill, CEO of WARC
To achieve this, be incessantly curious about how different executional parts of marketing come together and hone in those project management skills so you can sit in the centre and be that go-to person.
At the same time, recognise that you need to groom yourself (see how I made it nobody else’s problem but yours?) to build those other skills to showcase on your CV that will become more important as you take on more senior roles and climb the ladder in your career.
3. Fork in the road
You will get to a point in the not so distant future, where you will experience a fork in your career. What do I mean by that? Well, you will need to decide the type of marketer you want to be and craft your skills and CV accordingly.
I’m not sure why but all good decisions come in three’s and this is no different. You can either be an ‘I’, ‘T’ or ‘M’ shaped marketer.
‘I’ shaped marketer
An ‘I’ shaped marketer is someone who has an incredible and in-depth skill in one area and doubles down in that space. You will know all the ins and outs of that area and can ofcourse earn a world-class reputation for doing that one thing, with a string of clients gagging to work with you.
Think, you’re the advertising director who makes the most compelling, impactful and award winning adverts the world has ever seen. Or you’re the SEO specialist who knows more than anybody else about how to get your clients webpages to rank on Google. Or your that killer UX designer that knows how to craft a user journey like no other.
You are narrowing your CV but let me assure you, there is power, power, power in expertise. Your likely to end up working in either an agency group, management consultancy or you will say sod it to the world since your so talented you have clients lining outside your door, as you go it alone and work on your own terms.
‘T’ shaped marketer
The next type of marketing career is a ‘T’ shaped one. Here you will have a subject specialism but will also have a good amount of knowledge in a range of other marketing areas to boast about on your CV. This will mean that not only can you work your space but also know how your specialist area fits in with other areas. Your value is both in your expertise but also in being able to join many marketing dots together. In this way, you have just opened your career up to work in big marketing teams and likely to be the subject specific aid to your functional senior manager.
It’s a good spot and you certainly have scope to branch out into other specialisms since you will gather enough knowledge along the way to jump into other areas and improve your earning potential. You’re being groomed for that Marketing Director position in this neck of the woods, which ofcourse comes with a good salary increase.
‘M’ shaped marketer
Now, the final option is for you to have an ‘M’ shaped marketing career. This reflects two things. Either you can skew towards having a ‘generalist’ marketing career, where you know a bit of everything.
Or you could develop expertise in a number of marketing areas, which is the extension of the ‘T’ shape. In today’s fragmented marketing landscape, it’s the ultimate hedge and also probably what gets you right to the top of a big corporate tree (if that’s the way you want to go).
The choice is yours.
4. Personal branding
There is one thing I just cant get my head around. I see too many marketers that do not market themselves. It just feels counterintuitive to me since it’s the ultimate showcase of your marketing abilities and skills.
It also opens you up to new possibilities and opportunities so you should really carve out your personal brand, be visible on social, be that ‘yes’ person and build a solid reputation both internally and externally. Ofcourse, always have your CV up to date as well, you never know when your gonna need it.
“Anything good that has ever happened to someone is because they were famous. He took to this be, that they were known in their field by someone who had an opportunity. Had the individual not stood above the parapet its unlikely that opportunity would ever have manifested.”
Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, UK
5. Become a creator
It leads me onto another key area related to the one about personal branding, which is you should become a Creator. You don’t need to be a world-renowned Youtuber (maybe that’s what will happen), but rather that you are constantly building your own audience in whatever medium and platform you feel strongly about.
I think this is a game-changer for your career in so many ways. The first is that you get to constantly test, iterate and learn new skills in a safe space, which you can add to your CV and apply in your profession. Secondly, it demonstrates a real appetite to stand out from the crowd. Thirdly and related to Personal Branding, it actually helps you earn a reputation which most of your peer group are unlikely to do.
Craig Fenton, the Managing Director of Operations at Google, has his own Youtube Channel. When I asked why he does it, he said it was the best opportunity for him to learn first hand what his customers go through each day.
Imagine, going to an interview and talking through your CV that showcases your blog, Youtube channel, Instagram handle or podcast on Spotify. The interviewer will automatically look at your CV and think that you are super current and that if you can do it for yourself with limited marketing resources, imagine what you can do on their team. It will put you in the driving seat to negotiate a good salary increase.
6. Networking is networthing
It’s all about who you know… blah… blah… blah. It’s an age old truth but it’s not going away. There is a wonderful saying that ‘talent is everywhere but opportunity is not’. It’s your ability and power to leverage yourself into different groups and circles that will make a big difference to your career success and salary potential.
My top advice is don’t network for networking sake, rather have a reason to connect with someone. It may be you want some advice (and be very specific about what advice it is), you may be able to invite them onto your channel (if you played the above advice about being a Creator properly that is).
Networking is daunting for everyone and its never comfortable. But its necessary.
Oli Barrett had some amazing advice that I will never forget. He called it the moonshot. He described it as sending a note to someone you truly admire and want to get to know. Research them well, be polite, be complimentary and make a small request. People want to help people and if you do this enough you will land yourself into some amazing conversations… and who know where they will lead.
Oli Barrett, Co-Founder of Turn on the Subtitles
7. Be bold, brave and resilient
Fortune favours the brave. Playing it safe will never take you to lofty heights in your career and get you the salary you want. Don’t be reckless with your career but do place strategic bets.
Sophie Devonshire, the CEO of The Marketing Society talks about the role of bravery in the industry and how you must capitalise on it in order to get ahead.
Sophie Devonshire, the CEO of The Marketing Society talks about the role of bravery in the industry and how you must capitalise on it in order to get ahead.
You have landed in a profession that is all about making educated bets, whether it be on a marketing campaign or indeed in your next career move.
Get comfortable with the ambiguity that it brings, since we live in a world of imperfect information, you will never have all the cards and know all the answers.
There will always be 10 reasons why a good thing almost didn’t happen. There will always be barriers in the ways and it will require you to be tenacious, bold and brave to knock them down, in order to get to the good stuff.
In your career, there will always be set backs, but being able to power through them to keep going will be absolutely critical for your success. Watch Ali Parsa, Founder of Babylon Healthcare, as he talks about the need for resilience.
8. Windows and doors
A ‘no’ is never a ‘no’ its always a not yet when it comes to careers. In a recent talk with Lex Bradshaw-Zanger, the Chief Marketing and Digital Officer of L’Oreal UK, he said he learnt the importance to recognise the difference between ‘windows and doors’.
You will early in his career he tried to get into L’Oreal through a formal scheme and was rejected. However, after many years a window of opportunity opened up to work with them on a project which ultimately led to him getting a full-time role and scaling into senior leadership.
Lex Bradshaw-Zanger, CMO of L’Oreal UK
There will be times in your career when you think the door is shut and there is no way to break through. It’s at these times that you need to start looking for windows rather than doors. See how you may be able to get involved in a project, or be mentored by someone in the organisation. Using a little ingenuity will go a long way both in creating opportunities but also showing the employer that ‘Your worth it’ (forgive the cringe-worthy pun) when you get a breakthrough.
9. Manoeuvre to the heart of the marketing function
Ask any successful individual and they will always say, right place, right time. However, the reality is that they were able to get themselves into the right areas that allowed them to shine in their careers.
Its well articulated by Thomas Barta, as he talks about the Value Creation Zone. This is the sweet spot in the marketing function, where you are involved in top priority projects, that are championed at the highest levels. It usually is at the heart of the growth agenda and therefore is of critical importance to the organisation.
It’s in this zone where you are likely to gain exposure to individual’s that have a bearing on your career trajectory. Impress them and good things can happen in your career and salary, since they can see the value that you are bringing to organisation.
10. Your learning journey is never-ending
Finally, our industry changes so quickly. New tools, platforms, formats, audiences, strategies are evolving all the time. If you can be the person to stay abreast with future marketing skills in order to be indispensable.
There is a graph illustrates that life used to come in 3 phases. The first was the ‘learning’ phase where we studied, went to University and got qualified. The second was our working lives where we had a career and the third came retirement. Now the model is that all three phases happen simultaneously. We learn, work and rest at the same time through our lives. Embracing this concept of ‘life-long learning’ will hold you in great stead as you take the next steps in what I hope will be an adventurous and exciting career.
The importance of always having a learning mindset was a lesson I gained from Professor of Marketing at the Cambridge Judge Business School, as he suggested that organisations like individuals need to constantly keep involving in order to innovate and get ahead.
So there you have it, 10 career insights that that will make a huge difference to your career, CV and salary in the marketing industry.