Chuck Coker

Marketing Career: 4 questions every marketer should answer (and what you need to know to start asking them)

March 16th, 2012

Very few of us, especially marketers, know what next year or the year after will look like. Things are constantly changing and progressing with new approaches, better analytics and a greater level of sophistication in our industry.

The good news, while those aspects continually evolve, there are a few things you as an individual can do to ensure a productive and prosperous marketing career. They may seem obvious, but consider them carefully because your choice will mean the difference between a rewarding and frustrating career.

First and foremost, according to research I conducted for the 2012 Executive Guide to MarketingSherpa Marketing Personnel,  80% of marketers take assessments  to identify key competencies and personality traits. (An assessment is an examination, test and/or survey(s) that measures specific behaviors, values and/or skills that provide insight into an individual’s abilities and capacities.)

However, what comes next is disappointing … our study also showed that less than half of the assessments were actually used (by companies) to help ensure you are in the right marketing position. So, if you work for one of the companies not using assessments, your career satisfaction and success is entirely in your hands.

“People don’t pay for average.” — John C. Maxwell

And neither do marketing departments.

While you may enjoy multiple aspects of the marketing process, if you really want to excel in your career, you must ask yourself: “Which aspects do I enjoy the most and which am I best suited for?”

The reality is that you may be fairly competent in several areas, but no one is good at all of them — plus, each area is growing in the level of sophistication so rapidly that it is easy to quickly fall behind the learning curve. So what do you do?

  • Obtain a copy of your assessments and make an appointment with your manager or HR specialist who had those tests run. Identify what you want to learn about your behaviors, strengths and weaknesses before the appointment that apply to the field of marketing you most enjoy.
  • Have the individual go through the results with you thoroughly. Ask questions during the process. Yes, you will hear a lot of things you already know, but it is essential you see your competencies from another’s paradigm, not just your own. Let them identify your strengths and weaknesses based on the data.
  • Use the comments you obtain from the debrief session to help you develop a plan.The plan should consist of:
    • How to use your strengths in your present position
    • How to reduce the weaknesses that might inhibit your professional growth and development
    • Try to codify what developmental resources you will need to obtain, either through or outside of company resources
    • Assign priorities and time frames, then implement your developmental process. Do not wait on a manager or  HR to do this for you. You may have to wait a long time for other’s help.


Take this knowledge one step further

Think about your natural characteristics and where they will be best applied.  Generally, marketers (according to the 2012 Executive Guide to Marketing Personnel) are normally assertive people who like to be recognized for their work and accomplishments.

Often many have an entrepreneurial flair. This can be both a blessing and a curse depending on the size of organization you choose to work with. You must pay attention to your motivations because they will have a long-term impact on where you will find joy and satisfaction with your job.

In the research we conducted for the Executive Guide, we discovered unique dynamics existed in different-sized organizations. For example, marketers who left one size organization (a Fortune 500) for another (perhaps a startup) either failed or found the transition miserable. Here is what we discovered:

  • Working in a small company (100 or less) required the marketer to wear five to seven different “hats” and regularly change their focus of attention during the day. There were not many opportunities to focus on one particular area because of the many different tasks that had to be completed. Additionally, there was often a strong degree of management required. So, if you are not extremely flexible, entrepreneurial and willing to invest in helping others, this is not a place for you!
  • Working in medium-sized companies (100–1,000), marketers wore approximately three to five “hats” and were allowed to focus more. There was more infrastructure and support, but still a strong variety of needs that have not been addressed by the department. Typically, the individual marketer had to be less flexible and managerial overall, but was also required to have a higher level of expertise in the areas they owned. Here there is a constant internal battle with having to develop an image of a big company with less expertise and resources than were available. There are still many “small company issues.”
  • Working in larger companies (1000+) has the advantage of greater resources and career development opportunities, but also has rigid rules and strongly focused assignments that still require you to wear multiple “hats.” Additionally, there were more politics than marketers normally like to deal with and less individual appreciation for their uniqueness and accomplishments. Often times, the opportunities and the pay are wonderful, but the lifestyle is very inhibiting for the marketer’s personality.


When you boil your career down to the essentials, you must make some decisions early on

Do you want to have a narrow focus or a broader one? Do you want to specialize or do you enjoy the freedom of flexibility? Do you want to develop your career alone or help with others? Where will you find your joy and satisfaction in marketing?

Here are the questions you want to answer:

  1. Can the company I work for use my natural competencies so I can find the greatest satisfaction in my position?
  2. Do I want to do one specific task or multiple marketing tasks, management included?
  3. Does the work environment provide me with the appropriate level of interactional chemistry and collaboration?
  4. Is there a capacity for me to progress and better my career?

Once you begin to answer these questions, you will have a much greater chance of finding joy in an absolutely rewarding profession.


Related Resources:

Subscribe to the Marketing Careers newsletter – An average of 25 new marketing job openings every week

Marketing Career: How to get your next job in marketing

Marketing Analytics: Why you need to hire an analyst

Marketing Career: How to overcome dissatisfaction in marketing jobs

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