Climbing the Ladder: Tips for Elevating Your Career in Advertising

From interns to CEOs, most of us in the midst of our working years share a common career goal. We all strive to continue climbing that proverbial ladder, imagining what our days would look like perched on the next rung up. Although the desire for upward movement is widely shared for varied reasons, as accomplishments in your career can directly impact your life after six o’clock, taking steps toward that end-goal is by no means an easy task.

Keeping your career moving in the right direction is not just about swinging your arm and hoping you latch onto the next level through luck and brute strength. Just as you would take the time to strategize and optimize client campaigns with carefully designed plans, your own success is dependent on hard work and smart moves.

While the path to success is not paved in stone and there is no set route to the top, there are a few strategies that have proven more effective than others. These tried and true approaches can help propel your career’s upward movement and lead to greater job satisfaction, not to mention added personal and professional benefits.


Go a Little Further
The first thing you need to realize, and come to grips with, is that growth is fostered through expanded boundaries. What does this mean for you? To rise through the ranks, you have to be willing to try different things and stretch your comfort zone beyond your immediate horizons. If there is something you struggle with, don’t simply avoid that type of task or client—do something about it.

For instance, if you’re a nervous public speaker, attack that head on. Presentations are a huge part of the advertising industry, and the more you succeed there the more you’ll be in demand. Watch your fellow team members present, observe and pick out the good and the bad. Talk with the good ones and see if they have any tips or secrets. Dig up videos of great presenters such as Steve Jobs and Richard Branson, both very charismatic speakers who demonstrate how to hold an audience’s complete attention and make their points with great clarity. Ted Talks are another fantastic source of inspiration, with thought leaders from all walks of life presenting broad world topics with great passion. While they might not talking about digital media initiatives, relevant target demographic makeup or integrated marketing plans, there is still a lot to be gained from watching these speakers.

Once you’ve done your research, just practice, practice, practice. With time, you’ll find public speaking will get much easier, and you will get to be a better and more effective presenter, thus a stronger and move valuable team member.

Keep Up with the Joneses
The advertising world is incredibly fast-paced—if you don’t actively work on staying up to date, it’s very likely you will fall behind. Trends and new practices emerge every day—every hour, really—and while many might be mere fads, some could prove to become viable and useful mediums for furthering your client or agency’s success. News from leading agencies and recent campaigns are also a vital line of information for advertisers, as they clue you in to the latest industry happenings.

In order to stay up to date and ensure your work remains fresh and engaging, you must be proactive about gathering relevant insights. That means setting time aside to search for and read industry e-blasts, association newsletters, and other agency or related websites that can provide a source for news in our rapidly changing world. A great place to start your search is 4A’s daily e-blast on happenings with major brands, the big agencies, media news, and all kinds of info from top industry levels.

In order to bring value to your team and your clients, you need to provide effective ideas that will deliver results. Staying current with trends and knowing what other brands and marketers are doing can spark those ideas. By acquiring this knowledge and working to stay connected to the industry pulse, you’ll be on the road to becoming a thought leader within your company and community.

Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
One more thing to think about as you push yourself to be a stronger and more valuable employee or executive is overcoming the fear of failure. While a legitimate concern, being afraid can prove to be a major hindrance on the road to career success. It can stop you from contributing daring ideas, producing innovative work or giving your career the boost it needs to move forward.

Wieden+Kennedy, a name we are likely all familiar with, have the words “Fail Harder” emblazoned on the walls of their head office. That, in itself, speaks to risk taking—throwing yourself into the unknown. Those in the positions you covet don’t often get there with mild-mannered or mediocre efforts. The most successful advertisers and communicators have earned their place in history because of their out of the box concepts, the value they brought to their clients, and the ever-burning desire to spark emotion in their audiences—risk is an inherent part of each of those factors.

As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” There’s no more valuable way to learn and get stronger than experiencing a little bit of failure. You will come out on the other side a smarter and stronger asset to any client or agency.

Ultimately, your success is fully reliant on your willingness to work for it. When you’re presented with opportunities to go beyond your comfort zone, grasp them with both hands. They may seem impossible, but with preparation and practice, you’ll find the achievements you’ve been working towards are within your reach. You just have to reach up and grab the next rung.