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Top 10 Tips To Fast Track Your Career As A Junior Planner | A view from Charles Oben

Staying true to my promise of attending more APG events after really enjoying the APG's Noisy Thinking About Planning In A Post-Capitalism World event, I joined several other upcoming Planners last week at MRM Meteorite to hear AMV BBDO's Joint CSO, Craig Mawdsley give some great advice on how to make it in strategy.

Following his talk, everyone gathered together to add their own tips to the mix. Here are my top 10 of the bunch:

1. Learn to present. And Sell. Convincingly.

Because it’s your job. Craig Mawdsley emphasized this as a key skill. If not THE key skill. And not just for account people.

You need to be able to sell yourself, sell your ideas and sell your point of view. Think Wolf of Wall Street. Most successful businessman are great salesmen. Are you?

2. Learn the business; everything. Not just your department.

Because the more you know about other departments, and the entire business as a whole, the easier it becomes for you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, be genuinely empathetic, and consequently be a lot better at your job.

3. Talk less. Listen more. Speak Sense.

Because “He who barks the loudest, usually has the smallest balls.” This is one of the many quotes I’ve made up, but the message rings true; you know those guys who speak a lot yet say very little? The ones who love the sound of their own voice?

They’re dicks. Don’t be like them. Be concise. Effective. Be worth it.

4. Become a vessel of knowledge.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” - Derek Bok

Because you need to know your shit. Excuse my French. Planning often covers a wide breath of industries and subject matter, so you need to be on the ball. Otherwise, you’ll have no authority. And clients and colleagues will ignore you.

Especially when you find yourself selling work on the basis of an idea, or strong, but incomplete research, or just you’re gut feeling alone. To sound convincing, and excuse my French again, you absolutely need to know your shit.

5. Become the go to person for a desirable skill set.

Because it will make you indispensable. You want that. I’ve previously written about how you can become The Chuck Norris of Spreadsheets, The Jackie Chan of Coffee, The Jack Bauer of Invoicing to help you stand out as an intern. But the same applies for a full-time job.

6. Know Who You’re Talking To: Understand Your Audience.

Because “the consumer isn’t stupid, she’s your wife”. – David Ogilvy

90% of advertising is crap. Often, because it’s made by industry professionals, for other industry professionals. Stupid. At all times, you must think about your audience. If you don’t, it shows in your ideas, and in the work.

Take a look at this ad. Hilarious? Undoubtedly. Did it increase sales or add commercial value to the brand? Doubt it.

Amazing advertising, like this year’s APG Grand Prix Award Winning Campaign from FCB Inferno, This Girl Can, has laser like focus on the consumer. And it’s epic. Why?

Because “if it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative.” – David Ogilvy.

7. Network Like A Rockstar: Plant Seeds In People’s Minds And Let Them Grow Organically

Because you need friends and an expansive network to catapult yourself to the top in any industry, any line of work. Advertising is no different.

You’ll be waiting a few years between starting out as a Planner, to when your peers believe you’ve outgrown your training wheels. Make sure you strategically foster some relationships. Like a Jedi Soothsayer.

You’ll especially need to do this for your first job, unless you’re lucky (or very talented) and land a place in one of the few grad schemes for planners. For me, I got my first job in advertising after completing my Masters in Spain thanks to an 18 month stalking session. Kind of.

I forget exactly when, but I was reading an article in Brand Republic written by an employee at what is now called Havas Work Club. I really liked the article so I found out who wrote it, where he worked, researched the company, and applied for a job. I got turned down.

But in a good way; he told me to contact him again in future because they had no jobs at present. Guess who’s the first person I emailed after my Masters? Yep, you guessed it. And he remembered me. *Pumps Fist In Celebration*. And I started working there 10 days later.

8. Remember To Play And Socialize.

Because all work and no play makes you boring as fuck. Excuse my French (although I joke, I do actually speak French). And not someone anyone wants to be around. Or help.

9. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone.

Because if you don’t, you’re never going to grow. No growth means no development. No development means no new skills. No new skills makes it harder to adapt, climb the ranks or compete with your peers. You want to get left behind? Feel free to stay exactly as you are. Forever.

Better to consider yourselves frickin Christopher Colombus of the new age my friends. Embrace it. Go forth and do things.

10. Learn Random Stuff.

Because you want to have a broad range of sources to pull inspiration from. Many planning greats, including the likes of Richard Huntington or Martin Wiegel, encourage you to ‘read lots of weird shit’ for the same reason. Think about it.

If you have the same knowledge bank as your peers, i.e. read the books and publications, why would you expect your thoughts to be original.

“Feed your mind and it will nourish you with intellect. Starve it, and it will serve you with ignorance.” Another one from the quote vault.

11. ‘Be not afraid of moving slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” – Chinese Proverb

Yes, yes, I know I said top 10 tips. So what? Sue me.

11 had to be included even though it wasn’t mentioned on the night.


Because Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same goes for your career. All of this will take a long time. Definitely longer than you want, probably a lot longer than you’d expect. Be prepared.

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