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Insights from APG Careers in Strategy Evening

Last night Mintel hosted the APG for a session where we explored different 'flavours' of strategy and the diverse ways in which planners and strategists can forge a career.

There were some fascinating experiences and ideas from the panel of John Shaw (Brand Union), Shula Sinclair (MEC), Phil Adams (Blonde Digital), Richard Huntington, Lisa Bowcott and David Hackworthy (Saatchi & Saatchi) and some really interesting ideas in the room.

Here are some insights from the panel:

Tips from strategists who made it to the top… whatever the ‘top’ means | Lisa Bowcott, Saatchi & Saatchi At some point someone will tell you can’t do something you want to do; get into advertising, swap agencies, make a shift from small to big agency, get to the next level and so on. Ignore them. People love to tell you what you can’t do. The world is literally littered with naysayers. Follow your instincts and have faith in your own abilities. And keep asking until you find someone who says yes.

The best thing about working in communications is the people. Rubbing brains with strange and wonderful thinkers is one of the best things about what we do. If you don’t have any fascinating brains to rub up against… move on.

A good career has nothing to do with titles. It’s all about the type of work you’re doing and whether the challenges you’re dealing with excite you. Seek out challenges not titles. The titles have a way of taking care of themselves when you do that.

Everyone’s reaching the ‘top’ looks different and there’s no set path in strategy. Talk to as many people as you can at the top of their game, it will give you a sense of what their view is from up there and whether it’s a view you have any interest in waking up to one day.

Four things I learnt or was reminded of | John Shaw, Brand Union

1. How it all seems such a rush at the time, but if you're lucky it's a pretty long career so don't be in too much of a hurry. More important to work with the very best people and culture possible. 2. The importance of having been involved with some work that needs no introduction. 3. I cannot believe that Richard thinks no-one has heard of HHCL. If that's true then they should go and watch Blackcurrant Tango until they beg for mercy. HHCL changed advertising. 4. The APG really is a diverse (and stimulating) group now. I wouldn't even know how to define it. People who like strategy and creativity and absolutely don't want to be CEO's, apparently. Plus one person who was brave enough to admit he did. He'll go far.

Words of Advice | Shula Sinclair, MEC

It was a privilege to share the platform with peers who had brought such rich and diverse experience to the conversation. If last night’s event set out to answer the question of how ‘should’ we manage a career in strategy and planning, the conclusion was that ‘should’ is precisely the bit we need to ignore. The beauty of the industry today, is that there is no formula and no set path. Find what you are good at and in which environments you thrive, then grab the opportunities that ensue with both hands.

What did people say?

"Surprisingly useful - was pitched at the right level for me - established strategists - planning directors with great (and very helpful and friendly) speakers."

"Coming from a market research agency it was really interesting to hear from some of the industry leaders in planning and strategy. It's so important for us as researchers to understand the worlds that these people work in and come from so we can continue to build relationships with the planners and strategists who work with our clients. The format came as a nice surprise - not only was it interesting to hear from the panel but getting to chat with like minded and interesting people at my table was invaluable."

"Loved the panel discussion - well mediated and could have listened to them for hours."

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