From Account Executive to Senior Account Manager - four tips on getting ahead
From her three and a half year journey from a grad Account Executive (AE) to a Senior Account Manager (SAM), Charlotte Wheatley imparts four pearls of wisdom for anyone who aspires to rise quickly up the ranks:
Question everything: ask yourself 100 questions a day
This is something I have only just become truly good at. It’s not just about asking yourself questions when it’s obvious. It’s about asking yourself questions literally every minute of the day, religiously and by default, and making it a real habit.
"A series of questions leads you to figuring out a range of solutions on your own."
It sounds a bit tedious written out here, but for example: ‘can I find out the information myself, without bothering the rest of the team/client/line manager’ (most of the time you’ll find the answer is yes), 'what do I really want in response to this, and how can I get it' 'what do I want to achieve in the next 30 mins' 'what does this person actually want to know/their end goal', and 'what is best or worst case scenario, and how can I prepare ahead?’.
A series of questions leads you to figuring out a range of solutions on your own, allowing you to be self sufficient and therefore far more likely to be trusted with further responsibilities.
Attention to detail: boring but important
Sorry folks, but it’s the ground we walk on. You will spend years being a graduate AE if you don’t nail this. It sets a precedent for your personal standards, and when the small details are taken care of, you will gain immediate trust from your peers and a world of opportunities will open up.
I used to think that I just wasn’t naturally ‘good’ at close attention to detail, and that possibly one day I wouldn’t have to ‘deal with it’ - but oh, how wrong I was! Being good at detail isn’t a skill; it’s a discipline, and a crucial one. With the right attitude, anyone can achieve ATD excellence.
"I urge myself to find a mistake or a way to improve it."
It’s about setting yourself tasks and putting things in place to ensure that you are taking the time in your work. For example, for every project I do - i.e. a Creative brief - I print it out, take myself into a room, and critique it like it was a colleague’s. I urge myself to find a mistake or a way to improve it. Then I go back to my computer, make the changes and suddenly it goes from a C to an A, without anyone else being involved: simple, but effective.
It’s an extra step in the process and may seem an effort, but it works and ultimately saves you time. It means you can be trusted to get something right by yourself, instead of relying on someone higher up to point out the small mistakes that hold you back, or to force you to think for yourself before you have already tried. Being able to do something as simple as this will take you to the next level. So sit down and work out how to structure your day so that everything you do is to the highest possible standard it can be.
Go with your gut: always trust your intuition
When I was junior, I relied on everyone else for the answers and solutions. I assumed (never assume!) that I was too inexperienced to make decisions on my own. But what I have discovered is that 90% of the time, you can reach the correct verdict no matter what level you are.
"Go with your gut; whatever the outcome, you will earn respect…"
Experience absolutely helps you to improve on decision making as you progress, but more often than not, many situations can be resolved by you simply taking a step back, considering what you personally think is the best thing to do with the information you have, and then carrying this out with conviction. The only way I learned this was by experiencing first hand situations where I considered what I thought was right, did the exact opposite, and then realised my instinct was correct all along and that frankly, it wasn’t even that complicated in the first place. However junior you are, go with your gut; whatever the outcome, you will earn respect through doing what you think is right.
The bigger picture: being commercially minded
They often say the difference between AE/AM and SAM is that you are finally able to leverage commercial, financial and industry knowledge, and this is a true defining factor which you can start at any stage in your early career. It means breaking out of your box, and starting to view your role as more than just a cog in the wheel.
It’s about seeing yourself as a driving force for growing the business through your own experience and knowledge, and trusting yourself that you have the ability to do it. I spend around an hour every day reading about campaign news and about my client’s industry and competitors. I aim to send around four emails a week, internally or externally, to raise points of interest or spark inspiration around our commercial goals. By doing this, it shows you’re thinking beyond your day to day role, and about the bigger picture. This will make you truly valuable in driving the client’s, and the agency’s business forward – which at the end of the day is what it’s all about, isn’t it?
"Always remember to give junior people your time and cut them some slack."
The final point I'll leave you with is this: as you rise up the ladder, don’t forget about your own personal struggles and where you started. Always remember to give junior people your time and cut them some slack. You were there once!
Charlotte Wheatley is a Senior Account Manager at Elvis Communications
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