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Soft Skills Series: A helping hand in the city

03.10.2019

A helping hand in the city and why we all need a mentor

By James Delves and Michelle Stromgren  

Working in London is a dream come true for many marketers. The city features some of the most creative marketing agencies and the opportunity to work with global businesses. London is truly one of the most diverse business hubs of the world.  It’s a diverse and multicultural city with so much to do.  As Samuel Johnson so eloquently put it, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” 

But it can also be a hard city to stand out in – giving both young and more senior marketers the option of securing their dream jobs. In this second article for the CIM Soft Skills series, I travelled to the heart of London to speak with Michelle Stromgren to find out what it’s like working in London and where to turn to for support.  

Sitting at a coffee shop surrounded by skyscrapers, Michelle Stromgren a board member of CIM’s Greater London Regional board and a keen mentor, starts off by asking me to imagine that the business I worked for is just floating along with no sound strategy or goal in mind. Then to translate that to my own career – the result for success and happiness are suddenly pretty daunting. But that’s the position of many of the tens of thousands of sales and marketing professionals that operate in the capital. If you extrapolate that nationally, where these figures increase to around 977,000, you can quickly see how standing out could be a problem. 

But pick up a copy of a London newspaper like the Metro or Evening Standard and it’s clear to see people excelling in every sector. So what’s the key? Natural talent is a factor. Sometimes money or connections. But what almost always comes up in conversation with successful professionals is the support network they have.

For marketers the ability to bringing in the knowledge and expertise of a seasoned marketer who can offer impartial advice and help guide and support you at the critical moment is worth their weight in gold. The ability to feel that little more confident in an interview or have access to advice that stops you from making mistakes can be the difference between success and failure.

That is exactly what mentors can do. Michelle uses a nautical theme to demonstrate the point – mentoring is not just like giving you a rudder for direction, it’s giving you a map and a compass then helping you to navigate to a destination you might not have realised you really wanted to go. Yes, that sounds a bit hippy but if you break it down, we all could do with some direction from time to time – particularly if you work in a thriving city where opportunities might seem endless but getting started can be the hardest step.  

Getting into marketing in the city

Starting out on a marketing journey can be extremely overwhelming with so many avenues to choose. Or so it seems. Michelle advises that younger professionals need to understand that the world of marketing is more than just designing brochures or managing web campaigns and that your skills are transferable across sectors – particularly if you have the right soft skills and confidence – all you often need is a little guidance.  A lot is down to confidence too.

This is where a mentor can play a key role. Mentors have been in your position and can guide on career choices from which role is suitable, to which organisation or sector could help drive your career.  Throughout your career a mentor can help formulate SMART goals, allowing you to get to the heart of any issues and help you overcome obstacles.

What’s out there and who to turn to?

Michelle started her journey in marketing over 25 years ago and remembers well how hard it was to get started in marketing. Being flexible is key, Michelle worked in a wide range of sectors from FMCG to technology, from catering to investment banking, and from the arts to the public sector.

Her career has been varied and challenging, it’s clear she’s learnt a lot along the way. Michelle’s first role in marketing started designing artwork for the Cover Girl cosmetic brand.  25 years’ on, she still regards marketing and being a mentor as being ‘great fun and pretty awesome’. For the mentee she regards the advantages to be huge. “You get a professional dedicated to driving you forward and helping you make the most of your talent. That person is passionate about the marketing profession and will be there throughout your career regardless of any job change, company move or even sector shift. So what’s out there to help marketers?

CIM London mentor events

CIM runs mentoring events up and down the country. In London alone, we run ‘Mentor Matchmaking’ events throughout the year like the one this week. Speaking to Michelle, it’s clear she has a number of marketing professionals she currently mentors across the capital. Some contact her for advice on an adhoc basis others are more frequent.

CIM also runs mentor - mentee networking events for marketing professionals looking to get started or for those who just require additional support. Mentors aren’t forgotten and can attend free events to brush up on their training or just to swap best practice and ideas with other mentors. What ever a mentor or mentee’s needs are it can be covered by CIM representatives across London.

Getting to the truth not just the dreams

Michelle firmly believes that laying out your business or personal objectives with a mentor is invaluable as it allows the mentee to receive sound advice from someone who has either been in their shoes or built a profitable business. Looking at everything holistically; career aspirations; strengths and weaknesses; family life; and interests that are important to you is the only way to map an effective strategy to achieve your goals.  It’s about achieving a healthy balance.

Mentoring is like having your own trusted advisor who can also be a fountain of networking connections.  As they have been in a very similar position to you before, they are also aware of any pitfalls you could encounter. With such an unbiased viewpoint, mentors are able to provide constructive feedback, ensure you keep boundaries and stay firm to your values and goals.  They provide encouragement and positivity along the way.  Michelle calls it having ‘A career ninja in your pocket’ making sure you are focussed and keeping you accountable.

If it’s good enough for Apple, Facebook, PepsiCo it could be good enough for you

You’re in good company, Steve Jobs relied heavily on Mike Markkula. While Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, who is considered one of the most powerful women in business today sought the guidance of mentors at key stages of her career. For Sandberg it was former college professor, Larry Summers who played a pivotal role both as a mentor and a sponsor. Sandberg worked for her mentor at the World Bank and the Treasury Department. Today she has gone on record to say that he is her most important mentor or contact, helping guide her career to the very top.

While PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi looks for mentors in all aspects of her life stating recently that “if I hadn’t had mentors, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m a product of great mentoring, great coaching.” The examples are everywhere of people who credit with driving their careers and in Nooyi’s case helping her to break glass ceilings in business.

The CIM mentoring database

If you haven’t yet had a mentoring session, Michelle’s advice is to adopt the ‘you don’t know until you try’ approach. The CIM mentoring database will match you up with a mentor based upon your needs and a mentor’s knowledge, skills and experience.  Sessions can be conducted online via Skype, via phone, or even face-to-face to fit in with your working life.  You can even put forward any questions, career dilemmas or pointers important to you. Even questions around your day-to-day life in marketing.

In a few minutes you can search for a mentor in your region or offer your services as a mentor to the global marketing community through the CIM database.

  1. Advice for mentees

No single marketer is quite the same. Registering as a mentee will give you access to mentors who are experienced and specialised in every aspect of marketing. It’s not just for junior marketers, either. Our mentors vary from management level through to CEOs and directors at the very peak of their careers. Guidance is available to experienced marketers through coaching on senior management subjects, whether you need advice on an upcoming campaign or are progressing towards a more senior management position.

  1. Advice for mentors

Giving back to the marketing world by helping shape the career and future of others is incredibly rewarding. You’ll receive recognition as an expert in your field and develop your personal leadership and coaching skills. It’s also a fantastic way to expose yourself to fresh perspectives and ideas.

  1. What about SMEs?

If like many freelance marketers or owners of SME’s being self-employed is often very isolating and with ideas aplenty, it’s difficult to know when to share such valuable information.  A mentor has been there and done that and whilst they gain enormously from the relationship, they are more interested in solving a problem then stealing your thunder. 

To find out more click here: https://www.cim.co.uk/more/mentoring/

To attend the next London Mentoring Matchmaking click here: https://www.cim.co.uk/events/   

 

 

 

 

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  • Soft Skills Series: A helping hand in the city

    03.10.2019

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