How To Succeed In The Agency World: It Takes More Than Talent

Jon Bailey // Jan 15 // Insights



What does talent mean anyway? And how can you tell if you have any? This question, along with many others, was posed recently when I spoke at San Diego State University.

The SDSU College of Extended Studies offers a great Marketing Certificate Program taught by professionals from the San Diego Ad Club, and the panel on which I spoke was organized to introduce potential new students to this program.

Believe me, we question ourselves about talent constantly in this business. Am I talented (enough)? How do I continue to hone my talents, and expand them so I am better/stronger/faster/smarter and positioned for a raise/promotion/new job/career change? Just what are employers in the marketing industry looking for, and how can I let my talent shine for them?

It’s kind of like that campy TV show America’s Got Talent in a way. A couple of really obvious stars, a few diamonds in the rough, and a lot of amateur hour wannabes. Of course, we all want to be considered in the first group, or maybe the second if you are just getting into this career. But how to avoid the third group?

The simple answer is LIFE. Yes, education plays a very important role in life, and you need to study to acquire talents in marketing. Constantly learning and educating yourself is just part of the deal. And other things are just as critical.

The single most important attribute I look for when hiring talented people for our team is curiosity. I want to see that they don’t take things at face value, they don’t accept something as fact just because someone said so, and when they are given information, they ask why it has to be that way. This is the only way to discover a new perspective, a new approach, a new idea about something that many others have already thought about ad nauseam.

Another key element in the talent pool is life experience. What you have done before deciding on a career in marketing makes you who you are. Did you run away at 15 and join the circus? Like my friend Michael Warburton who is now the Brand Marketing Manager at San Diego Zoo, did you dig graves in your youth? Maybe you were a short order cook, or a tour guide at SeaWorld, or a soccer coach - I don’t care. I just care that you learned something from that experience – that it shaped you and taught you, and colored your perspective in a kaleidoscope of ways. It made you unabashedly YOU.

The marketing world wants Talented Human Beings. Not strategy robots. A lot of people can design or write well. Talent comes from being inspired about that design and writing. And inspiration comes from the perspective on life you have gained from living it.

Not every schmoe can bring home the golden statue as winner of America’s Got Talent. Yet, the marketing business always needs more Talented Human Beings. If you're one, look us up.


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