Career Progression in Paid Media

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This week’s message:

Progressing through the levels as a Paid Media professional is hard.

This is something that I’ve been reflecting on recently as although the route seems beautifully simple and logical on paper (AE > SAE > AM > SAM > AD), the reality is that it’s not. The requirements to step up to Manager and also to Director are such a sharp change to your day to day that it is actually very easy to get stuck. This can be particularly maddening when you feel like you are performing very well and getting positive feedback at the level you’re at.

So, I thought I’d break down the key skills as I see them at each level: Account Exec, Account Manager and Account Director. Senior isn’t included in these sub groups as it is better viewed as an indication of excelling in the core areas required of that level.

Paid Media Career Levels:

Account Executive – Platform excellence, consistency, reliability

The focus here is on learning and executing the fundamentals. Essentially, making sure nothing goes wrong. In order to do this you need to know your platform (E.g. Google, Meta etc.) inside out and be able to complete all set tasks without issue and on time.

Account Manager – Account progression, client relationship, person management

The switch here is to being the guiding force of the account. Having the ability to use your developed Exec skills to proactively take your accounts forward is key. On top of that, being trusted by your point of contact is a must (service industry…) and beginning to work with and develop your own exec.

Account Director – Account transformation, prioritisation, delegation

This is another big shift as you have to let go and begin to trust more people whilst also having the biggest impact possible across multiple accounts. All of the skills that you developed at Exec and Manager level are still needed, but you have to develop an understanding of when to use them for maximum impact and when to let someone else do the work. The client must also see (and trust!) you as someone who can solve all problems and really advance their fortunes

To summarise, if you do find yourself stuck then start asking some questions, find out where your weaknesses are in relation to the above and ask for opportunities to improve / showcase them. It’s far better to promote internally than hire externally so this should be something that is encouraged.

This should also answer the question of why some people progress quicker than others. Although these people are normally excellent with the platform, the real reason is that they excel in the soft skills required from Manager and above.

Anyone that is trusted by all of their clients and drives account improvement is worth their weight in gold. If you want to accelerate your ascent of the greasy ladder of progression then those are the areas you need to focus on.