I’ve written lots of posts with tips for wannabe Planners (here, here and here), but it struck me that I’ve never posted anything aimed at Junior Planners who are already in their first Planning post.
If you want to get ahead, you need to get noticed. And these days being good at your specific Roles and Responsibilities probably isn’t enough. So Junior Planners who’d like to be Senior Planners one day might find the following advice helpful:
Share, learn and network
Get on twitter, start a blog, make some new Planning friends – and remember to share as you learn.
Also check out Junior Strategy which has loads of indirect mentor type videos from ‘a variety of insiders in strategic roles, from client side to agency side, from communications to product design’.
Be a hoarder
Every time you see, read or hear something interesting, squirrel it away. Use bookmarking services, tumblrs, RSS readers, PC folders and even old fashion lever arch files to save anything that inspires, interests or excites you – as well as any data to find that relates to any brand or market segment your agency is ever likely to work on. Then come the Last Minute Pitch or Small Budget Project enjoy your position as Oracle of all Knowledge and Wisdom.
Learn how to be helpful
Learn how to mount creative, film and edit a basic video, host an online community, book omnibus research, find a decent viewing facility and get your boss on the next flight to Honolulu. Your agency might have dedicated specialists to take care of all of this but you’ll brief them better if you know roughly how to do it – and when it’s the Friday evening before a 9am Monday pitch you’ll be the one who saves the day by getting on and fixing the problem in their absence.
Equally you should know how to fix a paper jam in the photocopier, where the spare printer ink lives, who is in charge of petty cash, what time the sandwich man comes and when all the team birthdays are. In short, be a brilliant PA. It’s not about wanting to take over the PA role or stay as a junior forever, it’s just that well informed, helpful, organised, makes-everything-run-smoothly people are the ones that are valued, remembered – and more likely to be supported when they ask for training and development.
You’re a junior. So it’s unlikely that you’ll be sorting out the agency’s biggest client’s 5 year strategic plan any time soon. You may well spend your days wading through Mintel reports and doing vox pops. All the less glamorous stuff is not only vital to the Planning process but also brilliant training. If you can persuade a complete stranger to stop in the street and talk to you on video about their shampoo for five minutes then life will hold few challenges :) And nobody wants a whiner on their team.
Get to know Reception, Production, Traffic and IT as well as all the account handling and creative teams. Agency support staff can make your life heaven or hell and a smile and a quick chat can work wonders. Internal meetings tip: when in doubt, bring biscuits.
But all that is no use if you don’t contribute something to the actual Planning process. Even if it’s not a project you’re working on directly, do you have a friend who loves that brand, have you read a really interesting article about that business or are you going into town on Saturday and happy to mystery shop some competitor brands?
But don’t just share information – add your own insight to it, “I’ve read this interesting article about Brand X and it struck me that….” “When I was going round the store I noticed that…”
Big-up Brand You
And if it IS your own project, make sure you put your own stamp on your work. By all means stick to the ‘global planning system’ if your agency has one, but find a fresh way of interpreting a piece of data or illustrating an insight. There isn’t a ‘right’ way to do Planning, you have to develop your own style.
And finally, don’t forget to take time to Plan your own career. The best piece of career advice I ever had was from an account handler who told me back in 2000 to start building a portfolio of my work. Twelve years later I’ve reached Volume Seven – and every time I’ve needed to make an agency move (or later to illustrate my experience as a freelance) I’ve had case studies to back me up. Respect client confidentiality and any NDAs you may have signed, but keep adding to your Greatest Hits file – and keep it at home in case you ever have to make a swift exit from an agency…