Set Yourself Up for Career Growth

There has been a lot of talk about the highs and lows that come with working in social. The “newness” and growing pains associated with this industry can be exhausting. It often results in countless reorgs and lack of a clear path of growth for people on teams. No doubt, there has to be a shift within organizations to set their digital teams up for success.

I recently wrote about what digital teams need to survive and thrive, but there’s another side to this story. And, it’s about what we can do personally to set ourselves up for success. The key is to be proactive with your own career.

The list of tips on being proactive could go on forever, but below are four big keys to consider for anyone working in social.


Advocate for the work.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about working in this industry is never make an assumption. Do not assume people understand the work. Do not assume they know what you do on a day-to-day basis. Do not assume they know the hours it takes. Do not assume they know your long-term goals.

If we want organizations to take digital roles seriously, we have to find ways to bring the work to life. We need to show the totality of the work that’s going on and not shy away from celebrating success. This can come in many forms.

At one organization I was with we used to do a weekly email called “7.5”. Each week we highlighted “7.5” things the team and senior executives needed to know about our digital channels. This included big wins, lessons learned and industry updates. The extra “.5” was always something more lighthearted and fun. Sure, the email highlighted the success of the team, but it was also informational, educational and fun. And, most importantly, showed how the team was helping to move the needle for the company. It wasn’t boastful, but educational, and made people more invested and interested in the work.

The weekly email is a very small example of how you can help advocate and educate others about the work of the team. Every organization responds to information differently, so find the best medium to bring the work to life. But remember, it’s not about boasting as much as it is educating and showing how the work back to organizational goals.


Move on from the tactical role.

The more tactical roles in social media are bright, shiny and fun. There’s a certain thrill that comes with covering games and being in the middle of the action. Anyone that’s work in social knows what a “case of the refresh” means. It’s addicting at times, right?

Eventually though, to move up the ladder, you have to peel yourself away from the actual execution and control of the channels. You have to go from a tactical role and into a strategy role – and one that is bigger than social. You have to start focusing on digital as a whole and larger marketing initiatives. Find ways to take on other projects within your org outside of social to give you more visibility and a wider range of experience.

No one can expect to stay in the exact same role, doing the exact same work and get promoted. It’s critical to push for more work outside of the tactical platform work if you’re looking to grow.


Take time to career map.

If you asked me early in my career what I wanted to do long-term, the answer was always “work in social”. It took years and stops along the way to understand there was so much more opportunity beyond the platforms. And yes, that I had a keen interest in those things.

As mentioned earlier, when you work in social, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work and not think about the long term. And, because of the certain adrenaline rush that comes with the tactical work, people aren’t always eager to get out of their roles.

People that work in social often stay in tactical roles too long. One, because organizations don’t understand what growth looks like in digital departments. And, two, because the work is fun and there isn’t an urgent need to take on another role. Suddenly people blink and they aren’t where they thought they would be with salary, position or a combination of both.

This is why it’s so important to spend time understanding what your long-term career goals are. If you want to lead a team, become a VP or a CMO, that’s going to require you move on from the day-to-day of social and on to a broader role.

Think about what you love in your current role. Take that and apply to the bigger picture years down the road. And, start slowly taking on new work that will get you there even if that means stepping away from some of the tactical things you love.

If you take the time to career map, you will make more sound career decisions.You’ll know when it’s time to move on and what your next step needs to be. You won’t be flying blindly, but instead, will be leaping strategically.


Expand and take leaps.

I’m a big believer that getting a variety of experience (this can be internal or with another company), especially early in your career, is a good thing. It broadens your skill set, exposes you to new thinking and helps make you much more adaptable.

If you aren’t getting what you need out of your current role and organization — and you’ve advocated for those things — then it might be time to take that leap. Again, don’t let the thrill of working in social hold you back from what you want to do long term. At times the best thing we can do is take on something new.

This list skims the surface of how to start setting yourself up for success long term. I’m curious, what have you learned? Share your thoughts below.

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  1. The thing about the adrenaline rush is so true in sports and especially in social and sports. It’s addictive and something you fear to miss if you move up the ladder. Also there is the sense of losing control – but I guess that comes with seniority, you need to learn how to lead others instead of doing the work yourself.

    Heard you on a podcast (was it Sportsgeek?) and started following you. I don’t know why I clicked on this post but I’m glad I did.

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