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Framing Career Paths for Marketing Talent

By Michael McCune | April 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

Every marketer envisions a career path. As a leader, if you don’t insert yourself in the conversation, someone else will.

Whenever a marketing leader discusses “Digital Transformation” with me, the topic of talent always comes up. Whatever they mean to transform, the talent conversation mainly focuses on upskilling or building new competencies across the existing team.

Less frequently, the conversation touches on talent retention and career pathing. Here, marketing leaders appear to be on less-sure footing. The discussion they need to foster is very different from the ones they personally experienced, and the concept of progression plays out in unfamiliar ways (to both the leader and the marketer).

My colleagues in Gartner’s HR practice equip business partners with guidance on the shifts necessary to pursue agile career pathing (see image below). The shifts seek to foster a shared mental model around iterative progression based on experiences in role.

The framework makes intuitive sense to those I share it with, but it lacks specificity to marketing.

To that end, my colleagues in the marketing practice created an Ignition Guide to Designing Marketing Career Paths.

While there is great “how to” in that guide, I find the table below provides welcome help to marketing leaders. It portrays ideal discussions and healthy responses around career paths. It helps leaders envision how similar conversations would sound in their own organizations.

Conversations like that modeled in the Ignition Guide can reveal opportunities for experiences that a marketer may not have been aware of. They also help talent self-identify and self-direct when there is no clear ladder to climb.

Peer Tip: Skills-in, Skills-out

Recently, the head of marketing at a large enterprise with both B2B and B2C operations shared a novel practice with me. She called it “Skills-in; Skills-out”.

Even with progressive career discussions, she still felt employees still left to gain skills they could not foresee attaining within the existing organization. This leader noted that all the jobs listed on their internal website documented required skills, but none of them listed what skills would be acquired while in that job. She decided to re-frame each job with an articulation of required and to-be-acquired skills:  “Skills-in, Skills-out”. This way, she sought to help marketers see where they could go internally to master skills required for the more senior jobs they eventually desired.

Effective? I guess we’ll have to wait in see. But it is a logical extension of the guidance Gartner gives, and provides an element of self-service for organizations that have yet to master agile career path discussions.

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