Annette King: how to craft your career in an industry that’s in transformation

I feel completely optimistic and energised after talking to some of the ambitious, determined, dedicated and downright talented future leaders at The Drum 50 under 30 Women Awards.

It was fantastic to see such a range of people and their experience (some of them were just out of uni), skill sets and backgrounds in the room. Many attendees were not much older than I when I started my own journey in this business, and their achievements to date are hugely encouraging as we work hard to attract such talent in this industry.

I think this is also a moment to reflect on our own place in the world and how we got there. From my childhood in Swindon; to the hallowed halls of Oxford Brookes University (while being a greengrocer, a tea-lady and a hamper packer during the holidays and a Beefeater waitress during term time) it’s clear that for anyone to succeed in this sector you need to be brave, work hard, take your chances and make your own luck.

There’s no doubt these high achievers have all the potential to be our industry’s great hope, and they should be exceptionally proud of where they have got to already. They all have the potential for long careers ahead of them. There will no doubt be the odd road block or seemingly insurmountable challenge, but I have absolute faith that they all have what it takes to remove and overcome them.

Have a plan

A few years ago my first piece of advice would have been to have a long term plan: set a clear goal and go for it. But with the pace of the change and the stream of opportunities we all have at our feet today, I think it’s more important to have a clear view of what’s important to you and an ongoing plan for how to achieve that every day. Make sure you have chosen to work for a company and a boss who will help you make that happen.

Learn continuously

Our fast-paced industry also means you need to learn to learn. With the pressures of the day-to-day, it can be difficult to think about tomorrow, but with new developments happening quicker than you can scroll through your news feeds, you simply cannot rely on learning by osmosis. You have to seek the knowledge out then fully commit to learning it, understanding it and applying it.

Similarly, learn from the people around you – from those above you, below you or literally working at the desk next to you. There is so much deep expertise to be mined everywhere you look, so don’t let it go to waste.

Embrace feedback

Hearing feedback as criticism can hurt but it is essential to learn to take feedback in a positive way to help make you stronger, better, more likely to win. And not just from those around you but from anywhere you can get. Accept it, analyse it and use it. And of course don’t be scared to give it out – but ensure you always do so constructively.

Build bridges

Then get out there and network. It’s actually quite fun to do once you’ve got used to it. And before you know it, you’ll know half the people in the room anyway. Decide to meet the people who can who can help you achieve your plans and ambitions. And once you’ve met and made those friends and connections, keep them along the way. They will help you in all sorts of ways.

Play your part

And as you progress through your careers, you’ll be able to use your experience, position and learning to pay it forward, be a mentor, fight for something you care about and above all demand equality for all. It is your duty.

Get a life

The final, and possibly most important, part of your journey is to make sure you have meaning in your lives outside of work, whether that means getting home for story time, learning Serbo-Croatian or running the Marathon des Sabres. It’s what we deserve as human beings and it also makes us better, more balanced, thoughtful in our work and will help you to be your best self.

Annette King is the UK chief executive of Publicis Groupe.

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