Kiwi marketers: Are you navigating unrealistic expectations? Fellow marketers share their advice

20 Aug 2020

“Seeking a marketing rockstar to head up our global marketing efforts! A Masters degree in a relevant field is essential, along with a minimum of ten years’ marketing experience across the FMCG, telecommunications, retail, SaaS and financial services fields.

Must possess advanced skills in copywriting, video editing, graphic design (proficiency in the Adobe Suite is a must), HTML/CSS and have at least five years’ experience in four different CMS platforms.”

Sound like you? Sounds like a lot!

Far-fetched job ads like these are making the rounds on LinkedIn at the moment. While they’re clearly satirical, many of the comments indicate that sometimes they hit too close to home. As a marketer, you’re often expected to be a generalist, yet different facets of marketing require diverse skill sets that not everyone possesses.

How should marketers navigate this world of unrealistic expectations? Here’s some advice from those in the industry.

Focus on your strengths


While the unicorn the above job ad was looking for may well exist, the majority of us have gaps in our knowledge and experience. We also have areas where we excel, and by focusing on these you can utilise your strengths to your advantage.

Mint Design’s Marketing Manager Jake Shelton says it’s important to recognise your own strengths and weaknesses. “Most people have an aptitude towards either creative skills or analytical skills, so understand where you are strong and invest more of your time into those areas,” he says.

Focusing on where you can really add value to a business means you can step back and leave other areas to experts. This will not only free up your time but enable your marketing efforts to make more of an impact.

“I do consider myself a generalist when it comes to digital marketing,” Jake says, “but I stay away from graphic design and website development as much as I can because my skills are limited in those areas. Some people will never be good designers, despite the amount of time they invest in learning Photoshop. On the other hand, some people are just not good with numbers. Your business would benefit greatly from you investing your time into the area where you can make the biggest impact and outsourcing the skills you don't have an aptitude for.”

 

Diversify your skill set


That’s not to say you can’t also spend time developing new skills. Most marketers reading this will have encountered the need to grow into a different area at some stage during their career, and learning new things can be one of the most fulfilling parts of a job.

Natalie Gruner has been a Marketing Manager for six years and definitely sees the expectation for those in her role not only to “do it all” but “to know it all”. Her way of dealing with increasing expectations was to ask her workplace for training and access to training tools, along with time during work hours to invest into learning new things.

“I asked to get access to Hubspot’s Training Academy and organised training sessions once per week with my whole team,” she recalls. “This meant I was able to take on new things without having to invest personal time or money to upskill.”

Not all positions will be able to offer the professional development within the role itself that you seek, particularly if you’re wanting to grow your skill set beyond your current job description. You may need to spend time outside of work hours learning and developing. Dedicate a small amount of time each week to your own personal development, using free online courses to fill the gaps in your knowledge.

 

Learn to say no


Sarah Crabb concurs that there’s an expectation that Marketing Managers can do it all. The marketing generalist has been in the industry for over a decade, and a Marketing Manager for four years. Her secret to success? Learning to say no nicely.

“I often find myself saying ‘In my role as Marketing Manager I feel I would not give this project the justice it deserves as it is not within my capability or skill set. Do you think you would consider someone else or an external that could really make this work?’ and make recommendations.”

Instead of just saying “no”, focus on delivering a solution to the problem and the benefits this will bring the business. This way, your ‘no’ can in fact be both an opportunity for the business and a way to relieve the pressure from you to do everything.

 

Remove internal expectations


As marketers, we’re used to tight deadlines, dealing with multiple stakeholders, juggling various projects and wearing different hats. We have a natural tendency to be efficient, work hard and get results. Could it be that we’re actually putting the pressure on ourselves?

It’s a question Digital Marketing Consultant Nikki Goodson raises, particularly in light of the current climate. “Many people have high expectations put on them at work, but perhaps it’s a personality type among marketers that we really feel that pressure, and expect more of ourselves - more than we’d even expect of others in our situation. I always try to ask myself, what advice would I give a friend in my situation - and then take that.”

Sometimes we can be our own harshest critics. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of doing it all, think about where the pressure is really coming from. If it’s coming from within, give yourself permission to step back a little and get some breathing space.

 

Draw on external support


If you’re struggling to juggle all the components of your role, asking for help can be a way of getting the support you need. Having a team of people makes things easier, as you can lean on the support of others when you’re struggling to get it all done. “I always love to share some marketing responsibilities with team members and they love some diversity and learning something new,” says Natalie. “Shared responsibilities definitely reduce pressure.”

If you’re the sole member of your marketing team, consider turning to your manager for support. If you’re a consultant, consider teaming up with a trusted friend or former colleague that may be able to help you with the elements of the job that fall outside your remit.

You’re not alone in feeling the pressure to do everything. Hopefully these tips have given you some ideas about the things you can do to mitigate unrealistic expectations that will benefit both your own wellbeing and the business you work for.