Where do I go now, career-wise?
September 12, 2012 8:08 AM   Subscribe

How does one transition out of a career in advertising (non-creative part)? What am I qualified to do?

I have about 2.5 years experience in advertising as a media planner. I'm learning that the field of media planning and buying is just not for me - the meticulous tracking of budgets, campaign performance numbers, billing/invoicing, and other math-related challenges that tend to come with managing multiple media plans is wearing down on my puny, non-mathy brain.

So I am left with a fair amount of knowledge about how the media side of an online advertising campaign is developed and executed, and a solid idea of how online advertising works, but lacking the passion to just crank out media plans/media reports daily. Where else can I go from here? Are there any other careers out there that I can use the skills I've developed?

I do enjoy the big picture, strategic aspects of the job as well as the research (though the research tools I find to be inaccurate and frustrating), just not the extremely extensive planning and execution.

Note: I do not know any programming languages/web design. I do think I am a great writer and strategist, but am horrible at math/numbers/details.

I can not afford to go back to school, nor do I know what I would go to school for.

All suggestions welcome.
posted by windbox to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think any career path in online marketing is going to rely on math as a cornerstone, because performance is measured and evaluated. Then again, any meaningful career will feature spreadsheets to some extent.

So if you can figure out what your comfort level is, you would make a great project manager or online marketing manager, and eventually director. You could also be a strategist.

There is always a need for middle managers in non-marketing businesses who actually understand the disciplines, and can actually evaluate the performance of specialists and contractors who are carrying out (as you have been) the more technical tasks.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:15 AM on September 12, 2012

There is always ad sales and account management in a PR firm.
posted by COD at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2012

@COD I should mentioned - I could probably never do ad sales. I realize that a whole lot of media people from ad agencies have transitioned to the sales side before (and probably make way more money), but I just don't have a sales personality type.
posted by windbox at 8:42 AM on September 12, 2012

You could try market research on the qualitative side or in field management - MR has strong professional associations (like ESOMAR) and a culture of internal training, and it's a common destination for people with research and planning backgrounds. It even sounds like you have some experience (not all positive, from the sound of it) with advertising evaluation research and could spin that into a hook for interviews. Just keep in mind that you really don't know the field, and will need to learn from scratch, particularly if you haven't done qualitative research or managed fieldwork (as opposed to managing an agency doing field work for you) before.

Another idea - branding consultancies hire people with research and planning experience into branding and strategy roles all the time.

In both cases, though, you won't entirely escape numbers. Even an entirely qualitative research project has a budget, data management concerns, etc. that have to be dealt with on spreadsheets. Most challenging jobs aren't entirely number-free. To get anywhere, you may need to drop your ideas about not having a math brain and do some free learning (Coursera? Khan academy?), particularly on statistics, to get past what sounds like a full-blown-self-sabotaging set of beliefs about your own abilities.
posted by Wylla at 8:59 AM on September 12, 2012


A lot of bigger ad agencies let their talent "switch sides," from non-Creative to Creative or Strategy, if the employee shows drive, the beginnings of competency, and a real desire to do so.

If you're good at what you do, there's a chance your agency won't want to let you go no matter what.

My agency has paid for more than one Account guy/gal to take copywriting classes because they wanted to do it. Hell, we even have two HR/Creative Managers who have made the leap into Creative.

You interested in something like making the jump? Worth a shot?
posted by functionequalsform at 9:19 AM on September 12, 2012

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