What I wish I knew before starting in marketing

Adam Dickson, named one of CIM's 'Marketers of the Future' in 2020, shares his tips on what he wishes he knew before he started his career, ahead of students receiving their 2023 exam results.

Two years have flown by since I graduated from university and entered the world of marketing. And in hindsight, there is a lot of lessons I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully sharing these gives anyone starting their career a leg up.

What I wish I knew before starting in marketing 4 tips for those beginning their career. these words sit alongside an image of Adam Dickson, article author, smiling at the camera

First on my list: learning is a marathon not a sprint

When I finished university, I thought I was in good stead for knowing what I needed to know about marketing. Well, it doesn’t exactly work like that. In fact, I’d argue a degree is just the beginning. ‘Marketing’ is a vast field consisting of many different areas. From strategy to tactics, to the industry or company you’re working in. It takes years to truly understand the intricacies of these different facets. And unlike some fields, there is often no set answer for a particular challenge. To become a great marketer, you must continuously refine your knowledge, whether that’s through reading, formal qualifications, or experience. So one thing I’d say to my younger self is to not rest on your laurels and always stay curious. It takes time to master any craft.


Lesson number two: Don't wait, initiate.

Don’t just sit back and wait for things to happen, make them happen. Find your voice, share your ideas, and don't be afraid to colour outside the lines. If you have a good idea, why not put it forward? After all, it’s a great way to lead on new marketing initiatives, develop your skillset and drive results. But remember, creativity and strategic thinking should go hand-in-hand.


Lesson three: Strategy first, tactics second.

Marketing is bit like chess. If you’ve ever played, you know that tactics without a strategy is like a rudderless ship. It may start its journey fine, but without direction, it’s unlikely to reach its destination. When I started my career, I was wrong to focus on the ‘fun’ aspects of marketing. Short-term tactics like clever out-of-home advertising stunts or the latest technology trends. And while these can be useful, it’s much more important to think how these tactics play into your strategy. You need to play the long game and think strategy first. This way you’re much more likely to drive results over the long run. 


And finally, getting broad experience is invaluable.

Becoming a specialist is a tempting path. Who doesn't love homing their skills, right? But I encourage gaining diverse marketing experience first. In doing so, you get a good grasp of the entire marketing mix and spectrum of marketing tactics. This really helped when I got involved more in the strategic elements of marketing campaigns. For example, skills such as knowing how to best target your chosen segments, to deploying your budget most effectively. If overly focused on a niche, you could miss the bigger picture. I almost fell into the specialist route early on, which would've hindered my growth. So explore, learn broadly, then choose if you want to specialise. After all, ‘You don’t know, what you don’t know.’