Graduating Into Modern Account Management

College Grad

Congratulations, you made it! Very soon you’ll find yourself holding a piece of paper, a diploma, that serves as evidence of all your hard work and dedication. Well, put it down and stop standing around. It’s time to get a job, a career, a mortgage, a retirement plan. It’s time to establish some life goals. It’s as exhausting as it sounds.

Lucky for you, I know of a job that can help you achieve your life goals and it doesn’t suck. It will also probably use almost every skill you have while helping you develop new ones. The job? It’s modern account management in advertising. I use the term “modern” because the ad game has changed drastically since the days of Mad Men Roger Sterling and Pete Campbell. In the old days, good account management involved understanding your clients’ businesses, managing budgets; building strong relationships; and leading a small, dedicated team toward one common goal.

Nowadays, account management requires all that and many more competencies. Why? Because we don’t actually create much traditional advertising anymore. Rather, we create, make and do things that provide worth and value in people’s lives, so they actually want to connect with brands. As you well know, people today go out of their way to avoid advertising. You probably do too. Do you DVR your favorite shows and use ad blockers to avoid annoying online pop-ups? And, as Congress slowly starts to understand that Facebook, Google and other giant entities make billions of dollars by tracking your every move, those channels will become stringently regulated, following Europe’s lead on new online privacy laws. The result will be new challenges facing marketers

So, the ad game is getting tougher, and to get to the ideas, solutions and ways that provide worth and value for people, modern account managers need a unique mindset, not just a skillset.

Be curious and interested in all things.

Do you have Kanye, Prince and Johnny Cash channels on your Spotify app (and Taylor Swift, but I’m not quite comfortable admitting it)? We’re looking for people who not only explore and experience a wide variety of cultural interests, but who also want to understand the “why” behind what’s popular. We have the tough job of determining how something that works in one world can also work in another. Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

Be comfortable (I mean really, really comfortable) with having no idea what the answer is.

Unlike the past 16+ years of school where every question had a right or wrong answer, this profession does not require you to know the answer, but you do have to know how to get the answer. So, all those times when you were looking over the shoulder of the valedictorian, you were actually in training. And if you’re like me, a struggling 3.0 (OK 2.9) student, always trying to wrangle the brightest minds in the class to work with you,  this is great news.

Work well with others — even your competition.

This job will require you to not only play nice, but also lead groups of people: people you work with, people you don’t work with, people who pay you for a service and even people trying to steal that service from you. Oh, and they are all going to have different opinions on that answer that you are looking for.

Have business sense and be entrepreneurial.

Unlimited expense accounts are a thing of the past. You need to treat your employer’s and client’s money as if it were your own. And, we make money off of ideas from everywhere now. We would actually love to hear about that Kickstarter idea of yours that revolves around 3-D printed headstones that light up in the graveyard every time the Blackhawks score a goal. (We actually pitched a similar idea last week.)

So, if being fiercely curious, boldly resourceful and ready to lead sounds interesting to you, it might be time to graduate into a career in modern account management. This industry is constantly changing and we need bright and eager minds excited to take on the challenges. 

Mike Schwab is a group account director at Colle McVoy.