Agency Director to VP - How to Make the Jump

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Harry Kew Digital Planner, Digital Media, SEO...

Obtaining a VP title is a career goal pursued by many ambitions digital marketers. Within most agency hierarchies, it’s a coveted tier of leadership that only a select group of top performers ever reach. What does it take to get there?

Based on our deep experience working with digital marketing professionals, Adaptive is often asked by Director and Group Director-level candidates what employers are looking for when making VP hires or promotions.

So here you have it – our top 3 tips on how to build your profile to make VP grade.

1. Establish thought leadership.

‘Thought leadership’ is a term that gets thrown around so much that it can get a little blurry. When it comes to career progression, we’re talking about documenting your expertise in a way that showcases your capabilities and experience together with those of your company. Start taking steps towards this, and not only will your value become more apparent to your seniors but also to a wider audience.

This doesn’t mean becoming a Twitter addict and amassing thousands of generic followers, it’s to do with creating content that gives others some transparency into your capabilities. This blog example from Martin Jacobs, GVP of Technology at Razorfish, is a great example.

Thought leadership doesn’t have to be purely external, either. It can mean being more strategic in the way that you circulate your work or accomplishments within an organization, such as sharing client pitches or other valuable materials you create.

Bottom line – work on creating durable and shareable illustrations of your ability to supplement your daily work and interactions. This will boost signals of your worth to executive management.  

2. Build a team that backs you.

Director-level candidates who invest in their team members and act as coaches for professional development stand a far greater chance of making it to the next level in their own careers.

The effects of this investment will be widespread – people talk, and talk travels.

Developing internal advocates and helping others achieve excellence can have a positive impact on everything from in-office gossip to 360 reviews and even exit interviews. This support base is a powerful platform which can broadcast your reputation across an organization and ensure you’re always top of mind when promotion opportunities are under discussion.

3. Show breadth of vision.

One of the big differentiators between candidates who interview for VP-level roles and those who land the jobs is their ability to show a wider business vision than the basic requirements of their daily roles.

A simple building block of this is commercial awareness – thinking more like a business owner and less like an employee.

The higher someone rises in an organization, the bigger their field of view needs to be. Where mid-managers are concerned with solving short and near-term challenges for their teams and clients, top management have their eyes on the horizon for long-term threats and opportunities.

Candidates pushing to reach VP level need to show that they can think this way too, and display not just technical or managerial accomplishment within their roles but an understanding of how macro commercial, social and political currents will impact the organization and its customers.

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You can view a full list of Adaptive Digital’s senior marketing career opportunities here