How To Think Like A Strategist And Create More Opportunities
Hey guys, I’m Andrea, one of the Marketing and Creative Mentors at Experlio.
I’d like to share a few tips with you about thinking like a strategist to create more opportunities.
Before I start, I must say that it all starts with the power of being proactive.
I call this a power because it’s something you can adopt today, a trait to add to your toolkit, that is instantly going to put you ahead of your competition – because let’s face it, most people you encounter in your working life are actually reactive.
You’re Already on the Right Path
The reason you’re here in the first place is because you’re looking for opportunities, right? Well what being proactive does is: create opportunities, where there may not have been one before. Let me give you a personal example of how I created an opportunity where there wasn’t one, for my career.
When I started my career in advertising, I knew I wanted to be a strategist. I wanted to help define the cool advertising campaigns I was working on.
But, being so new to the company and the world of advertising (with less than a year of experience at the time), there was no way that the business was going to trust me with that decision-making ability and give me the level of creative control I wanted. The problem was that I was not being perceived as a strategist. That needed to change.
So, what did I do? From that point on, I started thinking and behaving like one. And as a true strategist would, I came up with a 7-step plan to position myself this way in other people’s minds.
7 Steps to Thinking Like a Marketing Strategist
- Step 1 was about building awareness with the right people. Do the right people know you? What do they think of you? This is where I made it my mission to form relationships with every member of the strategy team, including people I had never seen or spoken to. I wasn’t trying to sell myself just yet; I was building familiarity. Planting the seed…
- Step 2 was about engaging with those people. This is where I made it clear that I was interested, but wanted to learn more. So, anything they needed an extra set of hands for, no matter how boring, I did (above and beyond my current role, of course). This showed them I was hungry, self-motivated and hard-working. It was also a great insight into ‘a day in the life of a strategist’.
- Doing this made me confident enough to volunteer to work on bigger projects in the business that I knew involved the strategy team. Because step 3 was placing myself into contexts where I can be closer to them. But also to be considered a peer, working with them, alongside them, not just for them.
- After casting my net wide, I needed to go deeper. So for step 4, I picked one strategist to build a stronger connection with, asking her to be my mentor. (I aimed high for this one, asking the top strategist in the business – and she said yes!)
- She then gave me all the resources she uses to help her with her job, from books to read, to podcasts to listen to, to e-newsletters to sign up to. So step 5 was about getting inside her head and really starting to think, speak and act the way that she does.
- Alongside all of this, I also signed up for some additional classes in Core Strategic Planning outside of work. Not only did this give me another network of strategists to speak to and a safe space to practice my skills, it acted as proof of my proactivity. My mentor was really impressed.
- A few months later, a role in the team popped up – and the best part? I was able to find out before anyone else, as the strategists I’d formed relationships with gave me a heads up. This showed that all of the groundwork I’d done in the previous months had paid off. By this point, I had shown I was interested and eager to learn, but I needed to let them know I was serious. So, as the job was interstate, I let them know from the outset that I would be willing to move for the role.
And then, when I made it to the final round of the interviews, what do you know? It was my very own mentor sitting in the interviewer’s chair. Since she had been along the entire journey with me, the decision to hire me was a no-brainer.
The Moral of the Story
Looking back, was I the best person for the job at the time? Perhaps not. But was I the most proactive and enthusiastic? No doubt – it would have been hard to disagree with that! And 9 times out of 10, it’s passion and enthusiasm that will be the deciding factor.
So, there you have it. The 7 steps I took, every one of them proactive. One more thing that’s important to note is that none of this happened overnight. Sometimes you have to play the long game, but that’s where you’ll see the biggest pay-off. Because, had one of my peers also applied for the job, I would have been 7 steps ahead of them by the time the opportunity surfaced itself.
If you’re doing it tough out there or looking for your next opportunity, consider: what are the things I can do today, to put myself a step ahead tomorrow? Start small – you don’t have to invite the CFO to lunch (unless you guys are buddies). But think like a strategist. Build a plan. Write down your steps. And hold yourself accountable. Good luck!
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