My team is growing. That’s incredibly exciting, getting to bring new perspectives and talent into the agency. It’s also terrifying: How do we know we’re recruiting widely enough to find great people? Are we overvaluing certain skills and experience and overlooking others? Do we have great support in place to make sure anyone who joins the team has the foundation necessary to succeed?
In this exciting time, I’ve talked to a lot of people interested in the future of branding. I get a lot of questions from these folks, and one more than most: What are you looking for in your next team members? Now, I’m aware that people are often coached to ask this question to force a hiring manager to reflect on which skills a candidate embodies or may lack. But I’ve always appreciated the deeper question hiding within it: What do you think it will take to be successful in this career over time?
I rarely can give people a complete answer in the moment, so I am grateful for this chance to give my (slightly more detailed) take on the essential traits of the next-generation digital strategist.
This is the single most essential skill of a strategist. Doubly so for ones who are focused on innovation and the digital landscape. Curiosity will be expressed in any number of ways, from diving deep into technologies and platforms to dissecting campaigns in order to diagnose what separates the most successful ones from those that are just ho-hum. A passion for communities and keeping up with who and what is making an impact on culture distinguishes strategists who are fluent in modern communication from those who are satisfied with the status quo.
Taking care in your work and always focusing on ways of improving encompasses a range of hard and soft skills: in data analysis techniques, vendors, and tools all the way to discussing the nuances of a creative expression in sight, sound, and motion. It includes the capacity for discussing fuzzy big-picture concepts as well as articulating subtle distinctions in specific executions. This will always be obvious in how you discuss your work: Are you communicating the details crisply and purposefully, or speaking in generalities? Are you critical of your past work and identifying how you would approach it differently today?
We are in the business of persuasion. Persuading people to pay attention to the things we create. Persuading potential customers that our clients have a solution to something they are seeking. Persuading our team members that our idea has merit. Our industry is unique in that there are few universal laws of effectiveness. There can be several pathways to achieving successful business outcomes, and the ability to communicate clearly, succinctly, and persuasively is essential for rallying supporters for a given strategy. Because every single thing we do requires collaboration to make it possible.
We are ambitious. We have big goals for how our agency is evolving and for the type of work our clients can achieve. The drive to win, to push for new and next, is an invaluable trait in the next generation of talent. It needs to be tempered and good-natured, but having high expectations for yourself (and your teams) speaks volumes.
Certainly, other skills and traits will be valuable to cultivate as we move into the next era of branding and communications. (They just might not fit quite as neatly into a 4C’s structure … sigh). Other leaders may prioritize some of these strengths — or new ones entirely. But if I’m looking for traits that will help my team make an impact now and over the course of their careers, these are the ones that showcase those with the highest potential.
Want to join us? Think I’ve missed something crucial? We’d love to chat.