A little help?

I received an email from an aspiring planner in Brazil and I’m not sure what to tell her. I went to Sao Paulo for the first time this past November and have met many lovely planejadores in person or on skype, but generally in the context of their desire to move to the US or Europe. Here’s her question:

I live in Sao Paulo and I have recently completed my undergraduate degree in Social Communication and Advertisement.

I’m writing you because I have recently decided to shift my work area. Although I’ve always wanted to work in Account Planning, I worked as an intern in the branding area of a large company in the food industry, and in the last two years I’ve been working with marketing for advertisers, in a editorial company.

I’ve been having a lot of difficulty to make this shift, and I think it is because the brazillian Account planning market is too closed. Everybody knows each other, and it becomes hard for newcomers to be introduced to this market. Also, agencies ask for a lot of background, even for junior positions. I would like to ask you how do you think I can get some space in this market. I considered applying for a program in Miami Ad School here in Brazil, or even searching for a planning program in the U.S. I’m afraid of being unemployed or out of the market, even if I take one of these programs. What would you advise me to do?

Personally, I think it’s difficult to get that first planning position anywhere in the world. You have to make it happen. Without being pushy, you can ask for informal chats with planners to learn how they got their jobs. And I think schools are a good opportunity to meet other planners. Planning isn’t a profession you learn from memorizing jargon and case studies. You have to learn by doing. So internships really help. But in my opinion, there is something innate that makes a good planner. If you’ve got it, you’ll find a way to get a job.

What do you think, planejadores?

8 thoughts on “A little help?

  1. I totally agree about learning by doing. When I set out to become a planner I had to start in account management. My bosses knew I wanted to be in planning, so they helped me find as many opportunities to work with our planners as possible. After a year or so, I was able to make the switch.

    There was a great post on Northern Planner about how to get into the field: http://joymachine.typepad.com/northern_planner/2011/03/how-do-you-get-into-planning-if-youre-already-doing-some-other-agency-job.html

    1. Thanks for sharing this link Erza. Coming from someone who has worked purely in insight and research their entire career – stuff like this is great food for thought for someone who is looking to make a sideways step into planning.

  2. This is what I wished someone told me a couple of years ago.

    Being great at getting a job as a planner and being a great planner, is two different skill setts.

    A little bit simplified. In the first case the skills required is to getting to know planning directors, keeping in contact (with just the right amount of frequency, without being pushy…), and then just being there when a job opening comes up.

    Being great at research, moderating focus groups, seeing possibilities and creative concepts where every one els is drawing blanks, a great presenter and all the other things a planner is suppose to be amazing at. That is something els.

    The question you have to ask your self before moving forward: Is the real problem that you are not good enough at planning. Or that you are not good enough to meet and great with planning directors?

    The Account Planning Boot Camp at Miami Ad School is a great place to learn about planning. The education is to a large extent what you make of it. So having previous experience and knowledge is not a problem. Graduating from MAS (or any similar education) is a good reason to contact and get to meet with planning directors. But if you don’t have the first skill set it could end up being a waste of time. There are more great people out there applying for planing jobs that there are vacancies.

    Lets assume that you are a god given natural planer. The only thing you need to blossom is to work in the right environment. Unfortunately you have a hard time landing a planing job. As far as I can see, in this situation, you have two options. The most common one is to get any (crapy?) job you possibly can in a advertising agency and work your way up from there. When a employer see your great skills they have no option except promoting you. The non conventional way is to go to “charm school” to develop your hanging-out-and-being-friends-with-planing-director-skills.

    I would like to point out that “charm school” is a serious suggestion. One of my clients is a company that helps entrepreneurs and corporate executives to develop their social skills. To mingle and network, and afterwards staying in touch, is an art form. If you know how to do it, your chances and possibilities in life goes up exponentially. As with any talent. Some people are just born with it. The rest of us just have to practice super hard to reach the same level.

    It is tuff all over the world to break in to planning. So what ever you do. Don’t give up on your dreams.

  3. What I usually feel as a big impediment for young planners is that most agencies do not have a “practice” to train planners on how to do their jobs. It’s most of the times: here, we have a huge problem and lack of people and you must get right into it!
    So, in her case, it does make sense to have her skills shown in an environment such as Miami Ad School. It’s a kind-of pass into the “routines” of account planning world that may help her get a job in the area.
    Obviously, she must also be fluent in English these days and have a solid cultural background. But that comes with the job, right? Good luck!

  4. well, i can say i did (or still doing) this shift: i was an art director (4 years) who worked abroad in marketing and had to work out a LOT to get my first job as a planner.
    so, its possible. dont give up: it may be hard, but totally worth it.

  5. Here’s what I can tell you from my experience:
    1) Take the indirect path: Take another job at an ad agency and try long and hard to work with and learn from the planner on your team.
    2) Be smart and brave: While in this role, add strategic value to your team in creative ways – a weekly newsletter on market developments and what they mean, a wiki on emerging media, a blog on competitor actions and what your brand could learn. Prove yourself.
    3) Don’t give up: There ARE agencies that are willing to train young blood. It takes time and energy to find them, but if you’re dedicated enough, you will.
    4) Be curious and visual: Stop and look around. Take notice of everything. Carry a book for the observations you make. Take photos – lots of them. Write and think and connect, even if just for yourself. Create tangible evidence to take to interviews that at the very least proves that you have the skills and the desire.
    5) Be a planner, even if you’re not one: Sort of a culmination of all the above.

  6. This is a very interesting topic and one that I struggled with myself some years ago (more than 10 now, so I’ve stopped counting) – the main challenge is that for an organisation to be able to ‘support’ junior planners it has to have a relatively large planning department. Intrinsically planning is about how you think, the experience and knowledge you have, and how these can be combined to come up with a ‘strategy’ to meet a business issue, so this means that it is a job that is more suited to those with experience and hence more senior – but fear not there is a way to break into the closed group of planners.

    In my very humble opinion, the strategic route for a young planner today hinges around ‘new technologies’ be they the web (pure and simple) or at a more focussed level, social media, mobile and what we are calling phygital (google it). I wrote a post a while back about digital planners (or strategists) and how these people were very hard to find, but also key to any sort of communication in today’s society (you can read it here: http://www.relativelydigital.com/2010/10/digital-planner-an-even-rarer-bird/); if you can position yourself as an expert in this area then you add something to an existing planning department that is like gold dust, helping them to take their existing insights and strategy and apply it to a socially connected world.

    Since these media haven’t been around that long, at least compared to TV and print, you have a fighting chance of becoming an expert relatively quickly.

    So what do you need to know?

    Planning today isn’t just about research and insights, traditional brand planning has evolved into connection/channel planning (a crossover with media, where you try and figure out the right medium for your message, and also direct where you use a 1-2-1 channel) and also today into propagation planning (where you use the social graph to amplify a message through influencers rather than delivering it directly from a brand to the end user.

    With these changes in planning there are new skillsets that planning departments need, and don’t always have to hand and hence an opportunity for a young’un to join the clan.

    This isn’t a solution that replaces experience, but it is a very solid strategy for breaking into the sector, I know that the more junior people I hire today tend to fall into the above.

    Good luck!

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