Top marketers reveal their best and worst career advice

Marketers from brands including Mars, Land Rover, Eurostar and top agency leaders share some of the best and worst career advice they have received over the years.

Nina Bibby

Marketing and consumer director, Telefonica UK

The best advice to me came from an external speaker who addressed my leadership team on the importance of being 100% committed to the success of others. What a meaningful intent to embrace. It has an impact on your dealings with peers, your immediate team and others. It encourages positive intent, transparency, respect and true listening, all of which contribute to teamwork and a great work environment. My worst piece of career advice was to think long and hard about big decisions. While this isn’t always the wrong approach, some situations require far quicker judgement. Armed with all the facts, there are some decisions I wish I had made sooner. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

Dominic Chambers

Global marketing communications director, Land Rover

I love the fact that there is an intangible value to brands that can never be defined in real financial value or properly put into words. And so the best advice is that the skill set relating to brand and marketing is applicable to all industries – don’t let anyone tell you that you should stick with one industry, especially if it’s dull – wider experience makes you a better marketer. I once made the mistake of working for a company that provided no clarity about my role. So, be careful to ensure that there is real clarity about the content, budget and reporting line of your role. Don’t take assurances at face value.

Allan Blair

Head of strategy, Tribal Worldwide London

One person has been a consistent source of great advice; a former manager who went on to become the CMO of several well-known brands. The most useful advice she gave me was to be proud of your skills, but realistic about what you don’t know in the workplace. It’s stood me in good stead, kept me humble and taught me to respect others. It has also enabled me to focus on honing what I’m good at, listen to others, collaborate more and be a better manager. The worst advice came only a few years ago from a former colleague. "Don’t get too involved in any of that digital nonsense. It will never come to anything. The internet is just a fad!"

Jon Davie

Managing director, Zone

The best career advice that I ever received came from my boss in my first ‘proper’ job, at He helped me understand that my career development was my responsibility – not my line manager’s, not the HR department’s and not the company’s. That sounds obvious now, but as a slightly naive 20-something, it was a real penny-dropping moment. The worst advice came when I was working in newspapers. A seasoned hack told me to stop wasting my time working in the paper’s tiny new-media team. "All the real action is on the paper," he said, finishing his pint with a flourish. Thankfully, I chose to ignore him.

Michael Magee

Vice-president marketing, Mars Chocolate UK

The worst advice, from a headhunter early in my career, was "move around a lot". It can take two to three years of work to really have an impact on a brand’s performance, so it’s good to stay a while when you’re starting out to demonstrate your focus on results and willingness to learn. The chairman at one agency I worked with in Australia gave me the best advice: "It’s time to get out of town and see the world" – and I’ve no regrets. I’m lucky that Mars really encourages its people to move across borders and functions to grow their career – it’s a great way to deepen your understanding of your profession and work with new and interesting people.

Nick Mercer

Commercial director, Eurostar

The best advice I was given was: "Since you will spend more than a third of your life at work, make sure you enjoy what you do." Look to work for a company with products and services that genuinely excite and stimulate you, and make sure you work for a boss you can learn from, respect and who gives you space to flourish. I have found both these pieces of advice to be so true. I must be lucky, because I can’t remember being given poor advice – either that, or I have selective hearing.

Abigail Comber

Head of marketing, British Airways

Early on in my career, while at a junior level of management, my boss remarked that at some point I needed to decide whether I was a "generalist" or "specialist". At that point I had never given it much thought; I was just powering ahead, but had no particular destination. This enabled real focus on what I needed to be good at, which in turn helped me achieve my goals on my own terms. In more-personal development, I was taught a phrase ‘listen to hear, not to respond’. This helped me crystallise the best way to collaborate with peers and my team, something that has helped me be more open to others’ input. I see a leader’s responsibility as one that gives confidence to others to do their job well, but also to ensure people are fulfilled by doing worthwhile work. The modern world is demanding of us all and if you are not enjoying your work, you are probably not enjoying life… and that is simply not worth it.

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