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Survive and Thrive

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting this year’s group of protégés for the SMPS AZ Mentoring Program. And, as it always happens when I meet those fresh, bright faces and minds, I am reminded of what it was like when you are trying to learn a new job AND navigate the unique obstacles these positions often have. I wish during these moments, I could literally open their brains and show them the various paths their careers may take and even more so, all the ways they can speed up their career path, mitigate the not-so-awesome parts of the job, and let them know – no matter what – it is all going to be ok. But, since I have yet to gain this super power, I put some thoughts to paper that may help.

Deirdre’s AEC Survive and Thrive Guide

The best lesson I was taught early on is: It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission. We are often surrounded by folks that may be hesitant to change, or do not have the same understanding of marketing principles as you do, and they just can’t help themselves but to get in your way. Sometimes you just need to move ahead and hope for the best. I am not saying go totally rogue every day, but it is okay to take an occasional risk!

Show them the money!  Find ways to truly affect the bottom line of your firm. Maybe you can find a great way to save printing costs, or a more efficient way to do proposals? Operations care about the money— show them that you care too.  Maybe you can apply your marketing skills to billable work? Bonus!

Be better than the you that you were yesterday. Outside of work, I love to run –since the day I started running, I had one goal, do better than the day before. I never set out to beat any records or even win any races; I just wanted to compete with myself and within my own limits. The same applies to work. Try and be better every day, in attitude, or aptitude. But, be kind to yourself and accept that some days you just “don’t have it” and tomorrow is a new day.

Work smarter (& harder). I am sure you have all heard the “arrive before your boss and leave after them” rule. It is TRUE! It shows that you care. But moreover, that extra time is when you find the good stuff. Put down the proposal and do something that is a stretch. Come in on a weekend and organize that database you have been ignoring. I promise you, no one over got ahead by working the standard eight hours a day.

Strategy is your friend – learn it and apply it to EVERYTHING. Develop a mini-marketing plan for every pursuit, collateral update, public relations campaign, or for yourself. I often hear comments from peers in the industry such as, “But my work doesn’t care, they don’t want one, so why should I bother?” It’s simple, do it for you. Developing a strategic mind is like any other skill, it takes time and practice. But I promise you, this is a skill that can, and will, take you so far in your career.

Make others look good. People that make other people look and feel good move ahead faster—period. As a boss, you are always on the firing line for everything. When you have a staff member that does something that makes you look good, you VALUE them. Also, if you are a boss, or just a teammate, make your team look like rock stars to their peers and the higher ups. If you spend your time making others look good, it will be paid back tenfold.

Learn the business of the business. As marketers in AEC, we are often removed from the business of the business; therefore, we are not looked at as equals. Learn how your business runs, what is your backlog, overhead, goals, and etc.? Once you understand that, and can speak the language, your operations team will LOVE you because they will know that you get them.

Bring NEW ideas that make the firm better. Brainstorm and offer new ideas that can improve the marketing, or even the firm culture. But, take your time and make sure your ideas are well thought out and strategic.  

Build relationships – inside and out. Have a mentor for every stage of your career, maybe even more than one. I have business owner mentors, management mentors, big idea mentors, and a team of SMPS psychotherapists! But to really move ahead in your current place of employment, develop internal advocates. Find someone in operations that values marketing and is willing to help you get your ideas across, or even more importantly, help you from stepping into a pile of doo.

Don’t be afraid to ruffle feathers. I know this is easier said than done for some, but it is important to learn to speak your mind in a direct and non-emotional way. Non-emotional being the key here. We’re marketers so we live in the emotional world most of the time; it is what makes us great at our jobs. However, when dealing in a work environment, it can be detrimental to our being heard. I once had a boss that informed me that I spoke in stories, not facts. Truly, he told me I needed to speak in bullets. I was SO offended. My job was to tell stories for goodness sake! But, in his eyes I was being too emotional and wasting his time with non-essential facts. Once I got over being mad, I looked at it from his point of view and realized this person just gave me some of the best career advice I would ever receive. Thank you, Dennis Tucker!

Lastly, keep score. Create a personal growth plan for yourself and track your progress. It will make you feel like a million bucks when you look back over all you have accomplished and those achievements may help you get the next raise, promotion, or new job!


Deirdre Booth-Gilmore, CPSM
President and Owner, Tank Girl Marketing 

Deirdre Booth-Gilmore is a Certified Professional Services Marketer who has spent the past 17 years focused on the AEC community. Deirdre started her own business, Tank Girl Marketing, five years ago and is the current SMPS, SFE Chair. In her free time, Deirdre loves to travel the world! 


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