Marketers rarely follow a regimented career path, but training in a broad range of business areas can develop their skills and aid their progress.
In most industries there exists a well-defined career structure, from trainee or apprentice up to senior management. Anyone wanting to be a chartered accountant, for example, studies for a degree then embarks on a three-year training programme with an accountancy firm, combining formal training courses and exams with auditing and preparing company accounts. Once qualified, they stay with the practice in the hope of becoming a manager and eventually a partner, or move into industry and work their way up to finance manager, director, and maybe even managing director.
Marketing seems to have escaped such a rigid career path. People come into it from all sorts of backgrounds, and often progress through individual flair and success on the job, without recourse to external qualifications.
'I think marketing gets away with not having such a defined career structure because it is perceived as a hugely glamorous area to work in, so people are still attracted to it, whether they get a formal career structure or not,' says Andy Rouse, director of marketing at recruitment firm EMR.
Bruce Levi, marketing and commercial director at Stopgap, believes comparisons between marketing and other professions are not always relevant. 'Companies have career paths but functions often do not,' he says. 'It's different if you're an accountant or a doctor - then you have a legal responsibility or you are regulated. In those circumstances, it is normal to have a career path and qualifications so people buying your services trust you can provide them. That's not how it works in business.'
To what extent is a career in marketing mapped out? Does it matter if it isn't? And if you believe it does matter, what could be done to improve the situation?
Christine Cryne, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), accepts that in marketing, individuals are often left to map out their own career plan. 'There is no natural marketing career structure in many organisations,' she says. 'Imagination, ideas and creativity are highly prized and, because of this, there is an unreasonable rationale that says you have to keep changing the people in order to come up with new ideas. The only way to combat this is for marketers to keep up to speed, network, go on courses and join their trade body.'
Kevin Dunbar, regional director at recruitment firm Hays Marketing, agrees with this, and with the idea that individuals must take control of their own destiny. He cites the example of Martin George, who become the youngest-ever board director of a UK plc when he was appointed commercial director of BA at the age of 32. 'He got there by working in different areas of BA to acquire the skills he needed,' says Dunbar. 'He drove the process, and that is what marketers who want to get on have to do. They should have a game plan.'
A key part of this game plan, argues Dunbar, should be professional qualifications. 'There has been a big change in the past five years,' he says. 'The CIM Diploma is now prized in the public sector and professional services. It is also important in smaller companies, where there is not a large marketing function, and so you need someone with a grasp of marketing.
The CIM Diploma demonstrates that you have this. It shows you can think strategically.'
Professional qualifications are an important part of what the CIM offers, but, as Cryne points out, there is more. 'We are putting together courses and White Papers on all aspects of marketing, from how to manage marketing people through to the legal aspects,' she says. 'And we are setting standards through our involvement with the Marketing and Sales Standard Setting Body and the CIM Professional Marketing Standards …