Since featuring in Marketing’s Power 100 Nxt Gen in 2011, my career at Kao has taken an exciting path I couldn’t have predicted. I am now marketing director for its export EMEA business, based in our German headquarters, and responsible for the brand-building of John Frieda, Jergens, Bioré, Goldwell and KMS across a geography as diverse as Russia, Kuwait and Spain.
A career of international assignments, global travel, and exceptional beauty products doesn’t come without hard work and steep learning curves. If you’re just starting out and wondering how to get ahead, here are some simple suggestions that may seem like common sense, but don’t underestimate how important they are, or the impact they will have.
- Speak up. Senior management can learn lots from new starters. Graduates entering the workplace come with a different perspective, fresh energy and new ideas, so have confidence that your opinion counts. At Kao we have established the Ideas Lab, an international team of young talent with fewer than five years’ work experience. Their task is to propose new solutions to business challenges as diverse as graduate recruitment, ecommerce and packaging.
- Value feedback and accept it as a gift – someone sees your potential and wants to nurture that to its fullest. I’m an advocate of 360° reviews; I want to learn as much from those I lead as from those I report to. Be willing to listen, absorb and act on feedback to help grow your skill set.
- Know your consumer. At Kao we use the Japanese word genba, which is interpreted as observing the behaviour of our consumers in their environment. Research budgets don’t always stretch to focus groups or usage and attitude surveys, but there’s a wealth of insight to glean by talking to those around you, spending time in the retail environment, and watching shoppers in action. If you’re serious about making a difference to the lives of consumers, then you have to understand what makes them tick.
- You never know who knows whom. The world is small, networks cross, people talk. Always leave a good impression with former employers, because someone, somewhere, at some point, will seek a reference.
- Be flexible, open-minded and trust your gut. I didn’t speak German and had never even visited the country before. Yet here I am, doing a job I love and embracing continual learning experiences. Whether it is a personal endeavour or a business challenge, a successful marketer taps into his/her instinct to help shape decision-making.