There are points in a creative career when you may feel that you have more questions than answers, but perspective and professional coaching can provide answers. As global head of brand at Graze and co-founder of the Futures Network, Cristina Loaiza has a unique take on both marketing innovation and the challenges faced by women seeking to supercharge their careers in the creative industries.
According to Loaiza, there are many questions women face as they progress in their career and there are common themes that keep coming up within the Futures Network, which supports former winners of the Wacl Future Leaders Award. "Women often talk to us about struggling with confidence, career development and figuring out where to go next and when to make that leap," she explains.
Loaiza believes that these challenges can be particularly acute in the creative industries, where there are more fluid approaches to talent management and career progression. "There are points in your career that are very exciting, but in the creative industries there are often no set career trajectories, which can be daunting," she explains.
In the midst of this, she believes that investing the time and effort into mentoring is vital: "There is a value in helping other women; this is why we founded the Futures Network. We all have a collective responsibility to spot the talent we can support in the businesses we work in and beyond."
Knowing when to take a leap
Loaiza urges women in the industry to take custody of their own careers, particularly when it comes to remuneration: "When you are negotiating salary increases, be compelling and confident, and fight for what you are worth."
Ultimately, not every negotiation will go your way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the courage to try. "Be prepared for the fact that you won’t always win every battle," she suggests. Yet the process is one that should be embraced, because it allows you to build a better understanding of your value to the business.
The value of mentoring and listening
Loaiza, who was mentored by Diageo chief marketing officer Syl Saller, says that, for marketers, landing a new role often means working out how to make an impact quickly. "I had an hour with her [Saller] just as I was about to start my new role at Graze and it really underlined to me the power of listening," she explains.
"You hear words like driven and confident all the time, but listening takes time and patience, and Syl really emphasised the importance of that."
According to Loaiza, listening is particularly important in a new job. "If you come into a new position and you don’t listen, then you don’t understand the context and you don’t build empathy." While it sounds simple, this approach is often overlooked amid the excitement of starting a new post. "There is a human tendency to make decisions too quickly and this is something that has really stuck with me. As marketers, we should always listen first and foremost."
Investing in professional growth and personal development is another crucial skill for Loaiza, who used her Wacl Future Leaders Award grant to fund a place on a strategic leadership skills course. "Don’t let the day to day get in the way of your own personal development," she urges, adding: "Mentoring and coaching is vital; without it, your clarity and perspective can easily be lost. Perspective is everything."
While mentorship and personal development are vital, how can women strike the right balance between taking ownership of their careers and recognising the cultural and structural barriers that hold them back? "The number one most important thing to do in your career is to join a company with the right culture," Loaiza says.
"Identify the men and women that really champion women and look critically at what you want to achieve and the gaps in your skillset, and do what you can to fill them. The industry has so many courses and opportunities for women and initiatives such as Wacl’s Future Leaders Award gives us all the opportunity to access them."
Investing in your professional development is more than just a soundbite – it is a route to taking custody of your career progression, regardless of what barriers life throws in your way.