The inaugural year of the Marketing Academy is finally at an end. I can no longer say I’m a ‘Scholar’, and instead am a member of the ‘Alumni’ group. The Class of 2010 celebrated this fact with quite the party last night – after a very civilised affair hosted by Rapier to welcome the new folk getting this incredible opportunity, things got decidedly less civilised in a way anyone who’s ever had a graduation night will find familiar. What goes on tour, stays on tour.
Part of the way through the night, though, I did promise someone I’d write up some hints and tips for making the most of the year. I’m pretty sure the other 2010 scholars have been pulling together a proper list for Boot Camp 1, giving me license to do a brain dump of useless stuff safe in the knowledge that you’ll get some tips of real value next week. So, with the echo of the Face’s ‘Ooh La La’ going through my head (who am I kidding, after last night nothing but Fleetwood Mac will ever be going through my head again, thanks to Lauren Coulman), here’s my guide to reaping the rewards of a scholarship like no other:
- Blog. A lot. Camilla Woodhouse, the Programme Director, likes people who blog, and often gives them bonus prizes (like ‘Lunch and Learns’ with Justin King, CEO of Sainsbury’s).
- Take copious amounts of notes of what everyone you meet tells you. There’s too much sage advice floating around for you to spontaneously remember it. And some priceless analogies you won’t want to miss (anyone who can name the mentor who compares jobs to jam donuts will win my admiration).
- Linked to point 2, buy a nice book to write things in. First and foremost, the Marketing Academy is an excellent excuse to spend a great deal of time in Paperchase.
- When you’re going into mentor sessions, be prepared. Some of them you’ll click with and the conversation will be natural and free flowing, others you won’t have the same instant rapport with. But you don’t want that to get in the way of getting the most out of each session – come armed with more questions than you think you’ll need.
- Go into everything with an open mind. It’s a diverse group, everything can’t be customised to your own skills and experiences, so even if you find yourself in a faculty for an area you’ve already worked in, it’s your responsibility to get the value from it.
- Don’t get starstruck – the mentors are people too. Asking for autographs isn’t advisable.
- Identify who in your group is the one who’s always the last one to leave the pub. Ensure you never listen to that person, under any circumstances, when they say ‘just one more’ (for 2010, see Angus George).
- Identify who in your group is the social media geek. Ensure you never listen to that person, under any circumstances, when they start talking about ‘hashtags’ and ‘content’ (for 2010, see James Whatley).
- Pride comes before a fall. You’ll unquestionably go into the Programmes for Life Leadership course with your own preconceptions, but end up in tears by the end of it (in a good way). Just let it happen – we’re all friends here.
- Make sure you come to the end of the year having given back as much as you possibly can. Give a good chunk of time to your charity, more than is expected. Ensure you’ve made the most of every mentor session. Don’t just go to the ‘Lunch and Learns’ for the (excellent) food. It’s good for the soul.
- Follow up with the mentors you really click with. Thank you cards are a lost art, being driven back into fashion by Carrie Osman. Generic LinkedIn invites do not constitute a decent ‘thank you’.
- Take responsibility for giving feedback. This is only the second year of the Academy, it’s evolving all the time. If something can be improved, improve it. No-one else will.
- Meet up with your coach in person as much as you possibly can. They’re busy people, giving up their time for free, so do your best to fit around where they’re going to be. You’ll have more productive conversations, and most importantly many of them are members of private members clubs they’ll often take you to for posh coffees.
- Don’t cancel on your commitments – it hurts the entire reputation of the Academy. If it goes in your diary, you go to it. You won’t like Camilla when she’s angry.
- Shower your buddies, the scholars of the previous year, with gifts.
- Share what you learn with your colleagues back at work. Aside from it being a good thing to do anyway, it helps everyone else understand why you’re disappearing off for hours on end.
- Mark Choueke (Editor of Marketing Week) is one of the nicest people in the marketing industry. Be nice to him back.
- ‘Sherilyn Shackell is a force of nature,’ someone said to me last night. She gives great advice, and throws amazing parties. Thus, if you do one thing, learn as much as you can from Sherilyn. Not just about throwing parties.
I am now wisdom-ed out. God knows what I’m going to talk about now when I see the scholars next week…