The Social Media Career Path…or Lack Thereof

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Consider the following scenario:

You take a job out of college as a coordinator at a big agency.

 

You develop a feel and love for social media marketing, and move up into a AE role and then a Senior AE role.

You then find a job on the corporate side as a social media manager.

You love it, but you find yourself capped out a bit, as there are really only 8-12 “social media director” jobs in town (the highest “social” role you’ll most likely find).

This is a very real scenario facing a number of people in our industry right now. And, we’re going to see more of it in the years ahead considering the number of people who’ve started working in social the last 4-5 years.

Take a peek at this salary survey from The Creative Group. You notice social media specialist and social media manager listed–but not social jobs above that.

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The social media career path is pretty short–as in 2-3 steps short (and may is pretty limited, too, capping out at under 100k). In fact, I would probably say it’s not a career path at all given its limited nature, both in terms of earning potential and scope.

Social, it seems, is a great career STARTER, but can be a definite career LIMITER as you get into your 30s and definitely, your 40s.

And therein lies the challenge: What do you do when you’ve capped out in a social media leadership position?

This was a topic of conversation between myself and someone I had coffee with last week who works in a senior-level social position with a big company here in town.

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The options?

  • Go back to school and get an MBA. Costly, unless you can get the company to pay for it. But, could help round out skills and position you better for senior-level marketing jobs. Especially with companies like General Mills and Fairview, who seem to see MBA as a pre-req for such jobs. Word of warning: If you’re seeking a senior digital job, you probably don’t *need* an MBA.
  • Target broader marketing/communications jobs. Another logical route. Round out the skill set. If your ultimate goal is to obtain a senior-level marketing or comms job, you’ll need much more than just social media marketing experience. Look for jobs within corporate communications teams or larger marketing teams where you could learn more about traditional marketing channels and approaches like employee comms, media relations and corporate communications.
  • Focus on digital marketing. Now that you have a social media background, you’re well-suited to start tackling larger digital work. In fact, chances are you have done this already in some capacity. Senior-level digital folks are in high demand, and I would imagine it will stay that way for a while. Social media is a great way to ease into these roles. And, I would imagine these senior digital roles will pay quite well in the years ahead.

The social media career path doesn’t have to be a limiting experience. In reality, it should be a spring-board to a broader, more interesting role. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out with the people who have been in these senior social roles now for a few years.

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