I was interviewing a candidate for an entry-level assistant account executive's position. She was fresh out of college; her work experience was limited to summer jobs and internships, but she was smart, aggressive, funny, and self-confident. For some reason that eluded me, she wanted to be an account person. I figured I might be working for her in 10 years.
After questioning this promising young person about everything from why she chose to study history in college to what she was currently reading, I asked if she had any questions for me. She replied, “I have only one.” I figured she would ask me about the agency's goals, how I became such a self-important success, or something else grand and sweeping of that nature. But she surprised me.
“What makes a great account person?” she asked.
Simple question. Complicated answer. If you put this to 100 people in advertising, you would get 100 different answers.
Here's what I told her:
It's more about skills and qualities than about education and experience. A degree in literature or philosophy might be more valuable than an MBA. Tending bar will teach you more than will working in a company that has no clue about collaboration or client service.
It used to be that agencies would train their account people extensively. These days that's increasingly rare. The training is shorter and less complete, and fewer agencies invest in it. But that doesn't place a set of handcuffs on you. Just because ...