A few years ago I attended the APG Planning Network.
It was a great experience where I went to different agencies to hear different points of view on various bits of the job. Every talk was by a celebrated planning director, but I got a lot out of being around other inexperienced planners on our project task.
None of us has a clue, even though some thought they did.
Which is why the best piece of advice on the whole course came from George Bryant.
"It takes seven years to get the experience you'll really need, but then you'll found your voice".
Seven years. A bloody long time before you can really fly solo.
But think about what you need to survive in the job...
A working knowledge of research, what is can achieve, the strengths and weaknesses of methodologies. The ability to do some of your own moderation.
A deep knowledge of how brand communciations work. Not just what you have read, what you have been involved in. Accross as many clients and media you possibly can.
Lots of practise at handling all kinds of individuals in other agencies.
Even more at building relationships with clients.
A working knowledge of psychology and behind that, all sorts of broad knowledge about popular culture, and general wierd stuff.
Knowing how to build a trusting relationship with creative folk, media folk and digital folk.
Knowing instinctively how agencies tick, how traffic works, how things get commisioned, bought and made. How investment teams work in media agencies, what developers do in digital areas.
The stress of a pitch.
Handling campaigns that fail.
The big make or break presentations.
Dealing with new brooms in clients companies.
The new boss you can't stand.
The juniors you find impossible to manage.
And then of course, instictive knowledge of the basics in the job. Various models of brand positioning (really sorry), writing a strategy, comms planning, knowing how media works, evaluating creative work, assessing content plans getting stuff through research..and on it goes.
To be honest, seven years is only the start, because you never stop learning. The industry changes, culture changes, media changes.
This kind of experience does not come cheap.
I'm not a believer in long hours for the sake of it. But this is not a desk job and it's not 9-5. The best people I've worked with simply work harder than other people.
They have standards and stick to them.
Their work is never finished, deadlines just mean they have no more time to improve it.
They take the time to actually go out and meet the people they are selling clients stuff to.
They know how to switch off, but allow themselves the chance to notice stuff that might spark new thinking all the time.
They keep up with the latest thinking in the industy.
But they read everything and and anything, in the hope that 1% might end up useful - and nearly always more powerful than the industry stuff everyone reads.
Talent helps, but it's the application that matters. Anyone who believes otherwise of themselves are kidding themselves, or hanging around the wrong people.