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Climbing the agency career ladder

Our previous post in this series looked at first interviews and becoming an Account Executive. This time we examine the skills you will need to have developed and the time spent as an AE before thinking about that move up to Account Manager and your next employer.


You got yourself on the ladder, made it through the three-month probationary period and have started to acquire the skills to help in your ascent. The question is, at what point should you start thinking about making the move to the next level – Account Manager?

Many agencies are keen to invest in their Account Executives in the hope that they will stay and be promoted to Account Manager level to help with building a great client knowledge base and maintaining personnel continuity with clients.

For this reason they may pay for an Account Exec to undertake an industry diploma course with the Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM), Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) or the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) on the understanding that they will stay with the company for at least six months afterwards but more likely a year, until they even start thinking about making a move.

It is possible that, having passed a diploma, as a mark of recognition of the skills you have mastered and applied to your daily work you’ll be promoted to Senior Account Executive level and given a pay rise – a further incentive to make you stay with the company that has nurtured you.

You’ll no doubt have been appraised in your first year by your Account Manager and told what skills you need to develop, but as a basic guide the following are key to being able to progress:

·        Good spoken and written communication skills

·        Strong presentation and negotiation skills

·        Confidence, tact and a persuasive manner

·        Good organisational and time-management skills

·        Good 'people skills', for working with a range of colleagues and clients

·        The ability to lead and motivate a team

·        A professional manner

·        Good business sense and the ability to work to budgets

And of course a good understanding of the marketing disciplines practised by the agency coupled with a willingness to work long hours, often under pressure, will stand you in good stead.

On average, Account Executives take about 12 - 15 months to progress to Senior Account Executive level and are in a position to be considered Account Manager material after around 18 months to two years.

From a career progression point of view it is better to gain experience with your current employer, rather than jumping ship as soon as you have the new label, as employers prefer to look at candidates that have learnt the ropes and can prove that they are worthy of the title.

Six months’ experience would be deemed a minimum period of time as an Account Manager – or ideally a year – before a future employer will really think about considering that person to come in for an interview.

Of course if you have registered and been found a role with an agency recruiter, like Fill, at the beginning of your career they will be able to advise as to what other agencies want in terms of experience and skills to help with your career progression.

Useful tip: Although account handlers aren’t necessarily asked for portfolios when applying for new roles, it does help to be able to show prospective employers projects that you have been involved in. So try and build up a dossier of printed materials, in-store images, screen grabs of web pages and apps, presentations and press articles mentioning projects that you can realistically make a claim to having worked on as you progress from being an Account Executive and up the agency ladder.

And have a look at our article regarding your LinkedIn profile to see how that can work in your favour as you start on the next step in your career. 

Posted by Caroline Bailey

Wednesday 19th July 2017


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