Life with no ‘off switch’
A few weeks ago, I attended a networking night that was organised by Monash University’s marketing student society. I was there representing the strategy & planning agency that I work at. The idea behind the event was to allow students to speak with people from various marketing backgrounds in order to gain an insight into the many pathways that a career in marketing could take them down.
I really enjoy going to these events, and not because of all the free food and alcohol! What I love is being able to provide some real world, no-BS advice to the students. I remember how lost I was when I was finishing uni. So unsure of where I wanted to go with my career. Even though it’s only been three years since I graduated, there are so many things that I know now, that I wish I’d known back then. It’s nice to be able to pass on some ‘wisdom’ to the next generation.
You get asked all sorts of questions when you’re at these kinds of events. There was one question that really made me think - “What does it feel like to be a planner?” This was my answer:
Being a planner feels like you’re living without an off switch. You’re always ‘on’. It means that even when you’re not in the office, you’re mind is still in a constant state of ‘awareness’. This is because, as a planner, you’re trying to understand people and what motivates them. Why do they do the things they do? What makes them tick? What are their hopes and dreams? What are the tensions in their lives? What’s keeping them up at night? It’s the reason that we do research - To help us find the answers to these difficult questions. It helps us to understand consumers better.
While research is a powerful tool, it doesn’t always give us all the answers. But that’s the great thing about planning – The people we’re trying to understand are all around us. They’re waiting for the train to take them to work in the morning. They’re sipping lattes in cafes. They’re in bars, sinking beers after work. They’re everywhere! And that’s why planners need to observe, observe, observe! Planners need to notice the beautiful little moments that happen around them every day. The things that others would generally ignore. Planners listen in on conversations between a group of people while they’re ordering their morning coffee. They notice the items people are buying at the supermarket checkout. They watch how people use and interact with certain products. They do this because they know that insights can come from all kinds of places - Not just from focus groups.
Being out there in the real world, interacting with the very people they’re trying to understand and influence provides planners with a broader frame of reference from which they can begin to connect the dots in the seemingly disconnected ideas.
So for all you budding planners, give it a try! Get in the habit of being aware when you’re out and about. You’ll see that over time it will become second nature. You’ll always be ‘on’.
So, open your eyes and ears to the world around you. You never know what you’ll find..