Career Guide

Dear Careernomers: How should I progress up the social media career ladder?

We have experts on career management, HR and office issues who will address your questions weekly. We refer to them as careernomers – experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey. So if you have burning questions, send them to and we will get the panel to answer your questions.

This week, Claudia Cadena, director, Strategic Human Capital Management, president & Group CEO’s Office, SapuraKencana and Rupa Sivanoli, associate consultant, Leaderonomics, answer Lee’s question.

Dear Careernomers,

I am a holder of a bachelors degree in Mass Communication, with a major in journalism and a minor in advertising.

I worked full-time during semester breaks in customer service, journalism and surveying. They were great experiences as I learnt how to deal with different types of people at work and experienced different working environments.

After I graduated, I went into media research and the merchandising line. Finally, I found a job which is relevant to my education background and skills. I’ve been working in the social media line for about two years. I started the division from scratch and am an all rounder.

My role is to enhance brand awareness for the company through social media platforms. My main responsibility is to manage the website and social networking accounts on behalf of the company. My task is mainly divided into four areas, including preparing content (photography, graphic design and copywriting), managing social networking accounts (interacting with customers online, updating the website and social media accounts), liaising internally and externally (internal departments and vendors) and preparing reports (analysis).

My hard work has paid off and I was promoted early this year. A minor portion of my tasks has been delegated and I’m glad to see the team is slowly expanding, despite facing minor challenges in leading. I was looking forward to be involved in e-commerce projects, but the company decided to hold on these until further notice. Thus, the daily work has been routine. Besides, the organisation has been recently restructured.

As social media is still considered a new area, I am still figuring out my next steps and also the career ladder of social media.



Dear Lee,

I read with great interest your career trajectory and your achievement in a short timeframe from graduation.

Firstly, it is worth noting that what is most important is for you to identify what are your interests and strengths within the profession, rather than trying to ascertain if there is a “right” way of progressing. When you know yourself, your strengths and areas for development and improvement, you will be able to progress and succeed.

Identify your strengths

From what I read, I believe you are a good communicator and have strong inter-personal skills. These are very important skills to have when dealing in advertising and social media. You will have to interact with people at all levels, relate to them, understand their needs and be able to use this understanding in the campaigns and content that you develop.

You also seem to be versatile. You have worked and put efforts in a variety of areas. In addition to being able to interact, you are able to develop content and translate that content into visual designs/campaigns. You are also able to analyse data and prepare reports.

If we look at your strengths objectively, this means that you are not only able to manage relationships, you can also manage/develop campaigns through content and design. You can also put in perspective information to identify trends and perhaps come up with new campaigns.

These strengths open a lot of opportunities and will enable you to choose from job opportunities which will allow you to use one or more of these skills and progress further towards more senior roles within the organisation.

Work on your weak areas

As you are young and perhaps lack experience, you seem to face some challenges in managing your team. This is just a small setback that can be overcome with practice and some reading and research. Managing a team means that you need to know what is expected of the team, when deliverables are due and how to utilise the strengths of every team member to achieve expectations effectively.

Most importantly, you need to be able to motivate them, and help them along the way to become better professionals. At times, you may have to give them feedback and coach them to improve, something that many people prefer not to do as it may seem confrontational and may impact relationships between the employee and the supervisor. This however, is part of being a good leader.

To improve in this area, read some books on team leadership or attend some workshops that can help you understand what is required to lead. Attending these events, will also enable you to widen your network, meet new people and learn from others on how they manage and lead their people. Having the basic understanding will then allow you to develop the skills and use them accordingly through your own style.

Your next steps

You indicate that your company is facing some challenges. This is not unexpected. All companies in different ways face challenges that need to be managed and overcome. If you are happy in the organisation and you see that there is a future for you, offer your ideas and understand where you can fit within the restructured entity.

You wanted to explore e-commerce but the project is on hold. Understand what other projects are available. Maybe volunteer to manage a team or identify on your own something that could be improved and suggest it to the management. Prepare a plan of how you think you can implement your suggestion, and request the ability to implement your suggestion. Don’t be discouraged if your suggestion is not accepted. Look for other alternatives or opportunities within the organisation. Your positive attitude and ideas will surely be noticed and appreciated.

At this young age, what is most important is to accumulate as many experiences as possible across the entire value chain of your industry. Don’t just focus on what you are good at and ignore opportunities in challenging areas of work. Even though you may face challenges and may have shortfalls in delivery, always look at these as learning and growing opportunities.

In time, you will be able to have a comprehensive view of your industry and will be able to make a decision on the specific area that you want to specialise in or focus on.

Look for a mentor or a coach within the organisation. Someone that can guide you and show you available opportunities. Someone that can share with you his/her experience and provide you with advice and support when needed.

Above all, always keep a positive attitude about your work and yourself. Life is full of both positive and challenging times. Use every opportunity to improve as a person and as a professional. Look for the positive in every situation, as in this way you will be able to learn from it.

I hope that this advice will help you in moving forward in your professional career. Good luck!

Claudia Cadena

Dear Lee,

Congratulations – you’ve achieved more than most people in spite of being a fairly new entrant into the workplace. Having worked during your semester break and taken on roles that increased your experience while awaiting a role that was relevant to your qualifications, all stand well with any employer.

Furthermore, being given the opportunity to set up your own social media division in your present company would certainly have exposed you to the pains and gains that come with setting something up from scratch. It’s good to hear that your hard work and persistence has been rewarded with a well-deserved promotion.

So now you’re left wondering: what next? The e-commerce project being put on hold must have dampened your hopes for further adding new competencies into your portfolio. Before looking at this event as a trigger for your next steps, let’s look at your prospects as a social media practitioner.

Social media opportunities

Opportunities in the field of social media within the corporate context are evolving all the time so it would be limiting for me to advise you on the obvious prospects of branding, employee engagement, media strategy – any good job portal with a keyword search can yield you with all the possible roles, locally and internationally, that you can possibly think of.

However the question to ask yourself is what role would you like to take on that makes you excited about going to work everyday?

Discovering options

Most times, the roles that bring out the best in us professionally are not necessarily the ones that seem attractive to us at the begining. If fact, it is generally the roles that scare us and keep us awake at night that turn out to be our best teachers.

Look within your company or outside for evolving trends in the field of social media and start coming up with your own ideas or proposals of what the management team might consider implementing.

To do this, you yourself must be “tuned in” to the right resources. Connect with those with similar interests through professional networking sites; better yet, make friends with those who are passionate in the field.

Seek the guidance of a coach or mentor who will be willing to hear you out and clue you into what may be blind spots in your own potential.

Be curious and try new things in the workplace and in your personal life. When you are full of ideas and learning new things and meeting exciting people, your next step will automatically become a smaller issue as you would have gained perspective and, possibility, clarity to do what is necessary to keep moving forward towards your dreams.

Early in my career, next steps were indeed a major focal point and collecting the right experiences mattered. However, I am now of the view that passion and a will to execute are far more valued traits by those who genuinely have your interests and development at heart.

Cliché as it may seem I want to share this quote by Bill Gates with you: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

So Lee, don’t spend too much time figuring out your next steps, keep yourself updated with trends and hone your skills. The next opportunity that comes your way, grab it! All the best.

Rupa Sivanoli

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Leaderonomics or