Take your account executive career to the next level

If you're hoping to find better opportunities as an account executive or you hope to improve your performance, you can benefit from others' experiences.

When you work as an account executive, you might juggle several responsibilities, but your primary goal likely revolves around keeping your employer's clients happy. Whether you're securing new business, directing new projects, or communicating client desires to a creative team, you're at the center of the project chain.

What Is an Account Executive?

Maybe you're interested in learning about different positions as an account executive, knowing that the role can vary from one employer to another. What does an account executive do? According to Jason Bhatti, a 10-year veteran of this job, his responsibilities revolve around "hunting for new business, prospecting, doing product demos, [and] writing proposals and contracts."

However, account executive Cortney Smith performs different duties in her role: "I am the liaison between client and agency. I help manage all agency accounts (some more than others) by trafficking active jobs from start to finish while communicating project expectations, details and deadlines across multimedia campaigns." She calls her work "hectic but rewarding" and seems to focus more on project management, while Bhatti concentrates on expanding his accounts.

Although an account executive's job description can vary, you'll likely participate in both account acquisition and account retention. If so, you'll spend considerable time communicating with potential and existing clients to clarify their needs and explain the benefits that your company can offer.

What Are the Most Rewarding and Challenging Aspects of This Job?

Everyone will have different experiences as account executives, but both Smith and Bhatti agree that they work in a fast-paced environment. "I like that we get to see results," Smith explains. "I'm not technically a part of the creative team, but I contribute daily to the creative process." Bhatti adds that he appreciates "the ability to work with some of the largest companies in the world."

When asked about personal challenges, Bhatti talks about the long hours. When it comes to product knowledge and learning pitches, he says it takes "late nights and weekends to get me up to speed as quickly as possible." Meanwhile, Smith laments some of the administrative aspects of her job, saying that she dislikes "tedious 'upkeep' projects like opening jobs and conference reports. They take time out of your creative process, but are important in ensuring smooth operations of the agency and client relations."

What Is the Job Environment Like?

The atmosphere at work varies depending on the size of the company and your responsibilities, but Smith describes it as "casual and semi-flexible." She states that she works indoors during the workday and spends most of her time at her desk. Bhatti's experience differs; he states that his employer expects dressy sartorial choices and that he enjoys less flexibility in his schedule. However, he states that he likes the "team environment."

Can Mentors Help Account Executives Excel?

Both Smith and Bhatti recommend seeking out a mentor no matter the stage of your career. Smith says, "My boss was my mentor during my internship, and now I have that same opportunity with our newest intern." A mentor can teach you tricks of the trade and help you navigate difficult conversations with clients or decision-making dilemmas in project management.

After you've gained more experience, you might consider becoming a mentor to someone else. When you take a young account executive under your wing, you can help him or her advance faster and develop more finely tuned skills.

How Can You Advance in Your Career?

The title of account executive doesn't have to represent the top rung of your career ladder. Smith names several potential avenues for advancement, including titles like " account supervisor, account manager, [and] account director." According to Bhatti, you need a solid work ethic if you want to advance in this career, especially in industries that attract significant competition.

When asked what advice she has to give career newcomers, Smith agrees, suggesting that beginners should "work hard and be a sponge. Listen to learn, not to respond." Also, she adds, "Ask questions until you understand fully" what the project demands. She also notes that "[y]ou're exposed to a wide range of situations and experiences as an AE and one is never the same as the last. These different situations and experiences should prepare you for career advancement."

"Don't look at the person next to you," Bhatti elaborates. He advises instead that you "set your own goals" based on your own experience, knowledge, and comfort level. As you gain experience, you'll find yourself capable of taking on more ambitious challenges.

How Much Do Account Executives Make?

When it comes to the advantages of a career as an account executive, Bhatti cites "money and benefits" as key factors in his decision to remain in this role. According to Career Builder, account executives earn a median salary of $68,000, though geographic location can play a part in determining your salary potential.

For instance, account executives in Atlanta, Georgia; New York City, New York; Chicago, Illinois; and Miami, Florida, often earn the best salaries for this position. Additionally, you'll enjoy greater salary potential the more you gather experience. Nearly 25 percent of all account executives have at least 21 years of experience, while only 4 percent have been in the business for four years or fewer.

Do You Need Continuing Education?

According to Bhatti, the technology for account executives is constantly evolving, which could demand increasing levels of computer and technological proficiency. He also indicates that this career path demands "lots of research," noting that account executives must spend time "learning new industries" and participating in "sales professional training."

If you're navigating your career as an account executive, Smith's and Bhatti's experiences can help you find paths to greater growth. To find more lucrative or rewarding job opportunities, start searching for openings in your area. A new job might afford better prospects.