Diagonal Thinking is a vital tool for a career in advertising

Were you one of those people torn between arts and science A-levels? If so, then you are probably brilliant at your job, in common with all those others in all disciplines of advertising and marketing who share your sort of brain.

You could be what the IPA calls a "diagonal thinker", someone with a balance of rational, linear thinking and lateral creativity. Such people are rare in the general population, but thrive in advertising, whether at media agencies, in account planning or management, or in creative departments.

Check yourself out by doing the newly launched online test at Diagonalthinking.co.uk. More importantly, why don't you encourage anyone you know who is toying with the idea of trying to get into advertising to have a go - the test only takes about an hour to complete.

The project has been developed over several years by Agencypeople with and for the IPA, with financial support from Creative and Cultural Skills, the council that represents the advertising industry as part of its remit.

As one of the those who took part in the pilot project, I was bemused by the wide range of tasks I was asked to perform. I don't believe there is any other self-assessment psychometric test that encompasses all that's in Diagonal Thinking.

The reason this is important is two-fold. Firstly, it's hard for people to know whether they are going to enjoy a career in advertising and media. The subject is rarely taught in schools, and few people will know anyone who works in the industry.

Many media agencies have a range of tests for numeracy and literacy - a crude acknowledgement that the job requires what are often seen as mutually exclusive skills - but taking these tests relies on people applying in the first place.

I remember how hard it was explaining to interviewees with double firsts in Maths, who assumed media was only about numbers, that they hadn't got the job.

The Diagonal Thinking test is available to anyone thinking very broadly about the profession and, crucially, there are links to the tool on sites where potential candidates might be browsing.

The second reason the test is important is that our businesses urgently need the best candidates with the best aptitude for the job. Traditional routes into media favour academic qualifications as a shorthand for the special sort of "braininess" that we need, but Diagonal Thinking is a much more insightful and relevant test.

The tool will, in time, help our industry attract even better candidates, and will encourage greater diversity - something we should all care about.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox, tess.alps@haymarket.com.

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