Saturday, January 19, 2008

How Did you Get Started in Your Career

I recently was emailed by a young man from University of Washington with Career Questions from a New Marketing Grad. I thought I'd share his questions and my answers here so that it may help more people too:

How did you start your career? My major in college was public relations. In high school I always enjoyed writing. When I was in scouts I sent some announcements into the town paper and got them printed. My senior year in high school I was the school newspaper editor, so when it was time to pick a major, PR seemed to fit my skills and what I liked.

What was your career path to your current position? After I graduated from college, as soon as I got a job, I found that PR wasn't what I expected. PR didn't have the control over a company like I wanted so I quickly went back to school to study marketing. I worked in marketing for many years on consumer products before starting my own marketing company.

My path by title was 1) production coordinator 2) news reporter freelance writer (few months) 3) publications/promotions manager 3) technical writer (few months) 4) copywriter 5) assistant product manager 6) product manager 7) senior product manager 8) brand manager 9)marketing services director 10) entrepreneur/business owner of marketing firm.

What is your typical day consist of? About 50% client work, 10% managing employees, 40% running my business (sales, marketing, accounting, IT, finance, R&D, strategy.) First meeting is usually breakfast, throughout the day I'll have about 15 phone calls, 50 emails, 3 meetings and a very quick lunch/or a longer lunch if it's a meeting. Lots of writing. Many 1 minute conversations with employees. I usually start my day with a cup of coffee and blogging to get the brain cells functioning. Filing the papers on my desk at the end of the day is always a challenge, but if I don't keep up with it, I get piles stacked all over and it looks messy. I like to keep it clean and neat. I make a list of to do's for the next day. Each week I try to spend 5 hours on strategy/big picture.

What do you like most and least about your job? Most: Getting a new client we really want and doing a GREAT job for them. Least: Having to "fire" a client that just isn't working out.

What are the best strategies to break into the marketing field?
1) Volunteer for organizations you're already involved in so you have tangible skills you can show in a portfolio and meet other people who are in marketing. Help the library, the chamber of commerce, the blood drive, your church, the relay for life, community festivals, city council, or any of the non-profit organizations with a board of directors.

2) Work hard and don't complain about doing the "grunt" work like stuffing envelopes or packing bags to hand out that trade show. Do a good job so people will give you more. Look for ways to help. Watch how people do things to get things done.

3) Ask for letters of recommendation from the people you worked for (but only if you really helped them so they will RAVE about you. Ask them to write it on company/organization letterhead if possible. Ask them to mention specifics and give them a cheat sheet to help them write it.) Make a portfolio of your work. Take digital photos of "results" so you can tell a little story (less than 30 seconds each story) about different volunteer products you did. Put the photos and the letters of recommendation into a portfolio along with 2 copies of your resume to take to interviews. I like this portfolio personally because it looks so neat and professional to showcase your accomplishments. Cardinal presentation FLIP books or traditional books.

4) Get informational interviews where you ask questions like these (What Color is your Parachute) Ask each person who else can I talk to who could help. Use networking to get more informational interviews. Use LinkedIn and Facebook. Take off any "bad" pictures on Facebook or MySpace.

5) Figure out what companies you'd like to work for. Send the VP of marketing a letter expressing your interest.

6) Make job hunting a job with a strategy, plan, daily to dos, and follow ups.

7) Look for internships. Try to get 2 or 3 of them in different areas of marketing: communication, research, web design/seo, consumer products, social media, fundraising, etc to try on different areas. Marketing is very different specialty to specialty.

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