My Long and Winding Road to a Career in Marketing

When I was a young college student at the University of Notre Dame, I was not terribly certain what I wanted to be when I grew up. The overwhelming breadth of options available to me made the choices confusing and complicated. I started as a freshman planning to be a math major. After my first semester, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. Shortly after that, I naturally gravitated to the College of Business. I seemed to naturally excel at the Management Information System (MIS) courses. I performed well and was even asked to serve as a student teacher for a database course. However, I do believe I was likely ignoring my instincts. I had three summer internships during school, working in the field of Marketing. Nowadays, I help businesses create marketing content to distribute online. Of course, they use sites like SocialGreg, which allows them to succeed, but I play a significant role in crafting the content for them. Back in my internship days, I was a hobbyist graphic designer and artist, and my technical abilities helped me quickly understand content management, eMarketing, and marketing analytics.

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My practical side ended up winning out when I took a position as an Enterprise Risk Services Consultant at Deloitte & Touche, LLP in Chicago, Ill. Along with several other recent MIS graduates, the wonderful world of consulting became my first career. I learned a great deal from Deloitte and felt that the three years I spent working there were the best possible continuing education I could have received.

I started to miss the creative element in my position. Part of the joy in a marketing career is the realization that your creativity is tangible, measurable, and makes an impact on the company you serve. When my marketing internship supervisor decided to leave her position to be a mother, she recommended that I should be hired to fill her role. At that point in 2006, I interviewed for and accepted a position as Marketing Manager for a large private company in Kansas City.

At the time, I had one employee. We were responsible for all advertising, development, and administration of sales collateral, internal communications such as the company newsletter, brand management, signage, and display materials. After a short time in my position, I was charged with several technology-based initiatives, including overhauling our company website, implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for our sales force, and developing a data analysis function within the department. We grew from two individuals to seven, including myself, in 2012. Through our focus on technology, we’ve been able to streamline our marketing costs through thoughtful analysis and the application of effective strategies.

Marketers today are expected to be so much more than simply experts in advertising, communications, and art direction. Between online strategy, search engine optimization, eMarketing, and marketing systems, marketing professionals must also have a strong understanding of technology.

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Based on my own experiences as a successful marketer, I would offer some advice to those just getting started. Take your business MIS courses seriously, and take any technical courses you can as electives. This experience will prove to be invaluable as you sell yourself to potential employers. Obtain some graphic design expertise as well. It will aid you in becoming a stronger art director and mentor for your employees down the road. Additionally, consider that many recent graduates want to work for advertising agencies starting out. While agencies can provide an excellent experience, they often do not have strong pay for entry-level positions. Additionally, they often do not provide the breadth of exposure to different types of marketing that you can obtain by working for an individual company. I would encourage those seeking a career in marketing to pursue internships in different settings to gain experience and a better understanding of the different types of careers available.

Marketing is a fulfilling, broad, and impactful career. It requires creativity, technical and analytical ability, and strong interpersonal skills. Of these, technical ability is the one area that you can really set yourself apart from those competing for similar positions.

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