“Change the font.”
“These colors are all wrong.”
“Don't like that word. Use this one instead. Hey, what about our mission statement? I didn't see it. That needs to go on the front.”
Executive- and director-level managers have their own quirks as to what they like and don't like in presentations, project plans, contracts and what-have-you.
Many of us get frustrated and think, “C'mon! It's just a presentation! Those changes aren't going to impact the information presented!” On occasion, valid suggestions do affect the content—but result in missed deadlines. Time runs out, and whatever material is in the current version becomes the final version. When this happens, how late is the presentation? How much time has been wasted that the presenter could've used to prepare for giving the presentation?
Does this vicious cycle of trying to please everyone with a document have to happen to avoid stepping on political landmines? You finish the draft early enough to have the final done on time, yet it rarely meets the deadline—thanks to the picky feedback from others who won't let it move forward until they've eyeballed it. What are ways of dealing with approvals to get a document completed on time and with fewer go-arounds?
Those not stuck on the merry-go-round of documentation, hop on board and share your frustration with our readers. Does a boss or coworker have you pulling out hair? Has leaders hip or morale hit rock bottom? Is your marketing organization stable, or does it bounce up and down like the ponies? Get on the e-bullhorn and tell us about it, and we will ask the 100,000 MarketingProfs readers how they would handle it. You will receive a free copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing, just for dropping us a note with a new topic to get us all talking.
This Week's Dilemma
‘Can't please everyone' syndrome affects our presentations
How do I manage the creation of a master corporate-capabilities slide presentation when there are multiple executive VPs playing the role of reviewer/approver? These kinds of presentations are subjective in so many ways—graphic elements, story structure, level of detail, content flow, font style, EVERYTHING! I want to avoid the political landmines that I've encountered in the past. How do we create a slide deck for everyone to approve? How can we assure the project is done on time with fewer approval rounds?
—Senior Product Marketing Manager
How do I break into marketing?
I'm still a college student who has been lucky to expand and enhance my MarCom abilities for the past five years though work experience. In the last year, I was placed in the position of Director of MarCom (I'm sure due to trust in me and the lack of budget); anyway, I have matured through this position faster than I have with anything learned in business school, and now I am considering a venture into different industries to get more experience. Where do I start? How did other marketing professionals come into their careers? How do I convince people I might actually be good at what I do despite my age? I plan on continuing my degree through my university, but in the mean time, where do I begin?
Summary of Advice Received
Dear student, you're off to a great start, because you're building experience while receiving your education. Any experience gained while in college gives a boostyou're your resume. Students are encouraged to take advantage of internships, part-time jobs, summer programs… anything that offers knowledge and skills that transfer to the business world.
In this wild job market, many students don't get the job they want right away. Readers offer tips to increase your chances of getting your ideal position.
1. Market the product—you!
2. Use the network.
3. Explore other avenues.
1. Market the product—you!
After leaving college, AJ Smith, the marketing guy at Niche Retail, found a tough job market waiting for him:
I did some freelancing, then took a job for a very low salary designing a sports retailer's Web sites and preparing graphics. I tapped into online marketing, created a budget, found my targets, and turned over a great deal of ROI for them. Soon after, I updated my resume on Monster.com and my phone started ringing. Then I found a great job doing marketing for another online retailer. The rest is history. So what's the trick? Develop your own proven results. Compile a track record of your successes. Most of all, market yourself. Your ability to market yourself to a company directly reflects your ability to market, period.
When creating your resume, use a task-directed approach recommends Luis Javier Rodriguez of Gilvi publicidad:
By constructing an accomplished-task-directed resume, highlight your achievements inside MarCom as seen from a managerial point of view. After thoughtfully researching the competitive landscape, apply for job interviews in your fields of interest. This will show your interest and how you can translate your skills to a new field.
A director at GENESIS, Adrian Woodliffe, has worked as a management consultant where he also undertook executive recruitment focusing on marketing/communications and senior exec/CEO areas:
I also used to find the time to talk to marketing grads. Few other people used to make the time to help these people. But I saw them as being the business leaders of tomorrow. On occasion, I would also need to recruit them for specific clients. The biggest advice I can give grads is this: You have been trained to think strategically, as a commercial specialist. Why not apply the same techniques to yourself? Think of YOURSELF as a product/service. The same principles apply—don't they? You are an emerging entity. You want to get on the “shelf,” to be considered and then “bought.” Simplistic terms, but the analogy is relevant.
So, how you plan your approach to the market should be on the same sound foundations as if you were developing/launching a new product. After all, you are a brand. What are your differentials? What is your value proposition? What values do you extol? Remember packaging. It's amazing how many people who want to get into the area of marketing simply put together an A4 [paper] CV [or resume] and, at most, consider using nice paper stock. Oh, and color? Nah, old hat. You wouldn't present the most amazing thing since sliced bread on A4 white paper would you? Why do it to yourself?
So think brand. Think strategy. This also means that you will probably be much more TARGETTED in who you talk to regarding job positions. Be selective. Find out more about the company than what they present to the market. Delve. Research and tailor your approach accordingly.
2. Use the network
The saying, “It's not what you know, but who you know” is true; but what you know is still important. Several readers have indicated that they found jobs through their networks. If you need help developing networking skills, some excellent books may help, such as The Networking Survival Guide. Joining Toastmasters or a similar public-speaking group is also beneficial.
Dominique Grinnell, director of marketing at VPA, Inc., believes that networking is the best way to make professional moves:
Get your story together, which is a 30- to 60-second pitch statement about who you are professionally, your goals, and how you can enhance an organization. Start talking to alumni of your school, past work colleagues, and anyone else who will listen to your story. Find some companies where you think you might want to work and set up informational interviews with the heads of marketing there to find out what the environment is, what skills are transferable, and what skills you will need to add.
Your age is not an issue if you are confident, competent, diplomatic, and willing to put yourself out there. You may have to put issues of ego aside if you find a company you want to work for—they may want you at a lower level. As long as you can grow and it's in a good environment this may be a good deal.
A reader says the experience gained while studying is valuable:
My experience was that while studying for a bachelor's of commerce (marketing), I worked for a catering company as a food/drinks waiter at functions. In my final year, I looked for graduate roles unsuccessfully, but contacted a sales and marketing manager that I had met through the catering company. It just so happened that a sales and marketing coordinator role was just coming up. My already established relationship and experience with the company played a big part (bigger than years of study, I think) in getting the job.
After 18 months, I successfully applied for another marketing coordinator role for the corporate marketing department of the company, a good step up. The lesson I learned was that while my studies have helped me perform well in the job, they were not important in getting the job in the first place. Contacts are vital—your prospective employer wants to be able to trust you, and for that they need to already know you or have a strong recommendation by someone who knows you.
Another reader has received half of his job interviews through networking and the other half through traditional searching. Taking advantage of other opportunities may also help you find your ideal position.
3. Explore other avenues
Doug Davila, director of new business at Slack Barshinger, points to nonprofits as a great resource for gaining experience:
Typically, these organizations don't have huge budgets, so the extra help is welcome. Nonprofits are great learning environments, because you must stay focused and maximize your budget.
Doug also suggests looking at certificate programs offered by many universities. It's an opportunity to get exposed to different disciplines within marketing while giving you a chance to network, and they provide credentials. It's not an MBA, but in many ways gives you much more real-world experience than an MBA in a field other than marketing can.
A reader offers a simple road map to finding the right job:
- Know your skill sets.
- Identify how those skills can solve a problem for a potential employer.
- Find out what other skills you need to get by doing informational interviews with professionals in your desired industry.
- Acquire such skills through work or volunteering.
- Continue your education through academics and the work world.
- Identify how those skills can solve a problem for a potential employer.
The same reader shares the experience of changing careers from biology to marketing:
Nine years after college, I made a career change into marketing. My degree was in biology, which I find incredibly useful. I think logically and can perform analytical functions required in different marketing roles, whether direct marketing, marketing management, or product management. My start came from a smaller company that saw I was smart enough to pick up on the material quickly (direct marketing) and could adapt by using a variety of skills. I'm creative, so I can write copy. I'm analytical, so I can crunch numbers and understand how they relate. I have critical thinking skills, so I can see how the big picture—or bottom line is impacted from what I do.
And because of my scientific background, my current employer asked me to put together business requirements for a marketing database we were building in-house. Although I'd never done that before, I went about it logically and methodically, used my direct marketing experience and came up with something I thought was viable. I was pleasantly surprised with the positive feedback I received from our IT department when they told me they'd never received such an easy/clear plan to work with—even from people who have done it for years. From my point of view, education teaches a person knowledge, yes, but it also teaches a person how to process information and think in particular ways.
The reader advises paying attention to the company size and industry. For example, a Fortune 500 food and beverage company will likely want an MBA with 5-10 years of experience for an entry-level job; a small to midsize company in the publishing industry might be more flexible.
Take advantage of your school's resources and networking opportunities. Does your school have a career center? Take advantage of it. Think networking in everything you do, as it can happen anytime, anywhere. Even in a doctor's office, where one reader started talking to another patient and ended up mailing a resume to her. Save work products to use as samples when going on job interviews. Good luck!
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