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Keys to a Successful Marketing Career

Sep 20, 2023
Learn about the importance of curiosity, intentional networking, and effective time management in building a thriving marketing career

By Eigen Escario

Pictured: Kathleen Rall, Vanderbilt Associate Director, Career Management Center Coach

Kathleen Rall

Marketing can seemingly come natural to some while others can gain industry knowledge through experience. Regardless of innate skills or a strong work ethic, or both, there are still strategies that can be employed to launch a successful marketing career. Kathleen Rall, Vanderbilt Associate Director, Career Management Center Coach, highlights some patterns of behavior from past Master of Marketing (MMark) students that have served them well in their marketing careers. Adam Bloyd (MMark ‘20), Senior Planner in Shopper Marketing at Blue Buffalo, also shares his insights on his marketing journey and ascent to higher roles in his company, General Mills.

Curiosity and Open Mindedness Towards your Marketing Career

When exploring opportunities in any industry, it’s important to remain enthusiastically curious to navigate your career trajectory.

“I think it’s really helpful for students to come in with a little bit of a career focus, but also being really open-minded, to explore other opportunities as they come their way,” Rall said.

Pictured: Vanderbilt MMARK alumni Adam Bloyd

Adam Bloyd

There are many opportunities at Owen to expose early-career marketers to the different doors they could open with the valuable network business school offers. Bloyd mentions BrandWeek as one of the events featuring diverse businesses that provide marketing career prospects.

BrandWeek was definitely a highlight for me,” he said.“It was great to have the opportunity to work on real-life projects and be able to present our ideas to the various participating businesses. BrandWeek is what really sparked my interest in consumer packaged goods (CPG) and what drove me to pursue a career in that industry.”

Part of this information-gathering process is also asking, or at least thinking, about the right questions to probe your interests and aspects of your ideal role in marketing.

“The students that are curious from the beginning are really the most successful in the job search process,” Rall said. “What would a career look like in that industry? What would that kind of a functional role look like?”

Taking advantage of courses with immersive, application-based experiences is also a way to gain these insights within an academic environment to give you more room for growth and reflection.

Marketing Strategy was the most impactful class I took at Owen – it gave a lot of great case study examples and allowed us to make business decisions with our own simulated company,” Bloyd said. “While different classes helped my foundational learning in what I do day-to-day, I think Marketing Strategy helped develop my problem-solving and thought leadership skills that I would apply to any job.”

Intentional Networking 

To hit a target goal in terms of your professional or personal development, you must approach networking opportunities with clarity and conciseness. In the same vein of asking the right questions, letting your interest and enthusiasm shine through your questions and interactions is effective in getting the most out of your conversation. 

“If you are coming in with a broad interest in marketing, I think a great way to help narrow that focus is to do a lot of networking – be very intentional with it,” Rall said. “Identify a potential area of interest, and talk to an alum who works in that functional area or industry to have a better understanding of how you personally fit into that matrix. I think understanding what you don’t want to do is just as helpful as knowing what you do want to do and leaning into our alumni network is absolutely essential.”

I really leaned on the alumni for networking and referrals – everyone was happy to take 15 to 30 minutes to tell me about their role, specific interview processes and refer me at the end,” Bloyd said. “I think I’ve made a lot of great connections over the past few years and alumni have even helped me switch careers.”

Rall and Bloyd point to different areas that could help in honing the position or industry that would be best suited for you.

“Starting to browse position descriptions online could help narrow your focus if you find one that checks all of your strong suits and aligns with your interests, even if it’s in an industry or maybe a functional area that you hadn’t ever considered before,” Rall said. “Also, exploring job boards and postings can help you find synergy with the needs of the company or the employer.”

I think the Career Management Center (CMC) does a great job at evaluating your resume and preparing you for the interview process – they really helped me put my best foot forward in an application,” Bloyd said. “They were great at helping students find internships and have a lot of connections to local Nashville businesses, which is a great way for students to build some professional experience.”

In other scenarios that aren’t explicitly networking events, Rall says that small gestures that may seem unimportant can make an impact when it comes to effectively connecting with others.

“For example, if you are attending an information session, it’s always helpful at the end of the presentation to go up to the recruiter or the employer and introduce yourself,” Rall said. “Do a little bit of research on their company before so you can ask a memorable question or 2 – make that connection so these employers can remember you better when they come to Owen to meet our students.”

Effective Time Management

The last key to a successful marketing career is simpler than you think, one that could put you on the road to success in any career and industry – managing your time wisely.

“An important common thread in successful marketers would be time management because students are very busy with internships, classes, social life, networking, and job searching,” Rall said. “You have to be very organized with your time and use it well to be at the top of the pack. Our most successful students are those that start networking and make it part of their routine.”

When it comes to networking and being intentional with your approach, it also makes a huge difference in the quality of your interactions if you take the proper time to prepare for them.

“I had just had an alum tell me, ‘If I’m going to give you 15 minutes of my time, I expect you to have spent at least 15 minutes of your time preparing.’ You need to help them help you basically,” Rall said. “It’s important to go into the conversation understanding that person’s background, checking their LinkedIn profile, knowing the type of work that they’re doing, having some questions prepared, and also being ready to give your own pitch and talk about yourself.”

To learn more about how you can jump-start your career in marketing, click here.

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