Do you get asked for professional advice? Recently, I've been pressed to share my thoughts with younger women, and it got me thinking about my own career path. Here's the advice I would give myself if I could go back in time.
This article came across my news feed recently: “I Asked Women What They'd Tell Their Younger Working Selves. Here's What They Had to Say.” I was drawn to it because lately I seem to be inundated with requests from college-age women asking me for advice relating to how they can prepare themselves to get a job in marketing after graduation.
At first, I wasn’t sure I was the right person to be offering advice. My career path was circuitous and rooted in my love of writing, but in college I never considered marketing as a vocation. In fact, I was an international political science and economics major who was set on working with “international business.” How vague is that? When “international business” translated to a job as an import/export clerk in the real world, well, I began pursuing other opportunities. This ultimately led me to marketing – a career I’ve held for more than 25 years.
During the ensuing decades, marketing itself has morphed significantly. At the beginning of my career, print-based collateral was king. Basic word processing was about as digital as we got – and often we vied for time on a shared computer. Analytics monitoring the effectiveness of our marketing efforts were hard to come by and not a huge factor in developing overall strategy. Not to say marketing was easier then, it was just very different.
As times changed, my career had to change with it. Over time, I became a marketing jack-of-all-trades. I have had the luxury, driven by necessity, to learn many aspects of my craft. Writing is still my primary love, but as needs and times have dictated, I have dabbled in web and graphic design. I’m well-versed in social media management. I pour through Google Analytics and review open rates and click throughs on email campaigns. I have adapted. I have learned. I have grown in my profession.
So, faced with giving advice to women seeking to “be me” 25 years in their future, it seemed important to me to look back at my past and ask, given what I know now, what advice would I give my younger self?
As I mentioned, a marketing job today barely resembles the marketing job of my youth. Today, marketing departments are more specialized. You’ll see that in the job titles: Digital Marketing Expert, Social Media Manager, UX Designer, Content Marketing Specialist, Web Developer, Marketing Data Analyst, Product Marketing Manager, Brand Specialist…I could go on and on. This tendency toward specialization might lead you to believe that my advice would be to pick a specialty and hone in on it. If you love graphic design, work on digital arts. If your passion is writing, focus on content. If numbers and analysis is your thing, focus on data. And, initially, that was my thought too, but then I thought harder about my own experience.
And, here is the advice I ultimately gave to my young friends.
As I think about it, with the exception of point #1 (although I would argue that the ability to marketing yourself is valuable for any college graduate), I’d give this advice to any college student or someone looking to improve their job prospects. Best of luck to all the marketing up-and-comers out there. In 25 years, you’ll be the ones giving advice!
Wendy Peloquin is Chief Creative Officer of Pixie Fish Marketing. She has 25+ years experience weaving creativity with common sense to craft memorable messages and successful marketing strategies.
For my clients, I'm a storyteller, cheerleader, push-you-out-of-your-comfort-zone type of marketing consultant. Hopefully I can inspire you too.