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  • Writer's pictureSandy Creighton

Marketing Professionals Who Inspire

And the networking tips I learned from them along the way

Wow, these 7 months have just flown by. After a shaky start where I was unsure if I would drop the program in favour of a job opportunity that had become available to me, I can now say that I am so incredibly grateful that I stuck it out. In September of 2019 I enrolled in the Strategic Relationship Marketing Program at George Brown College. Seven classes per term, an intense workload with a ton of group projects, and challenging personalities were all part of my daily encounters. The main thing that I have learned from this program is my ability to achieve results under incredibly challenging circumstances. While that knowledge has been a great boost to my self-esteem, it’s the people I have met along the way that has been the biggest perk from my experience at George Brown. Not only are my classmates from all around the world, my professors have a variety of backgrounds in the marketing industry. But overall, the network of professionals that I have had the chance to meet in and out of the classroom has been the cherry on top of an all-in-all fantastic college experience.

I applied to George Brown because I needed a change. I was unemployed after a year of searching and being told no. I felt lost and discouraged and my network of connections had been fully exhausted. I needed to update my skills in marketing as well as job hunting. Enter the George Brown Co-op program.

Today, as I write this from home, classes have been moved online. People have retreated indoors (and in my case underground to my basement apartment) in an effort to “flatten the Covid-19 curve”. If I thought networking and job hunting on a normal day was challenging, it has recently become almost impossible. Luckily, I am bolstered by the skills that I acquired during my Work Experience Prep course and the Seminar Series class taught by Lauren Gazen.

I have a new network of marketing professionals that I can fall back on with some amazing mentors and classmates to guide me through the muddy waters of this pandemic.

Several of the speakers that I met through the Seminar Series class have acted as a well of inspiration to draw from during this challenging time. The incredibly boisterous energy of Matthew Wilke, Account Director for Trevor Peter who challenged the class to “make the case for mass marketing”. The strategic tactics for networking and job hunting outlined by Amanda Magnaneli, Marketing Manager for Boost Agents. The cool, calm, and systems thinking by Jeannette Hanna, Founder of Trajectory Brands. These are the professionals that I aspire to be like. These are the marketers who will show me the way.

Weeding out the good from the bad

They told the story of their careers by flawlessly presenting case studies and provoking strategic thought and debate among my classmates. They helped to put a face to a name and a definition to a title. It made it easier to understand the difference between a content creator, an analyst and an account manager. I listened to what they had to say and bookmarked the things that I did and didn’t like. Each speaker helped me to refine my concept of what I wanted from my career – what sounded like fun and what sounded not so fun. These are important things to consider. I also started to understand that they were just like me. Coming from a myriad of academic and professional so-called false starts or twists and turns. Having experience in other fields of interests was a benefit, not a drawback.

Listening to Wilke made me realize that Account Management is totally my thing. I know I will thrive in a role that connects the client to the company. I am a good advocate and a good listener. He also made me realize that experiential marketing was not my thing. Another thing to help me narrow down a slowly shrinking list of overwhelming opportunities to choose from.

Hanna got me excited about strategy and systems thinking. Combining qualitative analytics, market research, and asking the big questions are things that I love. She also made the case for starting out on your own. This is something I want to try after I have a bit more experience under my belt.

As I mentioned before, George Brown came with its own embedded network. I was able to make valuable connections with my classmates and my professors. We were constantly being told that we should aim to impress each other, as we were each others’ competition as well as our professional network for the future. I am not someone who finds competition all that inspiring. Luckily, my classmates were truly supportive and collaborative. The current challenges we are all facing because of the pandemic and the subsequent quarantine and social distancing has only helped cement that fact. My classmates want me to succeed, and I want them to as well.

We were constantly being told that we should aim to impress each other, as we were each others’ competition as well as our professional network for the future.

One particular challenge that I am currently facing is the co-op credit. As part of our degree, each student must complete a 360 hour internship in a marketing role. This role can be paid or unpaid but must be completed in order to graduate with the degree. However, searching for a job came to a complete an utter standstill when we went into social quarantine. Employers reached out to me and cancelled interviews. Others said they could not hire anyone due to the uncertainty of the future. I have watched my bank account dwindle over the past year, despite my student loans and things were looking a bit desperate. Enter the Canadian Olympic Committee! Despite having to push the 2020 Summer Olympics back by a full year, the digital marketing team was still looking to hire an intern in their analytics department. The role was perfect. The team was amazing. I interviewed with them twice and could not be more excited. Then the emails from the co-op office started to roll in.

The role was perfect. The team was amazing. I interviewed with them twice and could not be more excited.

Unpaid internships were going to be completely cancelled due to a lack of workplace insurance and I was about to be screwed over. Unemployed yet again, staring down the barrel of an uncertain future as the economy continued to tank and the death rate rose. My phone rang and it was the CoC calling to offer me the job. They had not yet heard from the College regarding the new policy on unpaid internships. We had an honest conversation and I informed them about the emails that had been going around. They told me they would get back to me. As of now I am waiting, hoping that they will be able to find the budget to bring me on as a paid intern. Fingers, legs, eyes, hair – everything is crossed as I hope and wish and wait to see what happens.

Unemployed yet again, staring down the barrel of an uncertain future as the economy continued to tank and the death rate rose.

What I can say, is that all my networking, my self-exploration and my conversations about marketing have led to one thing. I know that I want a job in digital marketing. I want to be on the forefront of strategy and customer experience design in whatever role I take on. I want to work with a team in an environment that is collaborative rather than competitive. I am not a corporate kind of girl.

As I wait to hear the results of my near future, I will start to plan for the longer term. I was selected as a finalist for the NextGen Dinner Series put on by Boost Agents. This is direct reflection of the benefits of the Seminar Series class in which one of their employees pitched the program to us. I applied, interviewed twice, attended a professional development event at Second City where we were taught the improv power of “Yes, and” and learned how to apply it in a networking atmosphere. I will attend this dinner at the end of June and will be sitting next to the CEO of Publicis, which is one of the most prolific and well-known advertising agencies in the world. I would never have had the courage or the wherewithal to even apply if it weren’t for this program.

For all the readers out there, here are some other tips that I learned in this program that I will take with me as I move forward in my career:

Stay Connected

  • LinkedIn: Follow marketing groups such as Digital Marketing, Canadian Marketing Association and Harvard Business Review on LinkedIn

  • Connect with local and global thought leaders in the field of business and marketing, such as digital marketing expert Ann Handley, B2B marketer Jennifer Campbell, UX and creative expert at Netflix Rochelle King, and customer experience expert Blake Morgan.

  • Stay connected with my professors and ask them for recommendations and references

  • Meet regularly with classmates for advice and guidance as we progress through our careers

Sage Networking Advice

  • Send thank you gifts after an interview to make you stand out (send them a plant with a message that says “I want to help you grow”)

  • Refine your 7 second pitch so that you tell a story

  • Use your LinkedIn profile to engage with connections of connections. Craft your message so that you hook people in right away

  • Tell an employer what you will contribute to their company, not just why you want the role

Skills I was told to cultivate to be competitive in the current landscape

  • Analytics and reporting

  • SEO

  • Keep a record of your ROI on job roles so you can show off your contribution and skills down the road, list of activities you are asked to perform

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