Yesterday I attended the Student Marketing Association’s Marketing in Focus (MIF). An annual summer event, MIF is a panel discussion that brings industry professionals on campus so they can share practical tips to marketing students. The main objective of the event is to give students a taste of what it’s like to be in the marketing industry.
This year’s panelists are:
- Joel Sloan, Director of Marketing Communications at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers
- Mark Smiciklas (Digital Strategist, MBA), Founder of Intersection Consulting
- Neil Malik from Wasserman + Partners
- Elisha McCallum, VP Corporate & Public Affairs at Edelman Vancouver
Unlike last year, MIF had a second panel featuring recent and soon-to-be grads:
- Emily Chen, part of the Digital/CRM Brand team at LifeScan, a Johnson & Johnson company
- Jacob Lau, Community Liaison at the Vancouver Film School
- Natalie Morin, Marketing & Development Coordinator for the Down Syndrome Research Foundation
As can be expected from these types of events, the panelists shared many tips for students. Here are some highlights.
1. Network, network, network!
Not really a big surprise here, but both panels really emphasized the importance of networking. And they’re not necessarily talking about going to formal networking events where you have to shake everyone’s hands and do awkward small talks.
Networking opportunities exist in your school, through trade organizations, and student clubs. Elisha encouraged everyone to go out and really get to know people. The marketing industry relies heavily on relationships, and networking is a great way to start and to build these relationships.
An audience member asked how to successfully network with marketing professionals, who students might feel are intimidating. Elisha answered this question by encouraging students to just be curious and to ask questions.
I think this is a good advice; I would probably just caution that asking too many questions might also bore the other person (if not worse). I’d qualify this advice and say that we should also look out for the body language to make sure that we’re not asking too many questions.
2. Walk the walk.
Everyone wants to go into Internet Marketing these days. Not really a surprise, I suppose — social media is the new shiny toy everyone is still obsessed about.
You need to walk the walk, though. You can’t really advice companies on how to use Twitter if you’ve never used Twitter. The panelists really drove home the point that you need to be able to market yourself if you are to convince companies that you can market their products and services as well.
This is definitely a great advice. It’s no secret that recruiters use Google now to check on potential employees, so I’m a big proponent of using social media to enhance one’s online reputation.
3. Develop a wide variety of skills.
Excel, Photoshop, InDesign…. These are just some of the software that the panelists mentioned. The marketing industry changes daily, so being flexible is key. Having a wide variety of experience will help you in your daily tasks.
To this end, Natalie said that working for non-profit might be a good career path to begin with. As they’re usually tight in resources, non-profit organizations provide opportunities for you to do different things. (She also noted though that working for a non-profit may not be for you if you want big bucks fast.)
Jacob’s advice is to take an analytics class. I took BUS 445 (Consumer Analytics) last semester, and I do think that it was a valuable course, so I definitely agree with this advice.
A few panelists mentioned that volunteering or doing an internship are great ways to gain valuable experience.
4. Go after your passion.
Emily told an interesting story: she was originally going to do a concentration in accounting but changed her mind halfway through her degree. Going after a marketing coop position, Emily did not tell her parents right away that she’s changing paths. She went with her gut, though, and now, she’s really doing well.
She said, “Life is always going to be competitive; you might as well do what you really enjoy”. A sage advice, I think.
Passion is one overused word, though, so you need to show that you have it when you go to interviews. Neil and Elisha both agreed that it is fairly obvious if a candidate is passionate about the industry. Mark suggested blogging to show your passion and expertise.
Last year’s event was a bit more formal where the speakers spoke one by one. I really liked this year’s Q&A format better. The discussions were more rich and dynamic.
Bringing in recent grads is also a wise idea. The challenge with hearing from industry pros is that they’ve been in the industry for a long time now that it’s sometimes difficult to relate to their current experiences. The alumni panel provided a great balance.
I’m not a fan of the venue this year. The WMX atrium really isn’t as great as the Halpern Centre at SFU. I thought that the hashtag (#marketinginfocus) was also a tad too long.
Overall though, MIF was a great success, and I really learned a lot from the event. Kudos to the organizing committee for another successful MIF.