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How to move up in Marcomm

Networking, education, and versatility are keys to advancement

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June 20, 2008

Emerson College senior Amanda Mooney has already moved up the corporate ladder, even though she's never applied for a job. After graduation, the 22-year-old integrated marketing communications major will be kicking off her career as an account manager with Edelman Digital in New York City.

"I never actually applied for the position," says Mooney, president of the school's Public Relations Student Society of America, who got her big break by networking with company officials through a series of online blogs and postings that eventually led to a fateful encounter with the firm's president.

In the highly competitive marketing communications field, networking is always important but it takes more than just social skills to move up the corporate ladder.

Good writing, speaking, and research skills are essential for any marketing communications position, as is understanding a client's needs, notes Janice Barrett, chair of the Communications Department at Lasell College in Newton.

"For someone to be successful in the field, the person has to understand how to communicate with a wide variety of stakeholders in an organization and be able to provide feedback from those stakeholders to enhance the organization's goals and values," she says. Also, she adds, professional training or graduate degrees, even for those already in the field, can help sharpen skills and accentuate strengths.

"You have to stand out from other applicants and that means you need an edge," says, Robert Wolk, a professor of marketing at Bridgewater State College, whose students use corporate internships and conferences to meet and interact with hiring executives. The school also encourages students to publish their marketing research in academic journals and participate in national organizations with on-campus chapters, such as the American Marketing Association, as a way to stand out in the crowd, he says.

Thomas Fauls, associate professor of advertising at Boston University, agrees. "A lot of employers don't even require that you have deep knowledge of their particular area," he says. "All are looking for someone who has a decent beginning knowledge but more importantly, someone who has an interest, passion, and willingness to do the job."

"In job hunting, you have to be a little aggressive, so those who attend career fairs, get their name out, and do a lot of interviewing often do well," Wolk adds. "It's important to make as many contacts and bring as many things to the table as you can."

Doug Quintal, undergraduate program director for the Department of Marketing Communication at Emerson College, says a firm understanding of digital media and social networking platforms are also important for success in the highly competitive marketing communications field.

"You need to understand when non-traditional comes into play instead of traditional approaches," he notes, adding that successful marketing communications professionals have a well-rounded knowledge of advertising, public relations, communications, and digital media. "It's a matter of wearing a lot of hats at the same time, so you can look at the big picture and see how things fall in place."

Professionals already in the field can advance by staying current with emerging media trends through graduate degree programs that allow them to hone skills and better understand marketing communications strategy, he adds.

"Those who stay on top of things and are well versed in it are the ones who are going to excel," Quintal notes.

Laura Thomas, a 22-year-old Lasell senior, found that there's more to establishing a successful career than just training, however. It also takes determination and perseverance. Thomas says she networked extensively and participated in the school's intern program to land her dream job.

"Be assertive but not aggressive," she says. "Go after what you want."

Thomas' approach paid off. This summer, she will begin working as an on-air reporter and part-time anchor at a Maine television station.

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