Several months ago I had the chance to sit down and chat with George Condit, who is interested in getting into the marketing and advertising business. He is currently an MBA student at Northwest Nazarene University, and I invited him to write a guest post for the Idaho Ad Agencies blog about his experience so far.
Here is his story:
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is George Condit, and for the past year I have been making an enormous change in my life. I started this journey with a grand vision, and since I began this new endeavor, I have found out some interesting information. What, you ask, is this huge change and new endeavor? Well, I shall tell you, but you will first need a little background.
I grew up in Upstate New York and Graduated from a small satellite campus of Syracuse University with a degree in Construction Management. Since that time I have tried many things, including a short stint with Sears in sales, a life insurance Agent at New York Life in Rhode Island, A camp Counselor in Maine, A Russian Linguist in The United States Army, mostly in Kansas, and finally a masonry contractor here in Boise. For the past eleven years I have designed and built things out of concrete, brick, stone, and tile. Some of them today are landmarks; those abstract sculptures at 906 Harrison, yep, those are mine.
Alas, I’ve aged (these old bones can’t take the abuse anymore), the market for craftsmen isn’t what it used to be, and I’ve been stung by the marketing bug. About a year ago, almost to the very day, I took the first steps to see this fever through. I registered at Northwest Nazarene University to get a Masters in business administration. I have nearly four months to go and now I’ve started exploring the various avenues and opportunities in the advertising and marketing industry.
The first thing I learned is that networking is key. It all started back in May, when I had the opportunity to make contact with Brian Harrison. I had been working on a fundraising plan for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games with the NNU. I met Brian as a result of a classmate’s connection through LinkedIn with, none other than, Josh Mercaldo. Perhaps some of you know him. He’s a great guy and I owe him a debt of gratitude. Anyway, he gave me Brian’s number and we met. Brian, another fantastic individual, gave me the next piece of advice that has really helped me focus my efforts. He said, “The most important part to any search for the right job is, ‘fit’. Where, and with whom will you best fit? is the question you need to answer.” And he was right. Finding that right fit has now become my mission.
After a school trip to South East Asia (which was excellent, by the way), I began poking around the industry, in earnest, gathering information as a precursor to entry. The main focus of this post is to let you know what I’ve found with the intent that my experiences may help others to join what, from my perspective, looks like a ton of fun.
Anyway Brian gave me the names of people he thought would help me on my journey; Russ Stoddard at Oliver Russell, and John Drake of Drake Cooper; class acts, both. Both were extremely helpful in my search, each offering a different take on my situation and the information that would be most helpful.
While every person’s life and circumstances are different, there are a few nuggets of wisdom that are general enough to be helpful to everyone; either starting out, or making a change.
First: have your resume professionally produced by someone with design experience. I haven’t actually been applying for any particular position yet, because I’m not quite finished with school, but when you present that resume just to help whoever you’re talking to get a better idea of who you are and what your experience is, you want it looking sharp; especially to those creative artsy types.
Second: ask lots of questions. Make a list before you get there so you are prepared and don’t take up a bunch of time with the person who is across the table. School has helped me with this because there are so many parts to business. But remember, the journey is evolving and how you use the last bit of information to get the next bit of information is important as well, so for each appointment you make, customize the questions.
Third: Listen to everything they have to say intently. Statements that don’t seem relevant at the time may be insightful hints that will guide you later on. Not only that, but the people you get in front of have a ton of experience and can guide you to the right spot.
Fourth: Get referrals and follow up with a “thank you”. Everyone knows at least one other person that may be able to help you figure out where you’re going and how to get there. Being grateful for the help is just the polite thing to do anyway. This is part of the networking mentioned earlier.
Fifth: The advertising/marketing business covers a broad spectrum of categories and divisions, and an agency is just one place to try to fit in. I had the opportunity to meet Lisa Wilson over at Zeta Interactive and she gave me some info that really expanded the territory. Large corporations, like ConAgra, Simplot, HP, and many others around the planet have their own marketing departments. I know that sounds obvious enough, but sometimes it takes someone saying it to make the light click on. Anyway, what was interesting about what she told me is that one has a better chance to get exposed to many if not all the various forms of media the industry uses.
My journey has shown me these few glittering jewels of guidance, and so far I think I should be somewhere between the client and the agency. Who knows? I’ve got a few more months left of school, about thirty people to see, and the road ahead is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. It’s like a good book; I can’t wait to see how it turns out.