1. Name: Sara Hall Master
2. Current job: Senior Account Manager, MarketSense, Burr Ridge, Ill. – My role is to create and guide the execution of marketing strategy for our business-to-business accounts.
Previous jobs: Account Manager, Abstrakt Marketing Group – My role was focused on marketing consultant for business to consumer companies; Director of Marketing, The Merchandise Mart – My role was to create, promote and support a bi-yearly business to consumer event; Marketing Manager, The Merchandise Mart – My role was to promote a luxury mall to consumers and justify the marketing spend to the tenants of the building; Marketing Coordinator, The Merchandise Mart – My role was to coordinate a large scale tradeshow and promote it to businesses; Leasing and Marketing Associate, Three Oaks Group – My role was to market and lease apartments owned by Three Oaks Group.
3. Last school attended; major: Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University where I received an MBA in Marketing Management.
4. Did you need to have an internship to help get your jobs? While I did not need an internship to be hired for my most recent jobs, looking back at my career, I think that I would have progressed more quickly on the track I wanted if I had had an internship while an undergrad. Specifically, an internship at a top marketing agency would have helped me when I started out in my career. For others I would suggest taking an internship at a well-known agency to help set your résumé apart from other applicants when you enter the job market.
5. Did you contact prospective employers cold? What percentage of your search was conducted online? What were your best and worst interviews? During my most recent job search, I found the best approach to be through networking and LinkedIn. If you don’t already have a profile on LinkedIn or if it isn’t complete, get going: prospective employers and recruiters will want to see your profile.
The first thing I did when I started looking for a job, after I updated my LinkedIn profile, was to tell people I was looking. Because I knew that anyone I spoke with could be a potential connection, I mentioned my job search quite often and—because people love to help—I found that actually asking for their help proved successful.
After that, 80% of my search was online. I searched jobs on LinkedIn, Monster and industry sites and created a job alert on indeed.com. When I found something to apply for, I applied immediately to get ahead of the huge pool of applicants. Then I searched my LinkedIn contacts to see if I had a connection at that company. If so, I contacted them to ask about the company culture and hiring process and to see if they could fast track my résumé to HR or the hiring manager.
If I didn’t have a connection and I felt like I was a sure fit for the position, I reached out to the hiring manager on LinkedIn.
As far as interviews go, my best interview was for my current position. I felt like I connected with my interviewers, was confident in my answers and spoke from a place of knowledge. My worst interview was years ago for a big marketing agency downtown. I wanted the job so badly and was so nervous that it was a total flop. In fact, I was so nervous that I put off my company research—when it came time to ask questions in the interview, I couldn’t ask anything relevant to the company’s current accounts or strategies. Don’t make that mistake! Take a deep breath before you start talking and come prepared.
6. What is the biggest obstacle you deal with now? School debt; life-work balance; job satisfaction; lack of promotion opportunities; time management? Currently my biggest obstacle is student loan debt. Thanks to scholarships, I graduated from undergrad with comparatively little debt, but I financed graduate school entirely with loans predicated on the promise of a much higher-paying job following graduation. Unfortunately, I graduated in a saturated field just when the economy hit bottom and was unable to find that higher-paying job.
While the MBA next to my name has helped me get into interviews, it hasn’t helped me procure the serious jump in income I was expecting and I find paying off student loans is taking the place of saving to buy a home. My advice is to not assume grad school will automatically lead to your dream job. Before deciding whether or not to go, make a plan for paying off student loans, which can reach $1,000+ dollars a month for 30 years.
7. Who would be your ideal mentor? How have you sought a mentor and how has that person played a role in your career? Throughout my career it’s been important to me to have both male and female mentors in my industry and also in other industries. Having a variety of mentors offers me multiple perspectives.
8. How and where do you network with others in your field? Networking is critical, not just for your job search but also for increasing your knowledge repertoire. When I was in grad school, I networked at school events such as Graduate Women in Business seminars and MBA Club events. I also joined industry associations such as the CIMA (Chicago Interactive Marketing Association) and the Business Marketing Association. These groups hold social events great for networking as well as seminars that offer industry knowledge and give you an edge in the office—you never know when an hour seminar you attended will give you the base knowledge to take on an extra project at work and impress your boss.
The best way I’ve found to create a strong network is to go beyond joining a group and attending meetings and to get actively involved. Join a committee with the aim of becoming chair. Take on planning for an annual event or fundraiser. Bring ideas to the table at board meetings. This will give you connections with the leaders of the industry group, who are the cream of the crop as far as networking—and also usually good mentors.
For networking outside of your industry, join a self-improvement group like Toast Masters or Dale Carnegie or focus on a charity with which you feel connected. I was a member of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Junior Board for a number of years and cherish the friends, as well as the business connections, I made there.
9. What conferences or networking events do you attend? What would your ideal conference address? Currently I attend conferences and events focused on social media and B2B marketing. I’d love to attend a weekend conference focused on marketing with breakout sessions on work-life balance, specifically from the point of view of a woman. When I first graduated from college I found work-life balance to be easy because I had a simple life: it was just me, I didn’t own a home and I had no real obligations other than work and maybe a networking event here and there. As I’ve gotten older I find the demands of my personal life have grown in tandem with the demands of my career. Balancing those becomes more difficult every year.
10. What helpful advice can you give to someone who wants to follow in your field? Are there specific classes that should be taken in high school or college? What internships should be applied for? Someone wishing to work in the marketing field should start by becoming familiar with the industry. Check out industry magazines and blogs such as mashable.com, adage.com, marketingprofs.com, and marketo.com. Ask yourself if you enjoy reading the articles, and if you find the information exciting. If you do, keep doing research; if not, possibly this is not the career for you.
If you’re in high school, network with your parents’ friends and find someone who works in the field that can let you job shadow them for a day. If you’re in college, make sure you do at least one summer internship. In additional to this, many companies look for fall/winter interns who can come in one day a week and that is another option to supplement your experience. Check with your college recruiting office for opportunities or on the websites of companies where you’d like to intern. Overall, the more time you spend at a real company the easier it will be for you to get a job after college. One word of caution: Unless you are looking for a sales career stay away from sales-dressed-as-marketing internships like “Brand Ambassador.” Promoting products on the street may sound fun, but this type of grass-roots salesmanship is not really marketing.
When considering which courses to take in college, there will undoubtedly be guidelines provided by your school. Within that be sure to select courses focused on marketing ROI: the return on marketing dollars invested. Being able to effectively calculate and understand ROI will benefit you throughout your career and separate you from the conception of the “breezy headed” marketer helping you to move your career forward.