What are we doing here?

As a college student majoring in marketing looking to embark on a career in that field, I knew remarkably little about what potential career options were available to me. My approach was to begin my career search with the list of companies that were coming to recruit on campus – eventually landing in a sales role with Cingular (soon to be rebranded as AT&T Mobility). This isn’t necessarily bad, after all my family and I had spent a large amount of money on my education, so it made sense take advantage of the career resources available to me, and get a job.
Fast forward to me as a first-year MBA at NYU. This was me hitting the reset button on my career. Taking on loads of debt to make the move from my sales role at AT&T to…something cool in a marketing related field. I hadn’t really defined what I wanted to do, but figured I was in the right place to figure it all out. Naturally, I got pulled into pursuing one of the three main tracks: consulting, banking or brand management. I was going to pursue brand management. I was excited about this career path, but ultimately the CPG firms looking to hire brand managers weren’t excited about me. Accenture eventually found me and I dove into consulting. I am very fortunate this happened, but as you can tell, I kind of lucked into the best move of my career.
What was I lacked at each of these steps was a general understanding of the potential career paths that matched my interests and skills. I was just taking swings at job openings.
I don’t regret any of my career moves, but I feel lucky to be where I am today considering that I never really had much of a vision for myself. I accepted my job with AT&T because they had a great training program, lasting six months. As a senior in college, I couldn’t even imagine being more than six months out of school. The real reason I pursued my MBA is that I had friends applying to business school and law school, and I wanted in on the excitement. I also fell in love with a romanticized version of NYU. By some miracle, it lived up to the hype. Finally, I joined Accenture assuming I’d be out of consulting within two years. The snag in that plan was that I enjoyed what I did at Accenture, which again is a lucky coincidence for me. So here I have I stayed, having enjoyed some successes, and most importantly, still excited by the work.
The reason I state all of this is I don’t think it was entirely my fault. What exists to help students (undergrad and graduate) can struggle to keep up with a rapidly changing marketplace. I recall hearing from a lot of successful people whose careers I would have loved to emulate, but they didn’t get their start in any of the avenues that were open to me. So I formulated a plan to join the burgeoning field of digital marketing. It really lacked specifics.
Now that I am in the position to have students reach out to me, I find that they are in a similar position. They want a career in digital marketing, but don’t elaborate much beyond that. This is too broad of a term for anyone to have a meaningful conversation about how to approach their first job after school. There are many different functions, career paths, areas of expertise, and revenue drivers that make up the world of Digital Marketing. I do my best to turn these into productive conversations with the students understanding what I do in consulting, mainly because I completely understand what it’s like to be in their shoes.
I believe there is value for students to break down digital marketing into its component parts, they can have conversations that go beyond role descriptions. I also believe that it is very beneficial to specialize to have a successful career in digital marketing, and understanding the specialties helps with career planning. I know, because I didn’t do this.
As I have made my way through the twists and turns of my career, I have always been envious of the people whose career moves seem logical, building upon each step as they rocket towards success. They specialized in something early in their career that either became their career or positioned them perfectly for their future.
We all know what happens to the best laid plans. But a comprehensive understanding of the various career paths in digital marketing can only benefit those that are just striking out. Best of luck.

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