Career paths are seldom picture perfect, and there’s no single route to a given job. A career is a composition, a variety of experiences and steps taken in pursuit of success. But one thing you’ll find behind most stories of success is a combination of hard work, opportunity and the good sense to jump at opportunity when it arises.
On the evening of February 18, Marisa Randle, MBA ’11, spoke to the Graduate Marketing Association (GMARK) at UIC Liautaud about the pathways from the MBA to our career goals. Randle has served as a brand manager at The Kraft Heinz Company for the last few years, the kind of position coveted by a lot of marketing MBAs. While we all had some questions about the details of her work for Kraft, Randle wanted us to understand the path that got her there, so that we could better chart our own paths.
She started with a textbook brand management career, beginning with the marketing student, then internships, and then that first marketing job out of school, followed by the gradual and predictable rise through the marketing ranks until you reach a position like hers, that of a senior brand manager. While this step-by-step journey might happen for some people, she explained, for most of us, our paths are more unique.
Randle herself started out as a marketing manager for Walgreens, where she worked more on market research than brand management. She knew ahead of time that she didn’t want to settle into research for the long term, but she saw the opportunity as an open door into the field and a means for building both experience and a professional network.
She emphasized the importance of attending networking events - conferences, brunches, meetups hosted by the American Marketing Association. “Even if it costs you a little to attend these events, it’s a worthwhile investment,” she told us. “You must continue to market yourself. You have to stay fresh on people’s minds.”
Her own path forward came about through a personal connection. In the course of networking during her time at Walgreen’s, she made contacts at Kraft, through whom she kept abreast of the work going on there. But simply getting the inside scoop on job openings isn’t all there is to it. You must be prepared to compete for the job; your experience and how you market yourself are crucial.
“Be prepared with your transitional story and really believe in it,” she told us. Even if our education or work experience aren’t a perfect fit, we may still have a good case for our viability as a candidate, but it’s up to us to compose that picture from the stuff of our past experience.
Randle’s talk was followed by a Q&A, when all of us marketing MBAs got to dig for the details of her brand management work. She gave us a complex glimpse of the finely nuanced communications within the work - it’s clear to me that brand management is as much an art as a rational procedure.
In closing, she invited us to be in contact with her, a small networking opportunity for the GMARK members. She also gave us some resumé tips and some insight into the job market. For more on the job search process, read about last semester's GMARK Executive Chat with professional recruiter Ariel Pao.
To learn about upcoming GMARK events and other opportunities, follow GMARK on Facebook.