Reflections of An Accidental Marketer

I am a Board Trustee for the nonprofit organization Marketing EDGE. Their mission is to Educate, Develop, Grow and Employ college students in the field of marketing. Recently, I attended a Career Forum with over 400 college students who wanted to network with academics and professionals in the marketing industry. As I looked around the room at what will become the next generation of our industry leaders, I realized that my career origin was nothing like theirs. I wanted to be a Doctor and knew that from an early age. I had a clear cut career path or so I thought. Even if I wanted to take a marketing class in college, I could not. There were none.

Out of nowhere, and not part of my life plan, I met “The One.” I fell deeply in love. He had graduated college and was pursuing his own career in journalism in New York City. I had many years left to pursue my dream of becoming a neurologist, but that thought flew literally out of my own head when I realized I could not leave him to go back to school. All I wanted at that time was to spend my life with the person who became everything to me. Medical school could wait. Five years later, my plans for medical school and love life were the same- a total zero. I had to start from the beginning and reset my life. I didn’t have a clue how to begin.

There were no industry blogs to read, career forums to attend, linked in connections, or marketing and economics courses for me to pursue. There was no internet or online courses. I had no mentor and no one to turn to for guidance. I was not prepared for an internship in any industry. There were no Woman Networking groups to join. My friends were all married and raising a family, not working as executives in an office.

My prior positions were all administrative with a dead end to nowhere. I was able to type, speed read, and make a perfectly brewed cup of coffee while dissecting a frog. What I did know is that I had to find out who I was capable of becoming in the business world. I knew I was incapable of living in someone else’s shadow. I had already failed miserably at that.

At the Career Forum, a recent college graduate asked me how I become successful in the marketing field. He was eager for me to give him any advice or lessons learned from my long tenure in the business. His questions made me reflect and remember the lost scared young girl whose can do attitude propelled her into the direct marketing field by chance. With no formal training, career seminars, industry trade publications, I got lucky. The Career God shined down on me the day I walked in to the DMA offices to meet Robert Delay, CEO of the Direct Mail Marketing Association. Bob hired me on the spot and became my mentor. This amazing man put me on a career path in insurance and financial services that I never knew existed.

As I thought about how to answer the eager college graduate that was standing before me, the following advice came to mind:

  • Be your own personal brand
  • You are the CEO of You
  • Get out of your comfort zone and take risks
  • No task (except for making coffee) is too big or too small
  • Be creative and innovative
  • Speak up – silence is not golden when climbing up the ladder of success

If I had the same tools, marketing courses, social media, college alumni, and Marketing EDGE to guide me back then, I wonder where my career path would have taken me. I suspect I would have gone from an Accidental Marketer to a deliberate one.