How to Pursue a Career in Marketing
Diane Paoletta is the Director of Marketing for Friedman, a boutique accounting firm. She spoke to Vault's CSR Editor Aman Singh about her career path, and how she made the transition from being an accountant to specializing in marketing within the accounting industry.
Essential Skills for a Career in Marketing
"Today the technology piece is a must. People have to be familiar with basic software, the internet—and beyond that. The creative thinking now involves technology. You have to be able to utilize it."
"The whole idea of ROI is huge as well: It's one thing to say its marketing; it's not a science like accounting. With advertising, are people really reading your ad? Are they responding to it? You can't tell. But when you conduct marketing programs today, the marketer has got to start figuring out where the return comes from"
"And a lot of our work in marketing today is centered on understanding that ROI. It could be as simple as how many people came by our booth at a trade show, how many are potential prospects, and all the follow up: How many of those prospects did we call, did we possibly win a client?"
"So even though it may not be a direct sale, you've got to start to link those efforts to the business' bottom line."
"That's really where marketing has changed, aside from the technology piece of it."
"Marketing people have to learn accountability to figure out the return on what they do. And I'm glad that shift is happening. It makes us stronger as a profession; it boosts the discipline."
Job Search Tips: Getting Hired in Marketing
"First of all, I look for a basic understanding of business. For example, what is a P&L statement? If you don't know that because you were a PR or marketing major, you still need to go the extra mile and grasp that concept."
"I've seen people who can't do that come and go, and they don't do as well. We all need to be able to communicate with other people. For me that has meant constantly communicating with the partners."
"Second, experience in project management is a big essential because it not only teaches you money and time management but also how to do things in an efficient manner and manage your time to get the perfect end result."
"Third would be interpersonal skills: It's one thing to use technology to communicate, but we're a service organization, and those of us in marketing need to act like one internally."
"For all intensive purposes, I'm an internal consultant to my internal clients (my partners). Having the skills to talk to people who own the company, and advise them on how to grow their business is priceless. Even when they think they know that, you've got to be able to have that suave to explain why your suggestion may be better for them in the end."
Value of an MBA
"An MBA is very beneficial, although I don't always hire MBAs. But everybody has to have at least a college degree. I prefer a marketing degree or something related."
"Also, for certain positions—for example, a communications position—I would ideally want somebody who has great writing skills; not just an editor who knows grammatical writing, but [someone] who can add editorial value to the content."
Large vs. Boutique firms
"With a boutique firm, I feel a lot more empowered. I can get involved in a lot of different aspects."
"In a large organization, you're pretty much set in a revenue stream or one product line. So you're more limited. And of course, if you want to branch out, the opportunity may be there, but there's a lot more levels and people you've got to go through first."
"But there are the cons as well. For example, Chase had a significantly large marketing team. I had lots of peers to bounce ideas off of, and learn from."
"At a smaller firm, that’s missing. I have to look externally for peer review and knowledge sharing."
The Value of Mentorship in (and outside) the Workplace
"Mentoring programs are great; individuals need somebody they can go to."
"When things are going well, you're fine. Its times when things aren't going so well or when you need to make a change that it's great to have an internal mentor, who can steer you in the right direction."
"But I think finding a mentor outside your company is even more important because that person has no ties with the firm. Having no vested interests in the firm means you share a comfort level and can have an honest discussion."
"Not to say that having internal mentorships isn't a good thing; I think it is. We have a program here at Friedman, particularly for people coming right out of college. Within a short time, these new people are going and meeting with clients. So they've gone from college to meeting with clients in a business situation. That's a big jump."
"It's important that they have people high enough up the ladder to be able to talk to them and get some good, experienced feedback, but not so high that they're intimidated. So we have our first- and second-year people who come out of college meet with our seniors so they can help them understand how to work with a client, time management, etc."
"It's an imperative that they understand that because they're being charged out by the hour. In those terms, an internal mentor is absolutely vital."
Career Advice for Finance Students
"For someone wanting to work in finance, especially when the job market isn't that great, a marketing job can be very beneficial. Working in marketing from the product side can help you creatively use your financial background as well as figure out what you enjoy doing within the realm of finance."
"When I started working in banking, I was not a finance major. But my role in marketing involved working with a financially-oriented product. I had to understand the operations of that product; how it worked, how it would benefit the client, as well as how to make it competitive, so we could monetize it."
"Understanding how the product works from the nuts and bolts and how they can add value in terms of improving the product so it's financially more viable and beneficial to the client can be of immense help."