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A letter to the (potentially) aspiring marketer…

Risham Najeeb, BBA 2018

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I’d like to preface this article by stating that what I say about marketing is not meant to be taken as the be-all-end-all of what marketing can offer you. This article is more so written in an effort to share my personal story regarding what drove me to pursue marketing as a career. For those that want to learn more about marketing, hopefully, sharing this story will help shed some light on why marketing could be the right career for you too.

What is Marketing?

I want to begin by defining what exactly marketing means to me. Over the last 2 and half years at Schulich I’ve spent a lot of time having conversations with people in the industry in a variety of different roles. Thus, my definition of marketing was less so developed through what I found in textbooks and more so developed through these conversations. Within all of these conversations, there are two profound definitions of marketing which I remember the most.

Firstly, I now understand that marketing is about asking, why? Why do people behave the way do? What triggers someone to pick one product or service over another? Why do some brands garner more loyalty than others?  Understanding the answers to these questions in relation to the products and services we consume every day is fascinating to me.

Secondly, truly powerful marketing is analogous to putting together a well-orchestrated and seamless “performance” for the consumer. From the minute a consumer starts thinking about a need they have, to the moment they’ve made a purchase of a product to serve this need, marketing is all about catering to this consumer experience. Companies that have understood how to maximize the value for the consumer while simultaneously maximizing value for their business do better. Figuring out how to perfectly tie together this entire experience from start to finish is both an art and science. It is this challenge which initially drew me to finding out more about a career in marketing.

How I got into Marketing 

  • Case competitions, case competitions, and more case competitions. Truly and honestly the way I found my way into the marketing world was through participating in a series of case competitions of all types. That’s not to say that case competitions are the single and only route that you have to take if you are considering a career in marketing. However, I will explain why I personally found doing case competitions so incredibly useful.

Every marketing case competition exposed me to another facet of marketing.

I had the unique opportunity to develop strategies to market everything from cheese to a leading phone software. Having this type of exposure helped me narrow down the type of industry I would want to pursue a marketing career in.

Case competitions forced me to become an expert in a new subject matter within a short period of time.

Case competitions equipped me with the ability to look at a variety of different types of products, understand their consumer base, and then understand how marketing could play a role in generating more profit for the company that produced it. Having this ability will help me when I perform the exact same exercise in an actual job.

Case competitions often involved solving REAL marketing issues faced by REAL companies.

To me, there was no better way to learn about marketing than to directly indulge myself in trying to solve the very issues that I would encounter in an actual marketing role.

  • Talking to alumni

In addition to participating in case competitions I also spoke to several alumni from Schulich. I reached out to alumni that are now working in marketing roles at different companies to get a better understanding of what their actual day-to-day job entails. While case competitions provided a holistic overview of what types of issues a marketer encounters, speaking to alumni helped to provide a more practical view of how I would be contributing to resolving these issues when I first start off in my career.

Why Marketing?

Participating in case competitions, speaking to alumni, and speaking to professionals from different backgrounds in marketing essentially helped me boil down the reasons I ultimately decided with certainty that I wanted to pursue marketing as a career:

  • Marketing is the marriage between data analysis & storytelling and strategy & creativity.

Before I truly explored the field, I believed that marketing was only for creative people that had ingenious ideas all the time. However, I quickly learned that marketing also involves gathering large amounts of qualitative and quantitative information, pulling that one golden beacon of information which helps develop a unique consumer insight, and ultimately using this insight to tell a compelling story about how to solve a problem being encountered by an organization. Which leads me to my second point:

  • Marketing forces me to solve problems which pushes my mental boundaries

When you’re a marketer you’re not necessarily going to find yourself working for Apple developing the marketing strategy for the new iPhone 7. Essentially what that means is that marketing and selling all of the different products that we use every day is not always simple or easy. Yet there are 100s of companies out there which are NOT the Apple’s and Google’s of the world but are still successful. How are they doing that? It is partially a marketer’s job to answer that question, and to me, finding this answer can be thrilling.

  • Marketing helps me keep my finger on the pulse of consumer shifts and market trends and forces me to learn how to catalyze these to create opportunities for businesses

You can be marketing the most simplistic product or service but the one thing you can’t forget is your target consumer. The people that any company is selling to are just like any one of us, human beings whose thoughts, needs, behaviours, and opinions change all the time. Similarly, new technologies and trends disrupt and change the market, all the time. It is a marketer’s job to understand how the market environment changes, how it affects their consumers, and how their business should deal with it. I find this dynamism and change exciting to be a part of.

  • Pursuing marketing opens up a diversity of options and career pathways for me

Advertising. Brand Management. Communications. Product Marketing. Social Media Marketing. Digital Marketing. These are just some of the many different areas that you can enter as a marketer. What all of these possibilities indicate to me is that I can choose to try something completely new or change my career pathway if I decide to. It is this same number of possibilities which first made me feel overwhelmed, but now makes me feel excited to discover where my career pathway might take me.

Next Steps

With all of that said and so much to think about, for those who are interested in pursuing a career in marketing but don’t know where to start, some actionable next steps you can take are as follows:

  • Participate in a marketing case competition (or any case competition for that matter)

Just try it. You won’t regret it.

  • Talk to some alumni and upper year students

Alumni and upper year students are an AMAZING resource to help you gain perspective on future career options. Whether that’s marketing or something completely different, reach out to a Schulich alumni or an upper year you know and ask them your questions.

  • LinkedIn is your best friend

Find someone who has the dream career/job that you think you want and trace back their steps. Do this with multiple people and you will be able to see the different pathways you might be able to take to get to your end goal. If you’re feeling a little bold and are really curious to learn more about what they do, send them a message and ask to meet up for coffee. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll say they are busy. The best that can happen? You might discover your true calling.

If you are an aspiring marketer (or will soon become one), the last thoughts I’ll leave you with are as follows:

Think strategically, think creatively, and be ready to tell your story (: 

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