Be confident. Prepare for your interviews. Learn to sell yourself.

The solid advice on how to break into marketing flowed through the evening at the Get Hired event, held by the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Marketing Association at WQED on Nov. 8. The panel of marketing experts included a wide range of backgrounds and experience levels.

Bethany Tillilie, Senior Strategist for Deeplocal, was candid when asked for advice meant for the audience of college students and young professionals. “It’s okay to start out at a low paying job,” she said. “It’s okay to take a job for experience.” Nick Pitrone, Lead Guide at Bonobos Guideshop, mentioned how everyone should “take advantage of every opportunity.” Leah Moore, Pipitone Group’s Director of Digital Marketing, reflected on her internships and how they taught her what she didn’t want to do in her career. But she learned so much, and worked to take the skills she learned and adapt them for her current career. “Always look for that connection,” she said.

“Be completely immersed [in your work] – give 100%” recommended Dee Schlotter, Senior Color Marketing Manager at PPG Industries Inc. Mark Peake, Director Client Development at Centro, was equally candid. “Do whatever you need to do to get your first job,” he said. “You have to have communication skills – be confident. Set yourself apart by being professional, and come with questions.”

Mark talked about what he looks for in applicants. “We’re looking for that one nugget that sets someone apart,” he said. Dee mentioned the “curiosity quotient,” and said she can tell when someone is engaged and curious. Leah mentioned that she hears others regret that they didn’t learn about HTML and programming – which is another way of setting yourself apart from the other applicants.

When the moderator asked about networking, Bethany was frank. “I hated networking in school and avoided it,” she said. But she also admitted that her first position was gained via a contact. Mark brought everyone into the moment and said, “Talk to us [the panelists], take our cards!” ”Don’t be afraid to talk to anybody,” he said. “Everyone’s been in your shoes…Everyone likes to help someone.”

Mentoring was a hot topic during the event. Mark was frank – “No one’s going to reach out and say, I want to mentor you…It just kind of happens organically.” He also mentioned that “you have to be the aggressor” in this situation. Leah recalled that her best mentor was her high school accounting teacher. “Remember – some of the best mentors aren’t in marketing,” she said. “Ask yourself, How can this person help me be the best me I can be?”

When asked about a turning point in their careers, Bethany mentioned learning how to say no to jobs that weren’t right for her. “Know your worth and negotiate for it,” she said. Dee mentioned being given the opportunity to work on a customer newsletter. It wasn’t part of her day to day work, but “taking on the extra work was worth it.” She mentioned looking for opportunities to do extra work that could lead to something bigger someday.

Because the marketing landscape shifts so frequently, the moderator asked the panelists how they stay current in their roles. Nick brought up taking classes online, such as those in web analytics. Bethany reads newsletters and takes time to keep up with what’s happening in the industry. Leah mentioned reading blogs and Twitter feeds. Dee was focused on her customer. “It’s easy to read, but to me, there’s nothing like sitting with a customer,” she said. “You have to know your customer.”

Defining success was also a topic of conversation. Mark mentioned work/life balance as his definition of success. Dee said that “giving 100% is success.” Leah and Bethany both mentioned finding challenging jobs – “something that keeps you on your toes,” Bethany said.

Katie Krissinger of Pipitone Group was in the audience at the event. “[The panel had] a good spread of people – a recent graduate, someone on the corporation side, someone on the agency side, both older and younger perspectives,” she said. She said that she appreciated the honesty of the panelists.

“I took a lot of useful information away from the event,” said Paige Wolbert, Digital Marketing Specialist at J. Marcus Wholesalers. “I really enjoyed listening to the different perspectives of the panel.” Elizabeth Stoner, Associate, New Media and Graphic Design at Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy, was also thrilled at the diversity of the panelists. Referring to the advice given on moving out of one’s comfort zone in terms of networking and selling oneself, she said, “We should all jump into what we’re uncomfortable doing.”

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