Yes, working in A/E marketing can be a challenging career. So, why do I recommend that recent graduates with marketing, public relations, or journalism degrees pursue this line of work?
Well, the more I think about it the more thankful I am that I landed in this industry.
In my mind, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Let me give you some examples:
The A/E Marketing Career Flies Under The Radar
Nobody goes to school with the express purpose of getting a marketing job at an architecture, engineering, or construction firm.
In contrast, my wife has a degree in pharmaceutical marketing. She went to college to work in the pharmaceutical market.
Construction is one of the biggest industries in the world. Yet, the profession of marketing in the industry flies under the radar.
Therefore, when the economy is good, it’s a job you can get. At this moment in time, the number of open positions for marketing coordinators in our industry is staggering.
When I graduated college, I struggled to find a job. And us “old timers” forget that, for many people right out of college, finding a legitimate marketing job can be extremely difficult.
Heck, finding a full-time job with vacation and health benefits can seem like a pipe dream to recent grads. And when you don’t know exactly what you want to do, the opportunities found at job fairs can be off-putting.
Starting out as a marketing coordinator, assistant, or a temp at an architecture, engineering, or construction firm beats the pants off many of the other “marketing” jobs available to recent college grads.
You Get To Do
Most industries are made up of large companies. Large companies often outsource the real work.
For example, if you worked in marketing for the Coca-Cola Company or Disney, your job would consist of managing outside consultants. As an entry-level marketer, you’d probably be assisting the person managing the consultants.
Or, you’d work at the agency. If you work hard, after a few years, maybe you’d meet a client or have some creative input.
Because most firms in our industry are small or mid-sized businesses, your input is almost immediate.
One of my very first days at an engineering firm was spent in a strategy meeting with principals from the largest architecture firm in the country. That immediate immersion is rare in other industries.
If there is a PowerPoint to create, poster to design, or event to set up…you’ll be doing that.
You’ll be doing. The thing about doing is the more you do…the better you get. I believe our industry rivals any other when it comes to the opportunity to grow your marketing skill set.
This is especially true for entry-level marketers. If you take it upon yourself to learn new skills, after a few years in A/E marketing you’ll be very well rounded.
You Learn To Meet Deadlines
Think about it. In what other marketing job will missing a deadline cause the people you work with to lose their jobs?
That’s a tremendous amount of pressure to be under right out of college.
But you, like thousands of others before you, will rise to the occasion. Why? Because you have no choice.
It will get to the point where you’ll have little sympathy for anyone missing deadlines. Not delivering by the deadline will just seem inexcusable to you.
Honestly, that’s going to cause you some frustration when dealing with others. But at the end of the day, you’ll have a much better sense of what can truly be achieved in 24 or 48 hours. Other industries don’t always force you to think like that.
You Can Find Yourself
In A/E marketing, you typically start out doing just about everything or by focusing almost exclusively on proposals.
Almost everyone I know, including me, started like that.
But where you go from there is ultimately in your hands. I’ve known so many people who have branched off into business development, became a marketing director, got a communications position at a mid or large sized firm, went on to manage large proposal teams, or even started their own communications firm.
Frankly, I can think of very few A/E marketers whose career hasn’t evolved in some significant way over the years.
What I’m saying is a marketing position in the A/E industry brings with it enormous growth opportunities.
It’s OK To Be You
I don’t even want to mention this. But I feel I must.
Whether you are an introvert, omnivert, or extrovert, there is a role in our industry in which you can excel.
Don’t believe the nonsense about needing “the right personality.” The right personality is whatever personality you have now.
I can tell you about the introvert who leads the communications efforts for a very large firm. I can tell you about the introvert that went on to bring in millions for his firm.
I can tell you about the omnivert with a phobia of public speaking and how working in this industry helped her overcome it.
I can tell you about a very weird and “unlikeable” guy who could succeed because he was judged by his results.
I can even tell you about extroverts who have been very successful swimming in a sea of introverted engineers.
No matter where your personality lands, there is a place for you in our profession.
I’m a big believer in adopting the right mindset. Doing so will help you succeed. But you don’t have to change who you are to succeed in our industry.
You’ll Get A Second Chance
Just imagine you worked at the Coca-Cola Company and it just didn’t work out for you. Maybe you just don’t hit it out of the park in that first job.
There are two things that could happen. Worst case scenario is they keep you. And your fate aligns with the guy in “Office Space,” stuck in the closet with no chance of growth.
Another scenario is you’re let go. There’s not a thousand other soft drink companies, or even three, headquartered in your local area. Your career in the soft drink market would likely be over.
There are more opportunities for second chances in the A/E industry. Staff whom I’ve “parted ways with” have gone on to be very successful at different A/E firms.
Looking back on it now, I can’t categorize my first position at an A/E firm as a success. But that experience had a lot to do with my later success.
I learned from my mistakes. And I brought what I was taught there to my new job. It was an invaluable experience.
It might be difficult at first. In fact, you may fail miserably. But it’s very likely that our industry will give you another chance to succeed.
The Bottom Line
Whatever industry you work in, there will be things to complain about. You’ll come across frustrating people. Your ideas will be shot down. You won’t always feel appreciated. These challenges are not exclusive to the A/E/C industry.
But I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find an industry where the potential to learn and grow is as great.
– Matt Handal
Trauner Consulting Services, Inc.
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