School of Business

VCU Blogs

By: Megan Nash

In October 2023, the marketing, advertising and public relations (PR) industry saw 150,000 new jobs, as reported by MarketingHire. While this was lower than the 2022 monthly average, 2024 has shown significant growth. With 2,000 new jobs added in January alone, over 50% of employers plan to hire for new roles in the first half of 2024 – and the trend is expected to continue. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, advertising, promotions and marketing managers are projected to grow by 6% from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

As the industry shows promising growth, it’s no surprise that professionals and students alike eagerly gathered at the Careers in Marketing & Sales symposium at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Business on March 22.

Sixty students and 20 VCU alumni panelists attended the event, including local employers CoStar GroupHardywood Park Craft BreweryThe Martin Agency and Good Run Research & Recreation.

The symposium provided students a chance to speak with industry representatives and discover different career options in marketing and sales. Students posed candid questions about the industry, panelist backstories and the day-to-day realities of working in marketing and sales.

Discussions were led by VCU Business faculty and covered: advertising and public relations, brand and product management, digital and content marketing, market research and analytics, services marketing and strategic selling and business development.

Julia Wingfield, associate director of employer relations for Business Career Services at VCU Business, said she and her team were excited to have a strong employer presence on campus, “Research shows that personal interactions are critical to pairing students and potential employers,” said Wingfield. “Our students are ready for the challenges of today’s workforce.”

While panelists shared personal stories, experiences and answered burning questions from curious students, the event highlighted four pillars of advice that consciously guide attendees in navigating their careers in marketing and sales effectively.

1. Career paths are never as straightforward as we believe

Many people think the secret to success is to follow a carefully planned linear path toward your ultimate career goal. But in reality, you don’t need to have it all figured out. The truth is there is no one path.

“You may not start out at your dream job,” said Edgar Hernandez, management trainee at Enterprise Mobilityand panel member of the services marketing session. “Be willing and comfortable in starting out with something you may not want to do but that could turn into something.”

Several panelists shared this perspective, having followed their own twisting paths, offering them career-defining experiences they wouldn’t have found if they followed a linear route.

“I dropped out of VCU three or four times before finally finishing. Being unique is part of your story,” said Josh David, director of marketing and product for RIAB North America, who spoke on the panel for brand and product management.

As the day progressed, many discovered the best way forward is to leave room for the unexpected and learn to be comfortable with uncertainty.

2. Stay curious, ask questions

Life-long learning is all about leveraging the many opportunities for continual growth and learning. With a growth mindset, every experience (including the disappointments, setbacks and failures) can serve as an opportunity to learn and develop personal and professional capabilities.

Christina Dick, owner at Tiramisu for Breakfast and panelist in the digital and content marketing session, said, “You can see what’s out there, what’s happening in the culture and incorporate it into your brand strategy.”

Olivia McGrath, senior account executive at The Martin Agency, also talked about this during the advertising and public relations session, saying it’s crucial to really understand cultural contexts to connect with your audience. In doing so, be willing to dig a little deeper.

3. Take advantage of resources

Student resources are designed to provide support and improve students’ college experience. Staying updated with the latest trends and continuously developing skills is not just a choice but a necessity – especially in a shifting industry like marketing, advertising and PR. However, the cost of formal education and training programs can sometimes be a barrier. Fortunately, VCU Business students (yes, you!) have free resources available to build skills and knowledge.

Tommy Hongcharti, mid-market sales associate at CoStar Group, talked about the resources available to students on the strategic selling and business development panel, saying, “You have access to LinkedIn Learning, Google classes, even Adobe. These are free resources that are a great way to access knowledge.”

Jaqee Cooke, financial coach at Heart and Soul of Money and co-panelist with Hongcharti, also shared some advice, encouraging students to not be afraid to try new things and volunteer for opportunities. She said, “Have a sense of fearlessness, put your hand up and say ‘yes’ to everything, you may not realize the skills you’re demonstrating that others will notice.”

4. A handshake goes a long way

Although networking is a tool that will assist future leaders with their job searches, networking provides more benefits than solely obtaining job leads. Networking is an effective learning tool, which provides a way to gather information, obtain advice and support, share information and generate ideas.

Pauline Jankowski, senior marketing manager at Quest Diagnostics, talked about how simple gestures can open doors for you, “You never know how far a handshake or a ‘hello’ will take you,” said Jankowski. “Take advantage of the internal networking resources and competencies while you’re here [at VCU].”

On sales impact, Alissa Howard, senior account executive at Snagajob and panelist for the strategic selling and business development session, said, “In-person is always going to be the best option.” 

Cooke also stressed the value of networking within your organization, “Take the time to get to know the people in your organization, ask how you can support them.”

As the symposium ended, attendees gathered for a networking lunch where students had the chance to further speak with panelists and reflect on insights gained throughout the day. Among them, Mayuri Samala ‘25, a junior studying Marketing with a concentration in Product and Brand Management at VCU Business, shared her thoughts on the event: 

“Attending the symposium was encouraging. The panelists’ stories showed me that the marketing track isn’t linear – it’s a windy road. I learned the importance of uniqueness and how marketing is about understanding people and a simple handshake can lead to big opportunities.”To learn more about VCU Business’ Career Services or to get involved in future events, visit their website or follow on LinkedIn.

Categories News
Tagged ,