We always hear that mentors are integral to moving in a positive direction along a career path. There’s less chatter about HOW to meet a mentor. At April’s luncheon, IABC Atlanta’s members engaged in small group discussions with five of Atlanta’s leaders in business communications. Each walked us down their path to the corner office and shared advice about how we can do it too.
My table’s discussion began with Terry Cerisoles, SVP, Corporate Communications at American Cancer Society. Terry referenced IABC’s Global Standard of the Communication Profession to share her best advice for building a communications career. She emphasized the power of choice in a career – from choosing between being well-rounded or an expert in a specific area, to the type of environment in which you want to spend your time and the companies with which you work.
Choice also extends to our relationships with industry peers. Terry encouraged us to network widely, even in times when we don’t need its benefits. “Actively build your network – don’t wait until you need it. Support people in their job search mode, and it will come back to you later.”
Our next visitor was Todd Wandtke, VP of Customer Communications and Digital Marketing at UPS. Todd’s role at UPS covers a wide swath: marketing, communications, events, and more. He regularly thinks about what’s next for UPS: digital marketing, storytelling, newer technologies and platforms. Todd related this to committing time to think about what’s next in our career. “How do the changes in the market influence your craft? Find and grow your place within industry changes,” he said.
Todd shared four themes that he’s currently seeing in marketing. First, understand the power of storytelling. This is such a theme in marketing communications right now – because storytelling is interesting, and it works! Second, Todd touted the ability to understand and leverage analytics. UPS is investing in analytics as an integral part of determining where to invest and how well investments work: “We must answer the question of what a dollar of investment is worth.” Next, learn – keep on training, learning new things, growing your mind, every day! Finally, Todd told us to continue honing our basic skills: speaking well, writing to connect with others, and growing our emotional and interpersonal maturity.
We next spoke with Joanna Irwin, Global CMO at Randstad, a staffing and recruiting firm headquartered in Netherlands. Johanna recently joined Randstad as one of its first U.S.-based senior leaders. After she left her previous role, she chose (is there an echo in here?) to be very intentional with her next career step. A career coach, networking, and taking time to reflect enabled that decision. The information she gathered drove her job search and led her to Randstad.
As a recent executive-level job seeker, Johanna’s believes that the ability to connect personally with other company leaders is key to success. “At the executive level, everyone assumes that you have the skills. Making personal connections – building trust and understanding, and throwing in a little humor – are most important,” she said.
Our last table visitor was Shirley Powell, Senior VP, Communications at Cox Automotive. Prior to Cox, Shirley worked for many years in the television and entertainment industries. She shared a key insight on attempting to change industries as a job seeker: “If an interviewer challenges your lack of industry knowledge, ask what they’re really looking for,” she said. “Nine times out of ten, you can solve the problem without deep industry knowledge.”
Shirley echoed early mentors’ thoughts about the value of “basic” skills such as communications. She sees employee communication as one of companies’ biggest challenges right now. People who can devise ways to help employees assimilate information effectively will become more and more valuable.
The small group format of April’s luncheon allowed members to engage in real, unhurried conversation with potential mentors. We’d love to hear about connections you made at the event – comment below, or message me to share your story!