By Bryan Jensen, PMP, master’s candidate of Corporate Communication
IE stood out from US schools with its family-like feel from the time when I first wrote while investigating Masters and MBA programs. During the research process I wrote to several alums (thanks LinkedIn!) outside my area of focus and experienced the same eager-to-help spirit. My educational background is advertising creative, yet working client-side led to leading the enjoyable team process of taking products to market via product and project management. Yet because of working for a majority of that time at an SME entertainment group, including projects with companies like Sony, there were shortcomings with integrating product development, marketing, promotion and organizational matters.
When I considered pursuing a Masters as part of a career refresh, IE spoke to me in context of how could they support me in the growth I desired for myself—which is improvement in integration of marketing and communications. They didn’t just try to sell me on being a student. It was that package of human touch and content focus that helped my decision for entering the first intake of the Executive Masters in Corporate Communication—and as of writing this I’m halfway through. A blended program has delivered more flexibility while still making lasting relationships with my teammates. It has also been enriching that via this format IE draws from various great schools and companies—which underscores what I think is the most valuable: relationships. My study has transcended classroom walls (perhaps also because of the online nature of a Blended format) as I’ve deepened my familiarity with economic inequality and its market impacts (thanks to Mark Esposito, Harvard), and expanded my own writing about the socio-economic impact of “crowdsourcing” ethics in a post-postmodern era (thanks to Yulia Shymko, Vlerick).
Through continuing relationships IE is helping me be a better global citizen, not merely a marcomm professional. A natural challenge to Blended format is the difficulty to network and grab a beer with colleagues. Extending my stay when Face-to-Face periods are scheduled has helped. On this trip I arranged to arrive a couple of weeks early so that I could participate in the annual Career Fair. I hope to share some insights about this experience that may even help junior professionals — the students most often attending the event.
- Don’t look for a job—seek relationships. Even as an Executive program participant, I want my studies to lead to career advancement. While I had prepared in advance for speaking with CPG companies more likely to be compatible with my background, I didn’t find my “mojo” until the event’s second day.
- First, a number of companies have booths staffed with HR pros who won’t take your CV and only direct you to their website. So asking, “What kind of __(fill in the blank)__ professionals are you looking for?” is less productive for fitting with whom you are speaking.
- Second, focusing this way —at least for me— put me in a “I need” mindset, which felt like it sucked the life from enjoying the fair and making human connections.
- Third, it is common for participants to queue up to speak with company reps. Some of this is unavoidable, but breaking out of the lines and “flowing” helped with my energy. It is also hard to avoid unplugging from smart devices while queuing—I fight the zombie lure as much as anyone—but it helps to keep in the mindset of giving if you chat with the person next to you in a line.
- Speak from your passion. Starting fresh from the second day I approached people with an enthusiastic, “My passion is the process of leading FMCGs to market. I came to IE to improve how I integrate this with data, strategy, and stakeholder communication. Are you the kind of organization that values this?” The mood was different. (Maybe mostly within myself.) All of a sudden conversations were about the possibility of shared vision. And if there was none, it’s okay. When company representatives came prepared to have detailed business conversations, like Garcia Carrion wines, the chemistry was totally different. Now there was a frame of action and vision surrounding the research I had done. Even when a company had staffed with the “send your CV to this website” folks, there was still organizational culture, vision and satisfaction to fuel a conversation. More than not, there was also interest to talk about the details of my CV.
- An attitude of giving. Even as each student has career desires, we are also ambassadors. I found it good mojo even when I walked by a company booth for whom there wouldn’t be a mutual fit to give them a warm handshake and say, “Hi! I’m Bryan. How is the event going for you?” I met a first-time event participant (ThyssenKrupp Elevators) and thanked them for being there. Even companies in sectors in which I am not interested, like banking and tobacco, for example, still provided conversations about what I’ve learned from my colleagues who do work in those sectors, and/or projects we’ve had. I told them I appreciate a little more high regulation sectors like that and thanked them being there to meet IE students. An attitude of gratitude and giving a little something made the event much more enjoyable—and who knows, maybe will also lead to something more.