September 25, 2007

You'll Never Get A Job

On Friday, I'm speaking at the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation symposium at Villanova University. I'll talk about the importance of building marketing accountability into the marketing curriculum, especially as it relates to Multichannel Forensics.

For me, this speaking opportunity represents a unique turn of events.

Back in 1988, I was a Senior at the University of Wisconsin, completing a Bachelors Degree in Statistics. As I entered my final semester, I was required to meet with an adviser, a professor who would give career and educational advice.

We spoke for a few minutes. The adviser asked "What are your plans after you graduate?" I proudly exclaimed that "I wanted to get a full-time job where I can use my degree."

This individual replied ... "You'll never get a job."

Who knows how much my face contorted after hearing those words?

My adviser suggested that it was next to impossible to get a job with a BS in Stats --- he advised that I buckle down, spend two more years earning an MS in Stats, and then hit the work force armed with the proper educational background necessary to provide value to corporate America.

Eight weeks after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, armed with a useless BS in Statistics, I began my career at the Garst Seed Company as a Statistical Analyst.

Since that first day of work, I joined ranks with the rest of you ... all of us are in this together, all of us are told of our failures, our weaknesses, by (hopefully) well-meaning leaders.

In 1992, the CEO at Lands' End suggested I couldn't manage people because I didn't have a Masters Degree.

1n 1998, a finance director at Eddie Bauer suggested I couldn't implement a new catalog strategy because I didn't have the perspective (i.e. experience) to understand key business issues.

In 2002, the President of Nordstrom Direct told me I didn't know anything about catalog circulation.

In 2005, the President of Nordstrom told me I wasn't qualified to run a direct-to-consumer division because I didn't have merchandising experience.

In 2007, an EVP at Nordstrom told me I wasn't qualified to do the type of customer research necessary to provide actionable merchandising insights.

Had I listened to these leaders, I wouldn't be sharing information with educators and students this Friday. Heck, I'd never have secured a job if I listened to my college adviser.

Every one of you has to deal with somebody who wants to tell you the things you cannot do, somebody who wants to share all of your weaknesses with you.

Don't listen to these people.

If you are a catalog marketer, don't listen to the twenty-nine year-old online marketing whiz who thinks paper-based advertising should be mothballed.

If you are an e-mail marketer, don't listen to the Chief Marketing Officer blather about the fact that she never opens e-mail marketing campaigns from other retailers because e-mail marketing is 'irrelevant' in her mind.

If you are an online or search marketer, don't listen to crusty leaders who marginalize your highly relevant and specialized experience because they perceive you are, overall, inexperienced.

If you are a web analytics professional, don't get discouraged by folks who discount your work because it only focuses on one channel.

If you are a social media expert in your company, don't listen to a generation of leaders who don't know the difference between an RSS feed and chicken feed, folks who demean you because of their ignorance.

I can assure you that my message to the good folks at Villanova University will be filled with optimism, a message very different than one I heard from an adviser who suggested nineteen years ago that I'd never get a job.


  1. Excellent post! Believe in your dreams (even if they relate to work!), but even more importantly, believe in yourself!

    Nearly 25 years ago, I had to chose between going for the high pay COBOL on mainframe in a bank or going for a small research group working on Unix/C... Nobody understood why I chose the later... which turned out to be the early door access to the Internet!


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