Sunday, September 10, 2006

Creative? Outgoing? Have great communication skills? Marketing career could be just the ticket

By Liz Garone
Special to Sunday Jobs

With today's easy access to information, it might seem that companies and their products and services could simply sell themselves. But ask anyone in marketing, and they will tell you that is not the case. More than ever, companies need people who can get their information out in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. For that, they turn to marketing and public relations specialists.

"If you can multitask, be detail-oriented, strike up a conversation with anyone, work well with the public, and you are a creative thinker, marketing is the field for you," says Janice Curtin, a senior marketing manager for The Macerich Company. Curtin's responsibilities cover Modesto's Vintage Faire Mall and the Somersville Towne Center in Antioch.

Curtin has been in the field for 12 years. In her current position, she does a little bit of everything: advertising campaigns, public relations, merchant relations, sponsorship, mall events, community relations, gift card sales and research. "I love marketing, because it is constantly changing. The job is different every single day," she says. "It is also very creative. My company gives us the framework for various programs, but we are required to make them our own. Thinking outside the box is definitely encouraged to keep things fresh and exciting."

Shopping malls aren't the only places that need marketing and marketers. The Modesto Irrigation District (MID) has two public affairs specialists. Maree Hawkins has been in the governmental position for 26 years. "I really enjoy the variety of projects, plus being able to take a project from brainstorming to implementation," Hawkins says. "I particularly enjoy working with the media." Her duties include developing and implementing communication programs, media relations, writing bill inserts, educational campaigns on electric safety, canal safety and energy conservation, speaking to groups, documents reviewing, planning special events, coordinating with agencies who provide, video and radio production services, and helping train other staff on all aspects of public relations.

Just this year, Hawkins founded Central Valley Public Relations Organization (CVPRO), a professional association for people in the valley involved in public relations or communications. The group had been meeting informally for a number of years. It is open to both professionals and students exploring the communications field as a potential profession.

Catherine Larsen has been with Modesto's Doctors Medical Center for the last decade. She is the center's associate administrator for business development, marketing and public relations. Like Curtin and Hawkins, her duties are varied and run the gamut from new program development and market research to ?Website maintenance and patient satisfaction.

For Larsen, there is something particularly satisfying about choosing to market and promote the medical field. "What makes healthcare special is that miracles happen here in the hospital every day," she says. "To be able to communicate that message and offer hope to those with medical needs in our community is very rewarding."

Salaries for marketing positions vary greatly depending on the type of business and whether the position is entry level. For example, the median nationwide salary for a marketing manager is $88,500 while the median for a marketing coordinator is $41,700, according to, a marketing jobs and careers Website.

Curtin, Hawkins and Larsen have Bachelor degrees, a standard in the industry. But, the fields that future marketers choose for their degrees vary greatly. Curtin has her B.A. in Advertising, Hawkins has a Journalism degree, and Larsen has a degree in Organizational Communications.

In order to succeed in the field, marketers need customer service experience and exceptional communication and interpersonal skills, Larsen says. "The ideal candidate for this type of work must be personable, outgoing, friendly, courteous, extremely well-organized, flexible, responsible, detail oriented, customer-service oriented and have exceptional communication skills," she says. "One must be prepared to work varied hours, including evenings and weekends as needed, in order to meet customer needs."

College students should jumpstart their marketing careers while still in school, Hawkins says. "Get as much experience as you can while you're still in college," she recommends. "Then, move into a job that has you working under an expert, and learn from that expert. Scope out the industries you might want to specialize in and find out the specific jobs available and qualifications. Then, work towards that goal. It's too late to develop skills when they post a job."

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