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Inside Marketing Careers

What kind of jobs are out there in an uncertain economy for marketing grads? What do employers look for?

Marketing and advertising faculty went beyond the classroom and textbook to take juniors and seniors to the source. About 50 recently toured three companies, two of which are large and regularly recruit from UALR, on a “Magic Bus Tour.”

Thoma Thoma, a 10-person branding agency located in the River Market District, Principal Martin Thoma, a UALR alumnus, encouraged students to get internships. He likes to hire well-mentored grads and won’t even consider hiring someone unless they have a degree and have had two internships. A degree shows persistence, Thoma said. “You learn how to learn. In this business, you have to be eager to continually learn,” citing examples of social media.

He likes for interns at Thoma Thoma to do real work ─ “not make copies and coffee” ─ to include graphic design, public relations, and account services. Because of that real-world experience, his recent interns have gone on to get jobs at Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts, Walmart (work on branding), and other ad agencies.

Thoma looks to hire people with drive and capability. He hired someone because he was impressed by their blog. “It shows they are well rounded and well grounded.”

Thoma, who has written a book, “Branding Like the Big Boys,” explained his agency’s mantra, “Live Your Brand,” is to set the example for brand development clients that are primarily local and within the state such as PR clients  Metroplan and Philander Smith College. The recession has been tough for the industry. “When the economy is down, marketing is generally the first cut. It should be the last,” said Thoma. This was likely not news to the students who may be apprehensive about hitting the job market, but they heard the reality of how it affected this local business.

The next stop was around the corner at Acxiom, a nearly $1.2 billion, 41 year-old company headquartered in Little Rock that works with large business-to-consumer companies primarily in retail, automotive, and telecom industries — particularly Fortune 100 companies.

Allison Nicholas, shown on the far left, is a regular visitor to the College of Business recruiting and mentoring in the Professional Edge Series.

On the rooftop are basketball goals and tables for lunch. It overlooks a park with a walking trail that Acxiom owns. One perk is that employees get a good spot to view fireworks.

Balance is important to Acxiom, which provides a wellness center with fitness equipment and has a flex-work schedule. The company offers benefits by country, and they are divided by account teams ─ they live where clients are.

UALR alumna Charli Noble (shown below), who graduated from UALR in 2007, was hired straight from college. She started out in inside sales then went through a rotating sales training program to learn different areas of the organization and was promoted a few times up to her current sales position. Her hard work having worked her way through high school and college and through her entry-level career is paying off. Nicholas said Noble is a “high performer for us.”

She likely learned a few tips from Mark Fortune (below), vice president of sales support, who is a graduate of UALR’s executive MBA program and taught some marketing classes at UALR. Fortune talked to the students about how marketing has changed with opportunities to narrowcast. They target a lot of messages to specific audiences.

Fortune also enforced internships and said, “Acxiom wants to build from the ground up. We want you to know the business.” Shannon Freeman, who graduates from UALR in December, is interning there now and helped with the Acxiom tour.

At Hewlett-Packard (HP) in Conway, a building that opened in December 2009, was the final “Magic Bus Tour” stop. This HP location has the  largest sales force of any of its sites and also serves as a call center. The modern decor includes rooms and sections named after Arkansas cities, rivers, and other places. HP collectively employs 300,000; it was 170,000 before acquiring EDS.  Tour participants heard that the company is first or second in virtually every market, customer segment, and region.

Tristan Robinson (shown below), a 2009 UALR graduate with a B.B.A. degree in marketing and a minor in professional sales, was my tour guide. He is now an account manager and inside sales rep at HP, where he is responsible for managing customer relationships for public sector accounts to include meeting a $26 million quota semi-annually by selling servers, software, services, and networking. He provides support to all field representatives, which include account managers and converged infrastructure specialists, analyzing client business needs and requirements and developing high-end information technology solutions.

Paying his way through school, Tristan worked as a casualty claims representative for Shelter Insurance, as a store manager for Tuxedo Junction in Little Rock, and as a financial services representative at Alltel Communications ─ while being involved with a number of volunteer, church, and school activities.

Kevin Hemphill, a senior manager at HP, is shown below with other managers and said of Robinson, “tremendous young man ─ polished, well spoken, tons of initiative. Tristan has impressed me with his hard work and willingness to learn. Tristan is well thought out in his sales motion and is effective in driving solutions that serve the client ─ very sales oriented with a great balance of business acumen and common sense.

“Tristan faced a number of challenges in his early years. Both his parents passed, and Tristan was forced to step up and be big brother, as well as, a father figure to his sibling. Tristan has worked extremely hard not be a burden to family ─ always earning his own way, never bitter, never acting entitled,” Hemphill continued.

“Tristan volunteers in his church and community sharing his perspective on life, based on his experiences. Tristan is a new influencer!”

It was good to go see Robinson’s persistence paying off with a good job that he obviously enjoys talking about — and that he was recently married. He is one of 36 UALR alumni at HP in Conway who came with all kinds of degrees because they rely on in-depth training.

Other familiar faces I had seen around the business college included MBA grads Chris Moore and Drew Jensen (pictured below). Jessie Leopard (on the right) was a speech communication major and a Marine who served in Iraq. She is now working in inside sales at HP and was telling current students what a great place HP is to work and that they need to apply.

The question may not be just what are employers looking for. What does a student or graduate look for when job hunting? If you have to work, you might as well work where the returns are more than pay. Quality-of-life balance will factor in at some point. These students got an inside look into a small creative environment and other scenarios that may have cubicle space but offer more opportunities for promotion.

Take-away for new grads: Opportunities are out there but not for the underachiever.

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