Sarah Brown, Marketing Communications Manager
2002 DePaul English Alum
Meet Sarah Brown—we put the same set of interview questions to this 2002 Alumnus and found that she is a firsthand example of hard work and diligence yielding their dividends in the long run.
Side Note: Were you as confused as I was by her title, Manager of Marketing Communications? (I’m never quite sure what they do) If so, read ahead for a little illumination from Sarah herself and discover how she got from Point A to B.
Underground (U1): What year did you complete your English major at DePaul? Did you have a concentration, or did you double major or minor in another area?
Sarah Brown (SB): 2002; I also have a major in American Studies and completed the coursework for a minor in Creative Writing.
U-2: Did you pursue any graduate or professional studies after you graduated?
SB: Yes, I now have a Master’s of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications
U-3: What is your current position? Describe a typical day at work.
SB: I am the manager of marketing communications for a Chicago-based, global information security company. A typical day involves writing marketing collateral, newsletters, e-mails and Web copy; editing white papers and other documents; managing a variety of projects across my team and the company; and building awareness of Trustwave through brand management activities and social media.
U-4: Okay, long question…how did you find your first job after graduation and your current position? Please be specific about what steps you took to explore possibilities and to secure a position.
SB: After a couple years of selling fitness shoes and serving tables at a local pub, I landed my first full-time job at Combined Insurance Company of America. I found the job through online search engines; however, at the time I also used an agency to help me find interviews.
Data entry at an insurance company was not for me, though. After deciding I really wanted to edit, I narrowed my focus to editorial assistant jobs. Somewhat by chance, I found the Association Forum of Chicago (the “association” of associations) and a new world of employment: many non-profits and associations have in-house publishing and editing departments and individuals, as many produce material for their membership. Through the Association Forum, I interviewed for two jobs and received offers for both, finally accepting an editorial assistantship at the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM). While at SCCM, I was able to edit books and conference booklets, and even had the opportunity to conduct some design/layout work.
SCCM moved its offices from Des Plaines to Mt. Prospect, and I decided it would require too much commuting (two trains and two buses) to continue on with them. I went back to the Association Forum job board and found my next job, as a project manager at Health Forum, the for-profit publishing arm of the American Hospital Association (AHA). While at Health Forum, I managed a survey that measured technology use in hospitals and worked with chief information officers (CIOs) and other executives across the country. Additionally, I wrote articles for the monthly magazines produced by Health Forum, including Hospitals & Health Networks, Most Wired Magazine and Materials Management in Health Care.
Unfortunately, in May 2009, the AHA had to lay off employees, myself included. At this point in my career, I was halfway through a marketing graduate degree program. Instead of looking to stay in an editorial or project management role, I compiled those skills and my coursework into a new resume and started to look for marketing communications jobs. From May to July, I sent out more than 150 resumes, using a variety of websites and search engines to find jobs. Many times, instead of sending my application through a job site, I would go to the hiring company’s website and complete their application or use their e-mail address to submit. And, if I could find it, I would use the name of the HR representative or the hiring manager to personalize my letters.
Compared to my contemporaries, I found a job very quickly and was working full time by mid-July 2009. I attribute part of my success to a friend who works for my current company (Trustwave). He spoke with the hiring managers on my behalf, promoting me and my skills. I believe this, and my varied experience, made me stand out from the crowd of candidates.
U-5: WOW! How important has networking been in your employment searches? How did you find or build contacts in your desired field?
SB: Many people I network with are from the schools I attended, DePaul and Northwestern. I also maintain relationships with former co-workers (many of whom are now my friends), whether they are in my field or not. You never know when their knowledge may come in handy for you or someone you know. Linked In has definitely improved my ability to keep in touch with colleagues and have an organized those contacts. Additionally, I now find networking connections through shared interest groups on LinkedIn.
U-6: How does your English major help you in your current position?
SB: Beyond writing and editing, the critical thinking skills I obtained through my English degree are invaluable. It’s because of my degree that I’m able to understand the needs of others and communicate effectively with my colleagues on a daily basis. I, like many, rely heavily on e-mail, and crafting a good e-mail can save time and reduce the number of meetings I have to attend.
U-7: What advice would you give current English majors about their studies or extracurricular activities while they are still at DePaul?
SB: Think ahead to what type of career would make you happy, and then find the classes or activities that will serve as supplements to that career. If you are interested in a career that involves writing, such as at a magazine or for online publications or newsletters, start submitting ideas and articles today to build up a portfolio. If you are interested in working with people, find an activity where you volunteer, or where you create or manage something with peers (this could be an improv group, a community choir, street cleanup in your district, etc.). First and foremost, find something you like to do—don’t just pick something because it will help you professionally. We all pick up skills or improve skills in nearly everything we do, so everything can be a benefit to your career.
For example, I belong to a euchre league. While card playing might not directly relate to career development, it does build skills that I use every day, such as networking and active listening. And, you never know who you’ll meet. I played in a league with a woman who was promoted and, coincidentally, I ended up with her old job. Over cards, I was able to glean additional information about that job that I wouldn’t have gotten on my own.
U-8: What advice would you give to graduating students as they move into the job market?
SB: Be open to different opportunities. If you focus too much on this job, or that title, you may miss out on a role that is perfect for you, or that will lead you to a better career path and professional life.
U-9: Is there any additional advice or information you would like to pass on to our majors?
SB: Start looking earlier than you think you need to look. In fact, start identifying where your interests lie in your junior year. That way, if you find a profession that wasn’t on your radar previously, you still have time to try out an internship or build a portfolio.
I didn’t start looking until the second half of my senior year, mostly because I was interested in graduate school. Unfortunately, I was not accepted to any programs. I had to scramble to find a job, any job. While I learned quite a bit from my service jobs and met great people, I still regret not being better prepared.
Written by: The Underground, 2011