When Marchelle Johnson, a native of Michigan, finished college and received her masters in human resources, most of her friends were getting jobs at the nation’s top automotive companies. When you’re from Michigan, that’s just what you do—cars are part of the state’s bloodstream, for better or worse.
But Marchelle wanted to break the mold and work in media. Below, she shares her best insights for landing a job in the industry you really want to work in.
Be Open to Learning
After graduating, Marchelle started working at Valassis, a media and marketing service provider that, at the time, was a Fortune 500 company. Aside from handling her everyday duties managing HR, she chose to take on additional tasks in order to learn more about the industry.
She went through a certification process to learn about the display advertising space and went on client pitches, where she learned that clients wanted to marry digital and print advertising together, which gave her a better understanding of direct sales.
Her work eventually took her to the Bay Area for one of the company’s acquisitions. She met her husband there and after a long year of commuting, she knew it was time to look for a new job.
She found an HR position at CBS Interactive right off the bat and thought it would be a perfect fit. But she didn’t think she was a lock for the position.
“They’re going to find someone from NBC or TNT, or ESPN or one of the big television media brands, and I’m just going to get edged out,” she thought at the time. But, “the senior VP said she appreciated that I had done so many different things at my last company. So while I didn’t have the exact learning curve of being in this media space, I had seen and touched components of it in my last job.”
Marchelle says that the best thing you can do for your career is to get comfortable with the idea of “stretch.” That means making yourself available for different jobs or tasks that might be outside of your general duties. And this isn’t just for folks looking for a media job—this is advice that can be utilized by anyone.
The lesson: Make sure you seek out as many learning opportunities as possible at every job—you never know where this will take you later on in your career.
Find Your Cheerleaders
While Marchelle recognizes the importance of finding mentors, she thinks it’s equally as important to find sponsors. “Over my career, I had people in senior leadership who taught me the ropes,” she says. “But I’ve also had sponsors at the company, which I think is even more important when you’re trying to elevate yourself throughout the organization.”
No, getting a sponsor doesn’t mean you roam the halls of the office looking like a Nascar driver. Sponsors are people you've worked with, typically high-up, who can advocate and vouch for your performance.
At her previous company, she had worked with their CEO and CMO, and they were the ones who were in the room sponsoring her and saying she was a perfect for a job or an assignment. “Those are people that you’ve worked with; they know your work performance,” she says.
“They know how you are as an individual and how you perform,” she adds. “They represent you in those scenarios when the opportunities are coming up. I love that, and I think that’s been one of the biggest things in my career that’s helped me. Again, it goes back to the relationships you have where someone feels like, ‘this person gets stuff done, they do a great job.’”
And when you’re waiting on that next promotion or opportunity, if you have sponsors, your name is on the shortlist.
Finding your dream job can be difficult, but if you have a proven track record of success while wearing different hats in the process, you can get a foot in the door.
Sometimes that’s all you need. Just ask Marchelle.