Meet Alene van der Hoop: Networking Storyteller

I got started in marketing because someone took a chance on me! Given both my undergraduate and master’s degrees were in disciplines outside of business and marketing, I didn’t really have a leg up on other candidates in this field. Understanding my disadvantage on paper, I was determined get in front of as many people as possible and tell my personal story firsthand and highlight all of the transferrable skills I had acquired that would help me succeed in sponsorship and marketing.  This was when the importance of brand and storytelling was really cemented for me, because at that point in my life, my story was all I had to persuade people that I was a competitive candidate given in most cases I didn’t meet (or even come close to!) the required experience, education or skillset for the jobs I was most interested in.

Every job I have had to date was based on knowing the right person as the right time. Even though we have entered a digital age with extraordinary technological advancements, the power of a face-to-face relationship and establishing human connection will never be devalued or obsolete! Storytelling is also a timeless art, and if you can figure out how to engage your audience and tell a compelling story, you already have a competitive advantage over a lot of people!

The biggest challenge I had when I was entering the workforce was that I had very little relatable experience, so I felt like I was playing ‘catch up’ for a while. That said, the easiest way to learn is by diving head-first into the work with no regrets. I said ‘YES!’ to everything that came my way, listened to lot and tried to soak in as much as possible. I quickly learned that with the right ‘can do’ attitude, honest and transparent conversations, not being afraid to fail, and trusting my instincts, I could learn the hard skills of marketing relatively quickly.

What I love most about marketing is that regardless of where you are positioned (client-side, agency or property), no two days are ever the same. It is a fast-paced industry and the game is always changing. To be successful you need to constantly be expecting the unexpected, be on your toes and stay hungry. Proactively understanding market trends, consumer perceptions/sentiment and seeking out advancing technologies that will push boundaries and disrupt the status quo are what gets me out of bed in the morning. As a brand marketer, I am driven to make mass Canadians feel something in a marketplace that is more cluttered than ever before. If that isn’t the ultimate motivation, I don’t know what is!

The core values that I believe are most important for marketers to possess would be to be self-motivated, curious, agile and not to take yourself too seriously. Marketing is a fast-paced environment and has a very collaborative yet competitive culture. The industry is relatively small so be sure to always put your best foot forward, learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to try new things/ test &learn. Lastly strong communication skills, thoughtful recommendations, remaining objective and passion will get you far!

Technological advancements will continue to play a massive role in marketing in things such as segmentation targeting, leveraging digital tools from companies like Google and Facebook, and fundamentally the way in which we communicate to consumers will change. Also, technology will have a dramatic influence on experiential marketing (AR and VR are just the beginning!). I’m buckling up and excited to see what comes next!

The advice I would give to students who are interested in becoming marketers would be to say ‘YES!’ to as much as you can and be a sponge. Create your own unique personal brand that you are proud of and own it! Look for ways to measure your impact and define KPIs no matter how big or small the project.  Work hard, push the boundaries and don’t be afraid of proposing new, out-of-the-box, unexpected and disruptive ideas. Set professional goals and chase them. Things won’t always go your way, so learn to take it in stride, remain objective and keep progressing. Marketing is a lot of fun- enjoy the ride!

Success for a newbie would be to learn something new at least once a week. Our industry is constantly changing so proactively future proof yourself and stay on top of market trends and geo-political issues that may influence your work sphere, grow your skillset and track technological advancements. Success is leaving work knowing you made positive impact through your work output as well as how you worked to achieve it. Success is setting clear objectives and relevant KPIs and meeting/exceeding those.

NEVER DISOUNT THE POWER OF YOUR NETWORK. I’ve received every job I’ve ever had through people I know and having them believe in me. Networking should not stop when you have a job but rather be an always-on part of your professional and personal development. No one can predict the future, but the power of human connection and relationships will never go away!

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