March 06, 2023 6 min read

Click here to register for the CMA NXT Marketing Career Night on March 29, 2023, and hear from Canadian marketing professionals like Jonelle Ricketts, Senior Manager, Marketing Campaigns at Sephora.

Everything Changed

I remember being captivated by Angela Bower on “Who’s The Boss” as a kid. She was a single mom and a top executive at an advertising agency. I became fascinated by advertising and marketing because I had never seen a woman and mother portrayed in such a powerful position on TV. That’s when I knew I wanted a career in marketing. In 1998, I attended Wilfrid Laurier University in the Bachelor of Business Administration program while minoring in psychology. Initially, I felt more energized by my psychology classes than the business ones. Everything changed in fourth year when I focused more on the marketing courses, which quickly reignited my passion. After a year working in HR at BlackBerry, I noticed a job posting for a junior role on the marketing team. I wasn’t sure if I could apply because of my limited experience, however, fortunately, they saw my potential and transferrable skills, and gave me a chance. I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity because it helped me break into the profession. 

Essential Core Values

Collaboration – I’ve learned over the years that with so many different opinions, it can be challenging to unite everyone to pursue a common goal. It takes a village to launch marketing initiatives, and to succeed you must learn to collaborate with other departments, external agencies, and partners.

Sense of curiosity – A marketer needs to be curious. One of the most important questions you should ask is why or why not? Learn to ask the tough questions, understand consumers’ wants and needs and figure out how to reach and satisfy them. 

    Willingness to learn – Since marketing constantly changes, it’s vital to stay current with the culture, media consumption, channels/platforms, consumer behaviour, and everything marketing related. I realized early on in my career that most of my learning came from the leaders I worked with, on-the-job training, and real-world experience. 
      Resilience – You must be resilient because marketing is not for the faint of heart. There will be differences of opinion, budget cuts, complex projects, and leaders who don’t appreciate the value marketing brings. It’s important to remain resilient, because even in the most challenging situations, there’s a valuable lesson that will prepare you for what comes next.
        The Next Generation

        As a woman of colour, I rarely saw people who looked like me and often wondered if it would be possible to build a sustainable career in marketing. I was hired for my first marketing role by a woman of colour in the tech world, who gave me hope that I too could break barriers in this business. My managers' success made me realize I would someday provide guidance, mentorship and opportunities for the next generation of marketers.

        Ricketts Family

        Barriers To Progress

        Hiring managers tend to interview people with a certain experience level. However, they need to recognize how transferrable skills could help applicants grow. This practice usually disqualifies young aspiring marketing professionals because experience is what they need. It can also be challenging early in your career if you haven’t developed your network. In my experience, the saying “It’s not what you know but who you know” is true. Many jobs never get posted; if they do, the hiring manager may fill these positions with people from their extended network.

        Learning Never Stops
        Build a foundation on education – It’s essential to develop critical thinking and continue learning and growing. For marketers, your degree is only the beginning. Learning never stops. One thing I’ve noticed is that real learning happens on the job. I’ve learned so much from peers and leaders, and I cherish those experiences because they’ve made me a better marketer. The marketing world is constantly changing, so make it a habit to stay up to date with what’s happening in the profession by attending webinars, and conferences, subscribing to newsletters and listening to podcasts.
          Learn from others – I have learned that no matter the issue, someone else has been there. Connecting with more experienced marketers allows you to develop a rapport and learn from their experiences and hindsight.

            Volunteer – Since getting relevant marketing experience can be challenging, I encourage young marketers to explore volunteer work. Volunteering allows you to gain real-world marketing experience, looks great on your resume and allows you to give back to your community.

            Trends to Keep Your Eye On
            Influencer marketing - Influencer marketing isn't going anywhere. It used to be an experimental line in a blocking chart but has evolved to become a relevant tactic and fundamental element of the marketing plan for many organizations. Influencer marketing can be highly successful, but it also comes with risks. Research is required to ensure it's the right approach for your brand and objectives.
              Social responsibility - You’re missing the mark if you only mention social responsibility in annual reports and website pages with low traffic. You need to implement social responsibility initiatives and discuss them because consumers are determined to buy products and services from companies doing their part to make the world a better place.

                Experiential marketing is back - The world has changed so much over the last few years. The pandemic put live events and experiential marketing on hold. As a result, people are starving for live events, reconnecting with peers, and building new connections away from home. The revitalization of experiential marketing is an excellent opportunity for brands to rekindle real-life relationships with consumers!

                  Leaving My Comfort Zone

                  I’ve worked on many challenging and rewarding projects. However, I’m most proud of the one that allowed me to find an interior design talent pool to work on photo and TV shoots. Instead of the traditional recruitment process, we developed a reality TV show pitting contestants against each other in various design challenges. I was nervous because I was the lead and had never worked on a TV show. I partnered with our media agency, a national media network and many internal stakeholders. Together, we developed a 6-episode reality show that aired on national TV. The initiative was a success because we found our new interior designer, increased our brand awareness and became one of the top interior design shows at the time! This experience forced me out of my comfort zone and prepared me for many other challenges.

                  JR compilation

                  A Chance Encounter

                  I always dreamed of living overseas because it would be an incredible opportunity to experience a new culture and learn about marketing in another part of the world. A chance encounter at a global meeting in Copenhagen led to a conversation over dinner, an interview, and a job offer a few weeks after returning to Canada. I accepted a role at a head office in the Netherlands, and we moved with our young kids. I also explored two global positions that allowed me to connect with marketing and communication professionals from over 50 countries. I developed friendships and worked on incredible initiatives that I would never have been exposed to if I wasn’t willing to try something new. While moving to a new country and learning a new language wasn’t easy, working in the Netherlands, and travelling throughout Europe, was an experience I never would’ve thought possible with my kids.

                  Last Words 

                  Here are some last words of encouragement for the next generation of marketers:

                  Don’t be afraid to take up space – Your voice is valuable even if you don’t have as much experience as others in the room. It’s something I still struggle with myself. You can offer a different perspective and ask impactful questions. Organizations often get stuck following old, outdated practices, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it!
                    Network, network, network – For introverts like me, the word is scary. Being connected in the industry and finding ways to learn from peers and experienced leaders is essential to your success and professional development. You never know what opportunities your connections could lead to.

                      Be kind – As a marketer, you must collaborate with external agencies, suppliers, internal stakeholders, and others. People are much more willing to collaborate and help when you’re kind to them. The profession is much smaller than you think and the young intern on your team may be your boss one day. They will remember how you treated them.

                      Jonelle's Final Quote


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