Hear more from Varun Chandrasekar, Senior Manager, Customer Growth at Scotiabank.
Growing up, I was always a fan of good storytelling. Creating campaigns that resonated emotionally with whomever they touched appealed to me. Working on the agency and client side of the business, you learn a lot about different industries, categories, and audiences. I’ve developed marketing campaigns for clients in various sectors, from banking, confectionary and computers to professional sports teams and cars. More importantly, I’ve worked with talented people who are incredibly creative and passionate about their work. What fascinates me most about marketing is how a marketer transforms abstract, complex concepts and breathes new life into them through words, experiences, and stories that influence and inspire others. In my opinion, there’s nothing more powerful than new ideas, and there’s a marketer behind each one.
My journey of getting (back) into a marketing career stems from my story as an immigrant. I moved from India to Canada in 2016 to pursue my MBA from the Rotman School of Management. As an international student, one of the biggest challenges I faced was hearing that I lacked Canadian experience. I had to figure out how to demonstrate that my education, experience, and skills were transferable to marketing roles in Canada. To accomplish this, I stayed up to date on the latest marketing trends and campaigns by subscribing to publications like Strategy. I participated in every marketing case competition in business school to gain real-world experience by developing marketing strategies for Canadian consumers. There was also a summer internship with Ford Motor Company’s marketing team which helped me understand Canadian workplace norms, culture, and ways of working.
My professional development, leadership skills, and ability to drive impact and influence were magnified when I was elected President of the Rotman Marketing Association. Next, I redesigned my resume to be more visually appealing and created a professional portfolio highlighting my extra-curricular projects. Finally, I took advantage of my ability to network and used it to land my first marketing job in Canada.
Canadians have access to a network composed of their parents, neighbours, classmates, and friends without even realizing it. On the other hand, immigrants need to build a network from scratch on their own. This lack of support from family, friends, colleagues and neighbours is even more prevalent in the hidden job market. Searching for a job can seem endless and demotivating, so the best thing you can do is to cultivate relationships you can leverage into opportunities in the future. I landed interviews by networking which eventually led to that very elusive first Canadian marketing job. Along the way, I made some lifelong friends, mentors, sponsors, and acquaintances. In that regard, networking has and continues to be the gateway to my professional development.
Below are five core values students pursuing a career in marketing should develop:
As marketers, we often juggle resources, budgets, teams, silos, and high expectations of delivering a positive return on investment (ROI). The modern marketer must get creative with what is at their disposal. They need to learn to produce in a constantly evolving environment, adapt to change and uncertainty, and work with a purpose. Today’s marketer must be able to do more with less.
Breaking into marketing when you are lacking work experience is all about building trust. Volunteering is a great way to build trust and credibility while expanding your network.
Being able to ask for and act on feedback from others while striving to improve are valuable leadership qualities in any career.
An essential factor in effective marketing is how well you know your consumer, as this curiosity can reveal untapped insights about them. It can spark creativity, help ideate new solutions, and meet the ever-changing needs of the target audience. You can set yourself up for success in your marketing career by engagingly communicating exciting ideas.
For the longest time, I let people fill my head with the narrative that I needed to be ‘more Canadian’ to get into marketing. Over time, I’ve learned to appreciate how my unique experiences benefit the teams I’m part of and the consumers we’re trying to reach.
Canada is poised to welcome 1.5 million immigrants in the next three years. By 2041, immigrants could make up as much as 34% of our population, yet, it is common to see skilled newcomers and International students struggle to land jobs. The lack of representation in marketing is quite revealing for a profession that prides itself on the ability to reflect our evolving society. It can be an alienating experience for students and graduates trying to enter the field, especially for those from marginalized communities or new to the country.
I hope we can make the profession more accessible by lowering ladders to make jobs easier for the next generation of marketers to reach, regardless of their background.