Connections with the Community: Marketing Career Tips from Manager, Owner, and Coach Alexa O’Rourke

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Alexa’s Journey After Graduation

After graduation, I was set on moving into Manhattan and having a very city lifestyle. I didn’t imagine myself moving back into my mom’s house in Connecticut. I was just like a lot of other students trying to figure out what the next path was for me. I knew that I had to pursue something related to PR, Communications or Marketing. There was a job posted for a marketing assistant at the Westchester Mall in White Plains, New York. After interviewing there, I pretty much knew that I had got the job. I started off my career at the Westchester Shopping Center with very high end retailers such ad Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton and Tesla. I was in a different world and immersed myself into learning marketing, event planning and utilizing social platforms in order to show what was happening inside the center. That was the ultimate progression. I was eventually promoted, and the company was transitioned over. I now work for Washington Prime Group, which owns about 100 shopping centers across the country. The whole mindset of Washington Prime Group is that we are immersed in a part of the community, we want you to feel like you are walking into your second home when you open our doors. It’s because we’re not in those giant markets where you may never recognize the same customer again. We want to know people on a first name basis and cater to them. So I am as well, along with a whole team of people in my company, rethinking what retail means. This includes bringing it back to the community and the essence of gathering of people, which is natural for humankind.

What Does a Retail Marketer Do?

  It’s no secret that over the last couple of months and years, there’ve been a lot of news articles about Amazon and how they’re taking over the world. That online shopping and brick and mortar is a thing of the past. And yeah we all shop on Amazon. It’s really quite convenient. However, we’re physical beings, and we need to be together. We need to be connected. A retail marketer’s goal is to drive foot traffic to their center by connecting the community. It sounds like marketing when we phrase it that way, but it’s done with the intention of uplifting a community. Our phones are great and they allow us to accomplish a lot, but at the same time, we’re still going to need to go out to a local coffee shop and sit down and feel the chair. And how much different is dress shopping when you can’t actually try it on?. We need to get together physically. That’s what we do. We use technology to remind people that they’re still human. And they still need to connect, and they want to connect in person, The number one focus is always customer safety. This means creating an environment where you actually feel safe to leave your home and enter into another center. So we want to make sure, from every perspective of all five senses, that you’re feeling as safe and as comfortable as possible. With COVID, it’s really about re-emphasizing that. We want to make sure that people are visibly seeing the cleaning practices, and the signage confirming that. That’s something we’ve always done but now it’s more so storytelling that to the customer to ensure that they feel comfortable. It’s just being authentic. That’s what you are really doing in marketing, if you’re really doing it well, it’s just authenticity. The whole mindset of the Washington Prime Group is that we are immersed in a part of the community. We want to have you feel like you’re walking into your second home when you open our doors. And it’s because we’re not in these giant markets where you may never recognize the same customer again. Our customers are people that we know, on a first hand basis, and we want to cater to them. So our whole team is just totally rethinking what retail even means, and bringing it back down to the community through the essence of gathering people. Which is just natural for humankind.

Tips for Upcoming Grads
Tune into your heart. If money was no object what would you be doing? What conversations would you be having? After you have that everything else falls away. Job descriptions and even your title falls away. The only thing that truly matters is your purpose, and everything else in your life will flow through that.

Where you are is okay, and who you are is okay. Be in a clear mind so you can absorb and learn more, because if you’re anxious then you’re not allowing the experience to change you. Every graduate asks themselves the same questions.

Should I apply for that job? Am I ready for this step yet?

Yes, you are! Throw yourself right into it. You know, you will learn more by doing that, you will grow more by doing that. You know, the only voice in your head that is stopping you is you. So don’t stop yourself.

There are always helpers out there. Look for the helpers, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions.

Oh, I see that you’re in this position, how did you get there? I’m curious, what would happen if I had that position. Or I’m curious to hear about how you got to where you are today.

Look at the world through a lens of wonder and curiosity. This also means not getting too caught up in other people’s accomplishments. This will lead us into feelings of jealousy, which we all get from time to time. Instead of taking this feeling at face value, think about how it can be used as a tool to fuel your own purpose.

So when we look at jealousy, think of it as being inspired by that person. Be inspired to do the exact same thing in your own way that they’re doing. So use that as fire and fuel to get yourself there. You don’t have to feel small when looking at somebody else.

Sustainability is Key

Everybody needs a release. This career and industry is changing in a sense that you don’t have to be working all night to be productive. That’s an old paradigm. Number one importance is your health and your body and what you’re doing for yourself, because you cannot be anything if you cannot be that for yourself first. Do not put your body and movement and exercise on the backburner, because then you’re going to burn out. And then you can’t produce anything for your company or your business or your career. Make sure you spend time moving your body and work out in order to become a clear thinker. And get some sleep. Sleep is hugely important. It is very easy to think that we can do all of this later. That if we focus all our energy on our work now that we will have time to take care of ourselves later. This is never the case, because when you ignore yourself you will never reach that goal you’re setting. It will feel like the work to get there is just too much. No one is immune to burnout. Even these super successful individuals who seem to be working all the time maintain themselves. They know that unless their energy is at its peak every day then they will never get everything done. They have the same amount of hours in the day that we do, but they can utilize all of it, because they aren’t being drained by a lack of sleep and exercise. You will (hopefully) work at this for years so think about your routines in the long term. How will sleeping for only a couple of hours every day affect you in a year? Or how will you feel after a year of not getting any exercise?

What Employers Look For in Marketing Applicants

We’re looking for a candidate whose resume is clearly organized and obviously has no spelling errors. That’s practical. We need to be able to understand who they are, not how many hours they’ve spent in a certain job or internship.

Are they passionate? Are they passionate about themselves? What’s their body language showing? How they carry themselves during an interview is a big thing we look out for. The ideal candidate is someone confident and thoughtful, but at the same time excited to be there and ready for any challenges thrown their way. They need to be able to learn quickly and adapt because a lot of what they will be doing probably wasn’t covered in their education. Figure out what your purpose is and how it aligns with the job that you’re applying to. And if it doesn’t align, don’t go on the interview, it will save everybody’s time. Apply if you’re serious, and you feel passionate about the position, that’ll shine through. It is fairly easy for an interviewer to tell how much a candidate understands about what they’re signing up for, and how enthusiastic they are about it. Having some type of portfolio takes a lot of the pressure off. Because when people ask you questions, you can direct them to work that you’ve already completed. This could apply to any written work you’ve done in the past or just anything that would show that you’re a good potential candidate. Taking some online certification courses could help as well. There are plenty of free ones accessible online that will be useful, or find an internship/course that could give you some real world experience. These are all things you could be working on while looking for a job. Your preparation doesn’t just end with a degree.

Be Sure to Follow Up

Follow up with a thank you. That goes a long, long way. So for all you fellow graduates out there, definitely go above and beyond with a thank you note, at least via email, but the handwritten note is when it sets yourself apart. Because it really does take a lot of time, from the manager’s perspective.

They’ve looked at your resume, they’ve shown enough and cared enough to have you in front of them. And it does take a lot of the day to conduct an interview. So doing a thank you note is a hugely important thing, In general always do thank you notes, regardless of its professional, business, or personal.