Why A/E Marketing Is A Career To Pursue

AE Marketing Career

Yes, working in A/E marketing can be a challenging career. So, why do I recommend that recent graduates with marketing, public relations, or journalism degrees pursue this line of work?

Well, the more I think about it the more thankful I am that I landed in this industry.

In my mind, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Let me give you some examples:

The A/E Marketing Career Flies Under The Radar

Nobody goes to school with the express purpose of getting a marketing job at an architecture, engineering, or construction firm.

In contrast, my wife has a degree in pharmaceutical marketing. She went to college to work in the pharmaceutical market.

Construction is one of the biggest industries in the world. Yet, the profession of marketing in the industry flies under the radar.

Therefore, when the economy is good, it’s a job you can get. At this moment in time, the number of open positions for marketing coordinators in our industry is staggering.

When I graduated college, I struggled to find a job. And us “old timers” forget that, for many people right out of college, finding a legitimate marketing job can be extremely difficult.

Heck, finding a full-time job with vacation and health benefits can seem like a pipe dream to recent grads. And when you don’t know exactly what you want to do, the opportunities found at job fairs can be off-putting.

Starting out as a marketing coordinator, assistant, or a temp at an architecture, engineering, or construction firm beats the pants off many of the other “marketing” jobs available to recent college grads.

You Get To Do

Most industries are made up of large companies. Large companies often outsource the real work.

For example, if you worked in marketing for the Coca-Cola Company or Disney, your job would consist of managing outside consultants. As an entry-level marketer, you’d probably be assisting the person managing the consultants.

Or, you’d work at the agency. If you work hard, after a few years, maybe you’d meet a client or have some creative input.

Because most firms in our industry are small or mid-sized businesses, your input is almost immediate.

One of my very first days at an engineering firm was spent in a strategy meeting with principals from the largest architecture firm in the country.  That immediate immersion is rare in other industries.

If there is a PowerPoint to create, poster to design, or event to set up…you’ll be doing that.

You’ll be doing. The thing about doing is the more you do…the better you get. I believe our industry rivals any other when it comes to the opportunity to grow your marketing skill set.

This is especially true for entry-level marketers. If you take it upon yourself to learn new skills, after a few years in A/E marketing you’ll be very well rounded.

You Learn To Meet Deadlines

Think about it. In what other marketing job will missing a deadline cause the people you work with to lose their jobs?

That’s a tremendous amount of pressure to be under right out of college.

But you, like thousands of others before you, will rise to the occasion. Why? Because you have no choice.

It will get to the point where you’ll have little sympathy for anyone missing deadlines. Not delivering by the deadline will just seem inexcusable to you.

Honestly, that’s going to cause you some frustration when dealing with others. But at the end of the day, you’ll have a much better sense of what can truly be achieved in 24 or 48 hours. Other industries don’t always force you to think like that.

You Can Find Yourself

In A/E marketing, you typically start out doing just about everything or by focusing almost exclusively on proposals.

Almost everyone I know, including me, started like that.

But where you go from there is ultimately in your hands. I’ve known so many people who have branched off into business development, became a marketing director, got a communications position at a mid or large sized firm, went on to manage large proposal teams, or even started their own communications firm.

Frankly, I can think of very few A/E marketers whose career hasn’t evolved in some significant way over the years.

What I’m saying is a marketing position in the A/E industry brings with it enormous growth opportunities.

It’s OK To Be You

I don’t even want to mention this. But I feel I must.

Whether you are an introvert, omnivert, or extrovert, there is a role in our industry in which you can excel.

Don’t believe the nonsense about needing “the right personality.” The right personality is whatever personality you have now.

I can tell you about the introvert who leads the communications efforts for a very large firm. I can tell you about the introvert that went on to bring in millions for his firm.

I can tell you about the omnivert with a phobia of public speaking and how working in this industry helped her overcome it.

I can tell you about a very weird and “unlikeable” guy who could succeed because he was judged by his results.

I can even tell you about extroverts who have been very successful swimming in a sea of introverted engineers.

No matter where your personality lands, there is a place for you in our profession.

I’m a big believer in adopting the right mindset. Doing so will help you succeed. But you don’t have to change who you are to succeed in our industry.

You’ll Get A Second Chance

Just imagine you worked at the Coca-Cola Company and it just didn’t work out for you. Maybe you just don’t hit it out of the park in that first job.

There are two things that could happen. Worst case scenario is they keep you. And your fate aligns with the guy in “Office Space,” stuck in the closet with no chance of growth.

Another scenario is you’re let go. There’s not a thousand other soft drink companies, or even three, headquartered in your local area.  Your career in the soft drink market would likely be over.

There are more opportunities for second chances in the A/E industry. Staff whom I’ve “parted ways with” have gone on to be very successful at different A/E firms.

Looking back on it now, I can’t categorize my first position at an A/E firm as a success. But that experience had a lot to do with my later success.

I learned from my mistakes. And I brought what I was taught there to my new job. It was an invaluable experience.

It might be difficult at first. In fact, you may fail miserably. But it’s very likely that our industry will give you another chance to succeed.

The Bottom Line

Whatever industry you work in, there will be things to complain about. You’ll come across frustrating people. Your ideas will be shot down. You won’t always feel appreciated. These challenges are not exclusive to the A/E/C industry.

But I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find an industry where the potential to learn and grow is as great.

Now It’s Your Turn

Why do you think A/E marketing is a career to pursue. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. Loved this article! Right out of college, I dreamed of working at an ad agency, in NYC, eating takeout at 4 am. Here I am 15 years later, managing the marketing group of an 85-person engineering firm south of Seattle, and I couldn’t be happier!

  2. Derick Thompson says:

    So true. I am a recovering structural engineer, turned BD/Marketing by the opportunities given me by the president at the first firm i worked with. The journey that has followed in my time as an AEC BD/Marketing professional has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Matt, you have done a brilliant job at summing up some very key points. Thank you for your wisdom.

  3. Matt – You are so right about all of it. This is also not a bad place to start a second or even third career. After spending some 25 years in newspapers (also deadline heavy) as an ad designer, I was ready to get out. A friend of mine had already made the leap from newspapers to A/E Marketing and encouraged me to do the same. I am planning that this will be the place I end my work life but it is exciting to learn something new and be productive and valued straight out of the gate. And I totally appreciate how your emails have helped me in this journey!

  4. Jane Schwartzhoff says:

    I agree with the article completely – I am with a very small 12-person architecture firm, and I make up the entirety of the marketing department. I also answer the phones, and order the lunches! My point being, I have never had such great opportunities to be such a crucial part of bringing in millions of dollars to an organization. Yes, the deadlines can be hell, but when you make that shortlist, the sting goes away. And when you get that call that your firm were awarded the fabulous project, nothing can match that feeling of satisfaction.

  5. Dana Galvin Lancour says:

    Great article on such an underrated opportunity. When I graduated with a degree in Marketing Communications/Advertising, I knew I didn’t want to work in the ad industry and I also really didn’t want to work for an auto company like everyone else in Detroit. So glad I fell into this industry!

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