Every comms pro has to launch their career somewhere. For many, that means starting out in a boring, ho-hum space you may have never envisioned yourself in just to gain crucial work experience.
While the specific vertical you’re supporting may not be considered the most exciting, there are transferable skills to be learned in every communications role that can be the key to landing future marketing positions. Below, 14 Forbes Communications Council members share “unsexy” fields they’ve worked in and the most vital marketing skills they gleaned while there.
1. Foreign Policy And Diplomacy
Foreign policy and diplomacy sounds sexy, but it is not! It is incredibly important, though. Working with think tanks, I have learned how important it is to listen to all parties and give everyone concerned an opportunity to communicate and express themselves. I learned that underneath our beliefs and opinions, we are all human beings first and essentially want the same things: peace and to be respected. – Preity Upala, The Omnia Institute
2. Supermarket Checkout
I worked at a supermarket as a checkout clerk when I was 18. I realized how important personalization was to the whole customer experience in that stint. Most folks in the good old days shopped from a preferred store and were on a first-name basis with the store owners, checkout clerks and even the security guards. Personalization today is the difference between a good experience and a great one. – Ketan Pandit, Zuddl
3. B2B Marketing
A lot of B2B is classed as “unsexy.” If it’s not cutting-edge consumer marketing, people’s eyes glaze over. I started my career in printing solutions and then moved to financial services. The key to folding intrigue and even excitement into a brand is not in talking about products and services but through storytelling. Conveying the soul and personality of the brand is what makes it engaging. – Rosie Guest, Apex Group Ltd.
4. Healthcare IT Marketing
Healthcare IT marketing is about as “unsexy” as you can get! At DrFirst, we created the “Healthiverse” galaxy look to give us the room in our brand to get away from the standard smiling happy doctors. We were able to play off of it with references to space and even add humor through campy movie references. – Irene Froehlich, DrFirst, Inc.
5. Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Management
Pharmaceutical supply chain management is as cut and dried as it gets. Fortunately, from my early days in that industry—as a copywriter at the time—I really learned the value of identifying narrative threads within a product or service. Every product has a story, sometimes you just have to look harder for it. At the end of the day, we weren’t selling pharma products, we were saving lives. – Jesse Haynes, Guardian Baseball
6. Workers’ Compensation
Working at a workers’ compensation firm is not very sexy. However, as the marketing director, I helped to hire a creative team in-house, and we created beautiful, sleek, cutting-edge email graphics and commercials that were worthy of a high-end creative agency. It was fun to watch the engagement rates rise with every new email and commercial and that made it feel like less vanilla of a goal. – Maura Kennedy, Strategic Elements
7. Customer Service
I spent a lot of my college years in customer service. Waiting tables, retail and more helped me hone my customer service skills, which are imperative to my success at a creative agency. I ask applicants if they have ever worked in customer service and encourage them to include this under “special skills” if they have. – Dixie Roberts, DKC/HangarFour
8. Healthcare Firm
I was with a healthcare firm that sold pricing data. Our struggle was taking a 20-year-old business and modernizing it. What we found was that the core pricing data we sold was not the reason to buy the service. It was the clinical research our analysts did behind our recommendations that people wanted. We made that the focal point in our value prop and just threw in the pricing as a freebie. – David Franzen-Rodriguez, Routefusion
9. Real Estate Development
Real estate development can often feel “unsexy,” especially given the length of time projects take and the magnitude of the projects. I’ve found that the best way to grab attention and to make even boring topics feel exciting is to add the human element to the story. While it’s true that development is a lengthy process and construction isn’t “exciting,” the people behind the work have amazing stories. – Victoria Zelefsky, The Menkiti Group
10. Consumer Credit
When I started working in the consumer credit industry, “sexy” was not on the radar. I soon realized that credit was at the core of our financial system; the engine in the American-dream machine. It was key to buying a home, a car or going on vacation, yet not many realized this or shared this perspective. By humanizing the credit industry through people’s stories, we turned “boring” into “inspiring.” – Marisa Salcines, Acuity Brands
11. Health Insurance
I led the marketing team at a health insurance plan, which is an intangible and highly regulated product. The work was exciting due to our pioneering approach to rebranding and evolving from a transactional to a health-solutions destination. We humanized touch points, introducing music, education and real-life tangible experiences that engaged all five senses! It drove value and fun for all. – Javelyn Ibarra, City Electric Supply
12. Business Taxes
To avoid the conflict that often comes with consumer engagement during tax filing season, I took the initiative and worked with local media on tips for filing individual tax returns and business tax returns. We also launched a new business tax portal and educated CPAs and accountants on how it works through newsletters, in-person roundtables and more. – Kimberly Osborne, UNC Greensboro
13. Retail Marketing
One of my first jobs was in retail marketing as a salesperson on the storeroom floor. There, I learned how to ask the right questions so that I could learn what customers were looking for and, ultimately, understand their core needs so that I could cater my messaging to each individual. – Roshni Wijayasinha, Prosh Marketing
14. B2B Magazine
I previously worked at a B2B magazine, and the experience taught me so much about crafting stories for a very specific audience. That lesson is critical in corporate communications, where your messages are incredibly intentional and meant for a targeted audience that must connect with every word. – Melissa Kandel, little word studio