Name: Lars Carlson
Job Title: Marketing Assistant / Administrative Assistant
Years of Experience: ? year
Other Relevant Work Experience: 5 years of basic administrative, clerical & computer skills in US Army and inventory manager at office furniture installation firm.
Employer: Northwest Territorial Mint
Where Do You Currently Do This Work? Auburn, WA
Education: B.A. Marketing from UW; Specialty classes at School of Visual Concepts
Salary: Use PayScale to research compensation for marketing jobs.
Marketing and administrative assistant is a growing career field and common first job for recent college graduates. In this interview, Lars Carlson provides detailed information on the role of administrative assistants at a manufacturing and precious metals sales company. Lars gives an overall marketing job description and explains what to expect from entry-level positions. He goes over all aspects of his experience and offers marketing and administrative assistant tips that are helpful to others looking to enter the field. The skills learned in performing the duties of a marketer or administrative assistant are relevant to any other office work, even in an unrelated field such a finance or legal. In addition, a job in the marketing department of a firm is good preparation for eventually working at an advertising agency, the ultimate goal of many in this field. Find out why marketing has proven to be a rewarding career choice.
PayScale: What is your marketing job description? What is the role of administrative assistant?
The majority of my time is spent researching potential sales leads online. Initially, I started by copying and pasting email addresses from websites to an Excel file. Emails were collected from industries including veteran’s groups, motorcycle clubs, ROTC groups, survivalists, coin collectors, etc. After a month of time-consuming collection this way, I started utilizing an automated email-collection program that greatly sped up the process. I set up the company’s Wikipedia page, and did the research for the Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. The company does 90 percent of its marketing via Google. There was very little strategy for online marketing, so I basically taught myself and tried new projects as often as possible. Special projects from the owner of the company have been a substantial part of my workload. One report I compiled, on the exact number of ROTC/JROTC groups (and people in them) took me almost a week to create. Accuracy was very important, so double-checking sources, preferably by phone, was required. Other research projects have included creating a lengthy dossier on competitors’ websites and marketing efforts, creating a “History of Challenge Coins” report and compiling pictures for eventual publication. I work closely with the Mint’s team of lawyers to create contracts for potential contractors, online portals for customers to upload their photos, and to avoid potentially litigious situations regarding our advertising claims. As an administrative assistant, my role includes traditional marketing tasks such as proofreading marketing collateral and online copy, brainstorming copywriting ideas and tracking down projects and invoices. I track customer testimonials, billing from print ads, trade show planning and our direct mail campaigns. I help out with the direct mail (gathering materials, mail-merging labels, stuffing envelopes) and trade show planning (gathering, checking and shipping materials, reserving hotel and show spaces) when needed.
PayScale: Do you have any marketing or administrative assistant tips? What were your steps toward a marketing job?
After 10 years of working at various blue-collar jobs, I decided I wanted a better job. I had had trouble keeping my GPA up while working full-time and going to school at the same time, so I took the drastic step of joining the army for the college money, so that I would be able to concentrate on schooling when I got out. Eventually, in school, I decided that a career in business would be best, and I focused in marketing, more recently in eMarketing. I decided on marketing because it impressed me as a field that had a strong analytical, results-oriented component, but that also was very people and networking-oriented. That, and the almost unlimited income potential. In addition, I have always been interested in politics and trying to do my personal part to make the world a better place. I have volunteered for years for many groups such as MoveOn – I rang doorbells for Obama and health care reform, etc. It seems to me that marketing is a powerful field, and a force that could eventually be channeled for good. Plus I have realized that, to make a big difference in our world, you need deep pockets. Hopefully, with enough work, this field will provide me with that. eMarketing (search engine marketing, email sales campaigns, social media optimization, etc.) excited me because it is the future. Simply put, the net is only going to get bigger. Eventually, everyone and everything will be on it. Every phone will use it. Every person will have a site. It is already the main source of information exchange. Eventually other forms of electronic communication (and therefore advertising on those forms as well) will be relegated to niche status. The potential to shape our world and make a good living while doing so is essentially unlimited.
PayScale: What do you love about your role as marketing and administrative assistant?
I am an extrovert who also likes to accomplish projects. When I first started at NW Mint, I knew absolutely nothing about numismatics (the study of coins). I must admit that the subject was not terribly interesting to me. As I began to learn about the subject, however, I realized that there is a lot of value to the subject. Ancient coins provide a critical window into historical periods, for example. It is truly amazing how much information experts can learn from these tiny pieces of metal. Challenge coins are another example. Challenge coins are given as informal awards to soldiers or sailors (or police officers, Boy Scouts, etc.), usually in a public ceremony. They bypass the lengthy and problematic process of approving someone for an actual medal. Such coins are typically compared in a bar environment for drinking games to display camaraderie. Despite being a veteran, I had only seen a few such coins. Typically they were displayed on the desk of someone with much higher rank than I. At the Mint, I worked for several months on a lengthy project researching the history of these coins, and was interested to discover that no book had ever been written on the subject. Perhaps ten articles had been published (which I collected and used to contact the authors), many of which included more hyperbole and innuendo than fact. We found an expert in the field and contracted him to write a book on the subject. I contacted the owners of related pictures I found on the internet in order to use their work in a book, and worked with our in-house lawyers to create the contract for the author and to set up an online portal for our customers to upload their pictures for our use and publication. This experience was great – It felt good to help create a new historical revelation, and I enjoyed becoming an expert in this field. My boss (and the company owner) were impressed, and I sharpened my researching skills.
PayScale: What are some challenges you’ve faced in your marketing and administrative assistant duties?
The main challenge in my job is to balance the competing demands upon my time. As the company is (unbeknownst to me) planning to move out of state very soon, the owner is understandably reluctant to hire additional people. The workload is very large, and inevitably things slip through the cracks. It became obvious to me that prioritization, good communication, flexibility and the ability to multi-task and help out everyone in the department were key. After several near-disasters, we instituted a system where I would spend a half-hour every morning going over my boss’s schedule to ensure no deadlines were missed. Oftentimes I had to physically walk the plant to talk to people, and I started bringing my mobile phone with me. Eventually I forwarded my work phone to my mobile. This resulted in my receiving work-related calls even on the weekends and evenings. Everyone in my office works late hours, and I soon learned it was imperative to schedule my personal life around whatever big projects were coming up. The commute from North Seattle to Auburn everyday is extremely draining. It typically takes 45 minutes in the morning and over an hour on the way back. There’s no bus, and I eventually ended up coming early and reading a book before work, then eating dinner or going to the gym down in Auburn afterward, rather than fighting the traffic home. Some of the office staff has had personality conflicts with others, making it important to 1) get up to speed about potentially difficult situations, to better avoid or defuse them and 2) keep in mind the importance of not getting involved, despite possibly sympathizing with one side over the other. Fortunately, the environment has usually been very professional.
PayScale: Any advice for those who want to work as a marketing or administrative assistant, tips for success?
Looking back on my so far less-than-successful efforts to get into eMarketing, I would recommend that folks considering a job in this field start early and work hard to identify their exact field, then try to leverage all the means at their disposal to get up to speed and find that job. There is no replacement for being focused in your career search. Waiting to figure things out until you are almost out of school is the wrong approach. Using my history as an example, if I had realized this was the field for me earlier, I could have picked an MOS (that’s Army-talk for “job”) closely related to this field – probably something like “Military PR.” If I had figured it out later, while first taking classes, I would have been much better positioned to network with industry people, helpful professors, and other students and resources. Instead, I proceeded with a general business degree until nine months before graduation. This meant that I was locked into the final classes I had to take to complete my degree, and I was unable to fully investigate my chosen field with the right classes. I actually ended up going back to my old school after I got laid off to take some of the classes I had been unable to earlier. The eMarketing class taught by Mike Dusche at UWB was one of the best I ever took. He had a great way of combining plain speaking with valuable insights and convinced me that eMarketing was really what I should focus on. I should have taken his class years ago. If I had a time machine, I would go back and break up with my first girlfriend earlier…. But after THAT, I would go back and tell myself to figure out exactly what to study and specialize in. Then I would make sure to get an internship or two in my field as early as possible. Internships are key to breaking into a new field.
PayScale: Do you recall any crazy moments from your role of administrative assistant?
The economic crisis caused a drastic readjustment of the Mint’s advertising priorities. Due to the perception in many people’s minds that the world’s economic system was about to implode, the price of precious metals such as silver and gold shot up 20 percent or more. Before the crisis, the Mint received roughly half its net income from challenge coins and other commemoratives and the other half from bullion sales. Due to the changing situation, bullion sales rapidly became responsible for more than 75 percent of our net. We canceled many print advertisements for challenge coins, engraved knives and our other products, substituting gold and silver ads that echoed the concerns many people were having about the economic system’s stability. We started advertising on survivalist websites and created a regular newsletter, called “News from the MintMaster,” that summarized many of these fears and suggested precious metals as a good hedge against an economic collapse. My research into survivalist groups opened up a large and lucrative new market for us, resulting in many new sales. My conversations with members of this community were very interesting and enlightening as to their viewpoints about the world and our government. With more time, I could have written a research paper on the unusual views about government, religion, race, the 2nd Amendment and life in general espoused by many members of this community. During the course of this work, I learned a lot about investing in precious metals, and how and why it is a good idea or not. I also learned a lot about advertising, and how you sometimes have to put your own feelings and beliefs aside when working for an employer. Working with a great group of people who understands the industry and wants to help me do so and succeed is by far the most useful part of my experience here.