Informational Interview

Learning about the world of Marketing. Informational Interview with Sarah Gardiner

Job Title: Assistant Director of Honors and Scholarships in the Division of General Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Marketing Chair for the Midwest First Year Conference

Why does this type of work (marketing) interest you?

Sarah says a career in marketing “found her.” Her husband has a career in advertising and media sales (currently at Adams Outdoor Advertising) so this type of occupation has surrounded her for some time. She cites that having a personal connection to advertising and marketing has allowed her a knowledge base that many other people have not be afforded.

Prior to her career at UIUC, Sarah helped market the Honors Ball at UIC. She was in charge of marketing, print pieces, mailers, formal invitations and had to coordinate communication between students, administrators and alumni. She mentioned how creating print pieces was the most fun part of her work.

Overall, Sarah loves promotion, to get people excited about things and to help people find the right avenues in life.


What is the most challenging thing about the marketing industry?

The fact that there is so much content out there that can grab people’s attention. The hardest challenge is to determine how your content and message can rise above all the others and capture the attention of your intended audience. Sarah also mentioned that marketing platforms are constantly changing, “What is the next Snapchat? And how quickly do we need to evolve?”


What advice would you give to a college student who is interested in marketing?

You must have a strong sense of networking and the ability able to promote yourself. The marketing industry is all about how you know and how you can market yourself to others. Sarah mentioned how one needs to have the confidence to put oneself out there. There is also a large emphasis in keeping up with trends and being able to capture an audience with creativity and humor.


What is the employment outlook in your field/what is the demand?

As a result of the marketing industry always changing, there is an expectation that there are always new opportunities created. Because there are so many opportunities, the job market may seem like an overwhelming process to find the right fit. Another effect of the industry always changing is the fact that you never know what the next best thing/job will be. She noted there are always good entry-level positions in advertising and they can serve as a place to find where you love to work and then go off in that direction. She commented on how in this industry you will move around a lot, “Up, out and gain lots of experiences in the process.”


What impact does the economy/budget crisis have on your job?

In regards to her position as marketing chair for the Midwest First Conference, there is not much impact on her job as the money generated from last year’s conference is used for the following year. However, Sarah refers to herself as “frugal” and is always looking for ways to minimize costs. For example she mentions how emails are a great way to communicate as the only thing that they cost is time.

However, in regards to her position at DGS, she noted how the department has minimized their print marketing campaigns due to the budget crisis. She noted how print marketing for DGS may not always be effective and that money could be used toward things like student engagement programs.


Do you ever take work home with you?

 Sarah is very adamant about keeping a separation between professional life and home life. She mentioned how on weekends she does readings on articles of higher education or books related to her field. She sets aside time at home to do tasks that don’t require a lot of technology.


What about the pressure to respond to emails right away?

 Sarah agrees that there is the constant pressure and curiosity to respond to emails right away. The pressure comes from Sarah herself as she has a loyalty to always serve her students. The pressure to respond to emails can be prioritized—if an email seems urgent and needs to be handled she will respond. Sarah’s big piece of advice was to find a balance between work and home life and know when to stop and just focus on family.


If you could do things all over again would you choose the same path for yourself?

 Sarah stands by the fact that her career chose her. She had always known she wanted to work in education and as she got older she realized she wanted to work with teenagers/young adults. She has always been fascinated in the period of how these teenagers turn into young adults. While she could potentially see herself doing other tasks, she agrees she would always end up with a career in higher education. She has no regrets and does not like to play the hypothetical “what if” scenarios. Sarah may think about little opportunities she could have done in the past but she knows there is no way of changing that and that she is where she is meant to be.