Illinois Institute of Technology Associate Director of Enrollment Marketing
University of Virginia M.Ed., Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
Yeah, well, thank you for having me here today s o. I actually went through my undergrad program at James Madison University in Virginia back in 2008. And so that coincided with the time where the great recession happened. And so I graduated into a market that was very tight on the availability of jobs, and my undergraduate background was in video editing. And so I was lucky enough to the land an internship straight out of college at an ad agency on DSO. I worked as an intern for about three months, unpaid before they hired me on as a freelancer for another couple months and then eventually I gained full time employment at that same ad agency. And so I was lucky enough to be able to work in video editing. But after a couple of years, I had kind of the desire to grow further in my career, and I didn't necessarily want to do full time video editing my entire life. So I ended up going back to graduate school at the University of Virginia, and I studied Higher Education Administration. So I went through that program, and as part of the program, we were required to dio certain hours of internships and external ships throughout the program and during the summer. And so I had the opportunity to work in the undergraduate office of admissions as well as with their student, help your group, doing mentoring with the undergraduate students. And so that really opened the door to a career in admissions marketing, which was a really great blend of my previous career. Um, since within the ad agency, I was doing a lot of marketing at the time and because times were changing and a lot of companies were utilizing social media a lot more. That gave me the opportunity to grow and learn with those skills as they were becoming more and more commonplace in the market. And so I ended up getting my first job out of graduate school at the Darden School of Business, working with MBA graduate students on recruiting them through the Office of Admissions. And that's kind of where I ended up today, just growing within that career path in higher education, admissions

What responsibilities and decisions does one handle in a job like yours? What are the top three priorities? What are weekly work hours like?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
yes. So the thing you need to remember about working in higher education, especially within a marketing communications role, is it's very different from institution to institution. So in my particular role as associate director of enrollment marketing, I actually sit within the office of undergraduate admissions. And my main responsibility is to recruit our incoming class of first years and transfer students. So my main roles are really focusing in on email, communication and recruitment as well as lead generation. So working with different, um, Third party services, as well as our S A T and A C T partners to identify the best value leads for student recruitment. And then I also focus on working within the pipeline. And so once we have applicants, um, really focusing on yield strategies and working with our admission counseling team, as well as our Central Marketing Communications office to develop content and strategies to recruit students throughout the first year and transfer pipeline as far as my weekly work hours or like um, it's a standard 9 to 5 job Monday through Friday. But of course, that varies throughout the year. Um, before co vid, we definitely had our on campus events. And so it was definitely a all hands on deck situation where all of our admissions office wanted to be available for students during scholarship weekends, as well as admitted student events, which took place in the evenings and on weekends as well. Um, nowadays, because we are online, a lot of our webinars dio, um, center around student hours when they're available. So, of course, we don't want to host events while they are in school and in class. So a lot of our events are during the evening times, and so we'll take turns throughout the year. Thio take on some of that responsibility, so for the most part, it's a very stable 40 hour a week job. Summers air a little bit slower, but of course, depending on the time of year, you might have to work extra hours

What are major challenges and pain points in a job like yours? What approaches are effective in overcoming them? Discussing examples will help students learn better.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
so working in marketing, especially within higher education, is definitely ah, very challenging roles sometimes because it varies from role to role. If you talk to certain companies, they're really more focused on the marketing analytics side, whereas other companies might define marketing as more of a communications job. So writing and video editing and creating content. And so my current role is really a blend of the two. I do focus on a lot of strategic initiatives, but I am also really in charge of creating the content and then doing some of the data analyst. So those are a very wide variety of skills, and depending on the office that you work for, you might have several people who specializes in analytics and in contact creation and in social media who are able to do all those different things as a team. But with my specific role right now in our university, I'm the only person within the undergraduate admissions office that does all these things. However, I do have the ability to work with our Central Marketing and Communications Office as well as outside vendors, to accomplish all the things that we need to, but that also takes a lot of project management skills as well. So I would say Thio, any students or young professionals who are looking at marketing roles within higher education really try to define your skill set and define where you want your strengths to be. Because there are roles available that really focus in on the analytics or really focused in on the creative content management part. Or you can choose toe, have a role that's a little bit more broad and management focus, kind of like what I have to dio.

What are the job titles of people who someone in your role routinely works with, within and outside of the organization? What approaches are effective in working with them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
yes. So the team is that I worked with the most closely with in my role our our admissions counselors as well as our enrollment directors and our visits and events coordinators and visits and events managers. And so they all do very, very different types of work, all with the same goal of recruiting and retaining students. So our admission counselors are really the face of the university. They meet with the students during travel events and recruitment events, and they're really the ones who sit down on those one on one appointments to provide students with the personalized information that they need in order to understand what types of decisions they're making in the emissions requirements and how toe really move forward in the application process. Our visits and events team focused mainly on growing the events, planning the events a swell as tours and visits an appointment. This and they're really the logistic muscle behind the department. And then, of course, we also have our directors and our technology team that really make sure the office is running smoothly, making sure that all the paperwork is accounted for and making sure that all of the information the data is clean and consistent within our systems and because my role is very broad and it works within all of these departments, Um, it's really important to understand how the teams work, what their priorities are because they do very throughout the year and be able to work within guidelines. And so I really try to take their approach to understand when certain colleagues might be busier throughout the year. And so they might be a little bit slower in meeting deadlines or responding to emails and adjusting accordingly. For that, um, something that I also like to keep in mind is some of our more tech focused colleagues might have a different way of communicating, and so they might not necessarily want to read a five paragraph email. And it's just better to sit with them and Onley give them exactly all the details that they need, rather than all of the fluff that someone working in marketing might be usedto meeting. So really understanding your colleagues, understanding how they think and also understanding what their priorities are so that you can work with them instead of against them is really, really important,

How do you manage conflicts within and across teams? How do you promote trust, openness and a healthy work culture? Sharing stories will greatly help.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
yes. So I think again, going back to what I was saying before making sure that you are understanding your colleagues and making sure that they understand that you're all working towards a common goal. And I think that when things are very stressful because it's a busy time of year, maybe you're concerned that you're not meeting numbers. Or maybe you're having to deal with uncertainties of the economy that are having greater impact on the numbers that you're looking at for your role. I think it's really important to just sit down and have those one on one conversations with your colleagues because, ah, lot of the time they're going through a lot of the same stressors as you. They might just have, um to examine the information in a very different way, and their workload might look very, very different. And so I think having those candid conversations and asking colleagues, what can I do to help you? And what can I do to help make your job easier so that they don't feel like you're asking them to do more work for you? Instead, both of you are working together to accomplish those common goals and so that's really important. And I think, um, along those lines, Thio if you're in charge of hiring or if you have any influence on the hiring process, maybe you're interviewing potential candidates or you're helping screen. Looking for compatibility and culture is a really important thing because it's difficult. Thio work with a candidate or work with an employee who already has who has that approach that conflicts with your work culture. So knowing and being able to define what your workplace culture looks like and what you want that to look like and finding the best that candidates is also a very important thing.

How can one get better recognition of work from one's boss and higher management? What mistakes should one avoid? Stories or examples will be quite helpful.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
that is such a great question. So I will readily admit when I first graduated college and I was a young 22 year old, very like excited to be in the work force for the first time, I thought I knew everything, and I wasn't afraid to say it either. And I think making sure you keep your ego in check is a really important thing, because at the end of the day, you actually don't know everything. You're working with professionals who've had decades of experience more than you, and so they see things from a very, very different perspective from you. And so I think being humble is really important. Um, and asking your boss for help is important. I think a mistake that a lot of young professionals seem to make, too, is they don't wanna show if they're stressed and they don't want to admit when they don't know something, because there's that pressure to always be on top of your game and to no everything. And I think it makes your boss's job a lot more easy when they are aware of what your weaknesses are and they can help you and when they can help you. That cuts out time that might be wasted on you doing a job incorrectly or not understanding the goals. I think another thing that professionals really need to remember is you should never overstep your bosses authority and go to their boss for anything. At the end of the day, your boss's boss trust your own boss to be able to manage their teams and to be ableto accomplish the workplace schools accordingly. And so when you overstep that boundary and you go and complain to your boss about something that's going on, um, it's showing them that you don't respect authority. And it's also showing them that you might have an ego issue and your boss also will be your biggest advocate. And so if you don't work with your boss in that way, um, and you overstep that boundary, then that's going to make it really hard in the future for your boss to advocate you advocate for you. So definitely make sure that you work closely with your direct supervisor so that you build that relationship of trust, and it goes both ways.

What indicators are used to track performance in a job like yours? Think of the indicators such as key performance indicators (KPIs), objectives & key results (OKRs), or so on.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
Yes. So obviously the biggest way that we track success within our department is enrollment. So we want to make sure that year over year we're seeing an increase in leads, an increase in applications and an increase in yield percentage, you percentage being the number of students who are admitted who decided to attend the institution, um, for my role, specifically because I worked with email communications and because I work with website communications and um, direct mail. What we also want to see is being able to track. All of the campaigns were doing how much money we spent on each campaign and being able thio identify whether or not a student who eventually matriculated were exposed to any one of those campaigns. Um, that also really helps with budget management, because depending on the year you might have more a budget, but most likely in higher education. You're going to get less budget in some years, and so you wanna be ableto confidently. Make those decisions and use the resource is that maximize your budget and also maximize your department schools with enrollment

What marketing software and channels do you use to find and engage prospective students? Which are less effective? Which one do you recommend to students to learn?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
So right now in 2020 email is still key when it comes to communicating with students, Um, that's also how their high school counselors and community college counselors use as their primary method of communication. So being able to be well versed in email communication is really important. And that is anything from, um, learning how to code email toe. Also understanding all of the laws that go in with email privacy and opting in and opting out of students. Um, knowing how to navigate a good CRM is really important. Different schools and universities used different CRM. Some are on Hobson, some are in salesforce, some are on slate, Um, and at the end of the day, they all operate very similarly. So knowing how to work within those systems is really important. Um, also being able to cleanly manage data, whether you're doing it in a simple Excel spreadsheet or you're doing it in a more sophisticated platform, um is really important because if you don't have clean data, then you're not being able to maximize your performance, and you're not going to be able to maximize the efficiency in which you recruit students. Um, as far as less effective platforms and tools. I know that social media is actually a really, really big recruiting tool for a lot of institutions, and I think it's really important to know who your audience is. Younger students right now high school age, are using instagram and YouTube the most when it comes to specific college research. They're not on Facebook as often. They're not on Twitter is often, and they are on Snapchat and tick tock. But research has shown that they don't typically use those platforms for college specific research. And so if you're strapped for resources and you have a small team, you want to make sure you're maximizing the time of your team. And so being able to identify what your audience uses and how they use those platforms, I think is really important in a big mistake that I see Ah lot of marketing professionals use is, um, they feel pressured to be on every single social media platform, and at the end of the day, the return on investment is not as high as if you focus, really, the one or two that the students really are on

What skills and qualities do you look for while hiring? What kind of questions do you typically ask from candidates?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
So we usually look for students or not students, candidates who are very personable on also very detail oriented. Ah, lot of the things that we require our candidates, Thio learn, um, changed from throughout time. So 20 years ago, admissions offices were keeping track of applications in file cabinets, and it wasn't until about five years ago we started using the Salesforce crm thio track all of our candidates and take in all of our applications. And so it's really important to find a candidate. He was able to be flexible with technology. Another example is this year with coronavirus and everyone going remotely, we really needed to figure out a way toe up our digital recruitment strategies. And so we ended up signing on with a new texting platform that allowed us to engage with students, uh, in a different way. And so none of us knew how to use the texting platform when we first bought it and started implementing it. But because we had colleagues who had that expertise to ask the right questions and to know how things connected from the back end and knew how to keep the data clean because they knew exactly what types of data we use in our day to day um, jobs. We were able to smoothly implement this new platform. And so, being able to find a candidate who can walk through how they solve issues and how they learn new systems and be able to articulate that is absolutely the most important thing at the end of the day. Um, yes, it's an extra bonus to know someone who has worked in higher education before and has worked for a very similar institution. But it's even more important to know that that candidate has a good set of skills that enable them thio adjust adequately when it comes to learning new technology And when it comes to integrating systems as well. Um, well, if we're looking specifically, though, at audience expertise, um, I really want Thio. No, a candidate is able to think of how our audience thinks so. In undergraduate admissions, we recruit primarily 18 to 22 year olds, and thes students are now part of Generation Z. They grew up on digital technology and in the Internet, and so we would be looking for candidates who would be able to put themselves in these students shoes on their mindsets, especially with how coronaviruses impacting their education right now. Before this epidemic, this pandemic, we had students who were super stars, and they were ready to apply for colleges right when the common app opened in August and September. Now, this year, we're finding that a lot of students are fatigued because they can barely connect to their online classes in their high schools. And so right now, they're not necessarily looking at attending college recruiting events. And so being ableto find candidates who are able to think outside of the box and think about why things that were working last year aren't working this year and are adapting to it is also very important.

Can you discuss career accomplishment(s) that you feel good about? Please discuss the problem context, your solution, and the impact you made.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
eso some of the career accomplishments that I feel personally, really good about is being able to adapt and grow with the technology and the digital landscape between. When I graduated in 2000 and eight and now in 2020 when I graduated in 2000 and eight, we didn't really even have DSL. Ours, too. Record video Social Media was just launching and becoming a popular thing in mainstream landscape. And ah, lot of the tools that we're using for artificial intelligence and for marketing analytics within the digital sphere didn't exist back then. So I think advocating for myself throughout all the jobs I've held really helps get me to where I am today. The first couple of jobs and positions I had didn't have any budget for professional development or sending us to conferences, and I think because I advocated for that and really ask them like, let's go toe one marketing conference a year. Let's further education because the technology, um, industry was rapidly evolving. We eventually got that, and I think being able to network with other professionals who worked in similar industries and see how they've adapted to the changing landscape was very important in taking those ideas back to my institution and implementing them as well, because we won't grow as an organization and we won't grow as professionals if we continue to live in silos. And sometimes working for the same company for several years can inadvertently create that silo. And so it's really important to continue learning and to continue exploring. And if your company doesn't have a budget to send you to a conference or join a professional organization, then continue joining online forums. Facebook groups has a lot of very, very specific niche organizations. So if you want to learn more about higher education, social media or higher education recruitment within a specific graduate school niche, there is always going to be a group for that and being able to bounce those I ideas and talk thio other professionals who are facing similar issues as you and your institution, I think is so important because it gives you the confidence. Thio. Take that knowledge back to your institution and try new ideas, and it also makes you feel a little less siloed, especially if you're the Onley individual in your institution, doing a specific role

What college programs did you attend and what were their best parts? How did each of your college programs prepare you for your career?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
eso. My undergraduate experience was really centered around digital communications. And while my major specifically was in video production, um, I was lucky enough to have an undergraduate program that taught us the broad aspect of digital media. And so we were required to take a class on Internet coding and development. We were required to take classes on corporate communication and writing and journalism. And so, being able tohave, that broad background, really, I think, helped me develop the skills that I needed to manage marketing and digital content throughout my career. In in graduate school, some of the most helpful classes that I took really were history of higher education and really understanding how that's impacted where students are today, especially when we're looking at the most diverse classes in the history of higher education and knowing why that landscape is the way it is and knowing why we're seeing such an uptick in first generation students and being able to understand that helps us service our students better. And it also helps us understand what types of services are institution needs to focus on. If we want to recruit and retain more students because at the end of the day. Undergraduate admissions, Yes, is recruiting applicants and it is getting, um, students who matriculated. But if they don't stay and they don't graduate, then that can actually heart hurt them and hurt the institution a lot more. So being able Thio look at that and understand the best fit, I think is really, really valuable.

What three life lessons have you learned over your career? If any, please also discuss your experiences facing adversity, or trying something unusual.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
The first lesson I learned really is advocating for myself. I never took a class on how to negotiate my salary, and I never took a class on how to interview. And so my first job, I was actually very much underpaid and overworked, and I think everyone in their professional career will probably experience that at some point. But being able to know how to negotiate is really important. I think that it's common for recruiters to come back and tell you our salary line will not budge. But that does not mean you can't advocate and try to negotiate. Um, better benefits more to paid time off, more flex time when it comes to constructing your hours. Um, those types of things I think some companies are more willing to budge on, especially if they're salary line, is not negotiable. Another thing that I really learned over my career is how to be humble. Um, a lot of the times, even now I will work with colleagues and I'll think in my head, um, I think I know more about this than you, But if you continue toe listen, it becomes less of an ego. Who knows what more than the other person knows and more of a How can I understand you better? Ah, lot of the times, because we just as people want to get our opinions and thoughts out, we might accidentally undercut and not here what the other colleague is trying to say and that can being able to listen to them and understand them can go a long way in building relationships and helping each other get the job done on. Then a third life lesson, I would say, is patients. I think if you look at my resume when I was younger, I would prop typically stay at a job for maybe no more than two years, and that's because I was hungry to grow and hungry to get promoted and get more money. But I think that's not how a lot of institutions work, especially in higher ed. Sometimes you need patients and sometimes you need to prove yourself and having that patients can have ah higher pay off in the long run, whether it's being part of an organization will change or helping steer the organization in a direction during change because we are living in a very, very, um, changing market right now and so having that patients to see the challenges through, I think is absolutely important

What starting job (after internship) would you recommend to students who hope to grow professionally like you? What other parting advice, dos, and don'ts would you give?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Nov 17 2020
um, I would say to students, especially students who are starting off in the marketing and communication realm. Don't take the first job that is offered to you. Um, I would say Be very picky in the types of questions that you asked during interviews on drily get to know what the role is because, as I stated before, um, not all companies define marketing communication in the same way. And so you really want to know? Is this job more analytical, or is it more creative, or is it a blend of all of the above on Ben? Also, you want to know what what resources you have in terms of team members and in terms of being able to hire freelancers and being able to further your education and professional knowledge, Um, is available with those jobs, Um, pick a job that is a good fit for the skills that you want to learn because the jobs that you the skills that you learn on the job will impact the types of jobs that you have in the future. So if you pick a job that's really heavy on content writing and in updating websites and telling stories But what you really want is a job that's more having on the analytical piece thing. You're not going toe. Learn the skills that you want because that's not available at the job that you picked. So really try to figure out what in the area of marketing communication you want to grow in and try to find a job that fits those interests.