Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) - English-Journalism
Vanessa Schutz does a lot of networking in her life. It was networking through friends that landed her in her job today as an account executive for Washingtonian.com and Washingtonian Bride & Groom. It also is networking that helps her connect with potential clients about advertising campaigns. She's been with the company for three years and before that was a client relations coordinator for USA WEEKEND Magazine. A 2006 graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Vanessa says that in Washington D.C., it's all about who you know, and then it's about what you know.
Don't make someone your priority when you are merely their option.
How did you discover your current job?
Washington, D.C., is a city that thrives on who you know and then what you know. My former roommate, Rachel, went to college with Sarah, the person who posted the job and ended up being my boss. Having this personal connection and recommendation from my friend helped me get a foot in the door. Once in the interview, it was up to me to sell myself and impress.
What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?
Growing up, I always loved to read and write, and I didn’t pick up on math and science as well. I interned at several publications intending to be a journalist. I participated in Miami University’s eight-week Inside Washington program during the summer of 2005, and I fell in love with the area. When I graduated from college without a job a year later, I moved to the D.C.-area because I knew it was where I wanted to live. I was a waitress for a few months and began temping at USA WEEKEND Magazine, where I had formerly held an internship. The temporary position turned into a full-time position where I was assisting the marketing and sales operations in the client relations department. I worked there for a year and a half before landing my current position with Washingtonian.
I never formally got into journalism after college because I’ve been attracted to the business side and don’t envision myself being able to have as great of a career on that side. The journalism industry can be tough these days, and I realized I didn’t love writing as much to stick it out and take the lower-paying jobs and internships in my mid-20s. It’s not all about the money though … you have to love what you do, and I didn’t love writing articles. I do love working directly with people and forming relationships, which I now get to do on a day-to-day basis.
Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?
I am extremely fortunate to have worked under my former boss at Washingtonian, Sarah Romer. She is a savvy, young professional with several years of great experience. Not only was she my boss, but she mentored me as a business professional and as a woman. After I had been working at Washingtonian for a year, she explained how there had been some wiggle room with my starting salary and that I did not even ask for more money. Again, the important part is not the money but recognizing my self-worth. She taught me to value myself and value what I have to bring to an organization. Sarah showed me an article where women make less than men because studies show they are hesitant to ask for what they deserve. I realized that it doesn’t hurt to ask, and that if you regard yourself with esteem, then others will as well.
What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?
My typical day involves e-mailing and calling potential and existing clients about advertising campaigns, managing banner campaigns, sending newsletters, etc. I will occasionally go out to meetings or networking events, but most of my time is spent in the office. Technology has allowed me to be very efficient in my communications with others, and several clients prefer e-mail to communicate because of their busy schedules. I still make sure to stay in face-to-face communication with most of my clients. I also assist other departments with tasks that involve the website/sending e-mails.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The people; I meet really amazing people every day, and I get to form great relationships with most of them. I am motivated in my job to help others and help their businesses get the notice they deserve.
What is the most challenging part?
The people. They're at the root of what we do, which can sometimes be great and sometimes be disheartening. Being in sales is like being on a roller coaster. There are a lot of highs, which are great, but then the lows get you down. There are several instances where someone seems interested but after you go through the process they just stop returning e-mails and calls. I wish these people could just say "no" or that they aren’t interested so I could stop wasting time. A "no" is better than no response at all!
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
In sales, you never feel like you can step away from the job. Not responding to an e-mail or call right away may mean the loss of the sale, and this personal responsibility makes it hard to ever fully step away. I’m always checking e-mail, even on weekends. I don’t always respond right away if I know it can wait until Monday, but sometimes it does bother me that the e-mail is right on my phone wherever I go. I wouldn’t have it any other way though …
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
Always respond to people, no matter what. It's so frustrating when people don’t give you a straight answer or blow you off. Any response is better than no response.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
I feel equally respected in my job as my male counterparts, but there is still a guy code exists at time in the industry where the men talk about golf, etc. It can feel very "Mad Men" at times, but definitely not as prevalent as I can imagine it used to be.
Who are your role models?
I look up to my family, particularly my brother when it comes to sales. He is a pharmaceutical representative and is just a complete rock star at what he does. He truly has a natural gift for relating with people and can strike up a conversation with anyone at any time. We are both outgoing people, but I really admire how much he has accomplished in his career and the amount of promotions/awards he’s received thus far. Much deserved!
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
My co-worker, Matt, told me a really great quote once that is important to keep in mind, particularly in sales. “Don’t make someone your priority when you are merely their option.” I am the type that wants to help people no matter what, but sometimes it’s not beneficial to pour all of your energy into something or someone that is never going to pan out. This is important to keep in mind with personal relationships as well.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
You can do anything you put your mind and heart to, and women shouldn’t be intimated thinking it's a male-dominated industry. "Mad Men" is set in the sixties. This is 2011. We’ve come a long way! Go for it, and always believe in yourself!