It’s safe to say that we’ve featured some incredible career journeys here on The Everygirl, and Megan Patterson’s is definitely one for the books. Three years ago, Megan moved to Chicago after graduating college without a single connection to call on. After fate led her to discover The Everygirl’s career profiles, she made it her mission to network with every featured Chicago woman and company in her industry. After countless emails and coffee meetings, she began building her resume with a slew of impressive internships including Red Frog Events, Skirt PR, and Zapwater Communications.
Less than a year later, Megan landed her first full-time position as a public relations coordinator at Blast! Marketing & PR and only eight months later was offered the coveted position of marketing manager at CS magazine. As if we weren’t already impressed, she even secured herself a promotion after less than two years on the job and now holds the title of senior marketing manager. And yes, she’s 24-years-old. (Cue jaw drop.)
If you want to learn more about how Megan made the most of her networking opportunties, established herself in a new city, and propelled herself into a senior role only three years post-grad, keep reading!
Name: Megan Patterson
Location: Chicago, IL
Current Title/Company: Senior Marketing Manager at CS magazine/Modern Luxury Media-Chicago
Education: B.A. in Business-Marketing at University of Missouri-Columbia
You graduated from college in 2013 and immediately dove into a plethora of highly sought after internships including Red Frog Events, Skirt Public Relations, and Zapwater Communications. Tell us a little about your internship experiences. What stood out? And how did you get your foot in the door?
After graduation, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree or where my strengths would best fit within a company. The one thing I knew was I wanted to move to a city with endless opportunities. So when Red Frog Events came to our career fair my senior year I was immediately drawn to the idea of it being a creative learning internship in the city of Chicago. I applied immediately after leaving the career fair and heard back within two weeks for my first round interview.
Fast forward two months and two more interviews later, I received an offer for the internship and a foot in the door to my first Chicago job. I moved to Chicago the day after graduation and fell in love with the idea of planning events and the city itself. While I loved my experience at Red Frog and have them to thank for the beginning of my event planning and leadership experience, unfortunately, like every other internship, it had to come to an end.
With no idea of where my next step would be, I knew it wouldn’t be moving back home so I got to work. I came across The Everygirl and started reading it like it was my bible. I read every career story, Chicago related article and all job advice/tips. I was so inspired by Skirt PR and Zapwater Communications that I started researching everyone and anyone in the company to reach out to and introduce myself to.
I remember a girl whom I met from the city telling me: “Good luck, those companies are impossible to get into,” which I knew meant I would have to work that much harder. I created short videos highlighting my experience and why I would be the perfect fit for their company and sent them out like flyers on the street hoping to get the attention of someone. After numerous follow-ups and Linkedin messages I heard back from both companies with an interview offer.
After two rounds of interviews I received offers from both for part-time internship positions. Torn between the two and knowing neither was a guaranteed job at the end, I had to do what was best for me and take a risk by secretly working for competitors in hopes to increase my chances of a possible full-time offer in the end. So I started what I like to call my “double life” stage. I worked at Zapwater on M/W/F, Skirt PR on Tues/Thurs and Molly’s Cupcakes on nights/weekends. I worked 24/7 to make ends meet to stay in the city and while my parents were constantly on my back about having a college degree and working an unpaid internship and minimum wage part-time job. But I was determined not to give up and get the typical 9-5 office job.
I learned so much at my internships: email etiquette, how to write a press release, pitch a product to a client, marketing tactics, etc. but just like Red Frog, all internships are seasonal. As my internships neared the end I was pulled aside and heard the dreadful words I had been trying to avoid…”we can’t hire at this time.” So back at it again, I put my mind to it and reached out to every person in the industry I had heard of or met at events while interning (I sent 56 emails in one day introducing myself) and had more coffee dates than I think my body could handle. I even started my own blog Sparkles & Sprinkles to use as a networking outlet.
Although I had more internships than most, each one was a new experience and another foot in the door to my next step, so I wouldn’t take back a single one.
I created short videos highlighting my experience and why I would be the perfect fit for their company and sent them out like flyers on the street hoping to get the attention of someone.
How did you first get connected with and hired at CS magazine?
I knew about the magazine from working in PR and it was actually the first magazine I picked up when I moved to the city.
It wasn’t until I was doing check-in at an event for Zapwater that I connected with Sam Berngard. I had read her career profile on The Everygirl and immediately recognized her and knew she worked at the magazine. I asked for her card and we met for coffee a few weeks later where she connected me with the current Director of Marketing Allison Endsley. I reached out to Allison every other week asking about job openings for a year until one day I saw her at an event and went up and introduced myself. I remember my first words being “Hi, my name is Megan, I’m the one who’s been emailing you about jobs for the past year.” Before I could finish she looked at me wide eyed and said, “Are you still looking? Can you come in tomorrow for an interview?” I went in the next day, got asked back the following and then again to meet the president of the company where I was offered the position at the end of the interview.
They always say timing is everything and even if it took a year, I am so fortunate to have met Allison at that event. And even more fortunate to have had her as such an inspiring role model/boss to learn from these past few years.
What advice do you have for others to set themselves apart from other applicants when applying to similar positions?
My best advice when applying for a position is continuous follow-up. Whether it’s following up on your application, your introduction of yourself or post-interview, always make sure to keep the connection going. Even when the person may not have a position available, stay in touch so when a position does become available you’re first to mind to bring in for an interview.
You have climbed the ladder at CS magazine to senior marketing manager and you’re only three years out of college! Tell us about each transition. Did you actively seek a promotion each time or wait for your hard work and diligence to pay off? Any tips for other women when it comes to promotions and asking for what you deserve?
It’s crazy to think that within my almost two years at CS, I have gone from marketing coordinator to marketing manager to, very recently, senior marketing manager. Each role has come with its own set of responsibilities and challenges and while sometimes things clicked right away, other times they required many late nights at the office.
My first position change came naturally through recognition of my hard work when the department expanded. However, my second change came with persistence and continuous follow-up (are you seeing the trend here?). When the previous senior marketing manager left, I saw an opportunity and immediately went for it. I knew I was going for a long shot as I had only been in my current position for six months, but was ready for another challenge and knew I could take on more responsibility. I went to my director and presented why I wanted the position and why I would be the best fit and continually proved myself by taking on more responsibility.
My best advice is to set your goals high and never stop working to achieve them. Sometimes an opportunity may just fall in your lap and other times you may have to go the extra mile to get there, but know what you want and go for it. Present to your boss why you want the position, why you would be the best fit, and what you will do to improve the department if given the position. Then make obtainable goals and start working towards them to show you are ready for the next step.
What are some of your responsibilities as senior marketing manager? What are the greatest rewards? The biggest challenges?
I always laugh when people ask, “What does marketing for a magazine entail?” It’s actually the perfect balance of sales, public relations, social media, event planning, and marketing. As senior marketing manager my overall responsibility is to assist the marketing director in facilitating marketing and strategic partnerships for Modern Luxury’s clients as well as manage all social media outlets, the internship program, and take the lead on large-scale events.
The events are my absolute favorite part of my job. We do about 200 events a year and plan anything from a 500 person Vera Wang bridal runway show to a private luncheon for our Michigan Avenue boutique partners. Between meeting some of the most talented and creative people during the planning process to seeing my vision and hard work come to life, the events are definitely the most rewarding. Nothing tops hearing a guest walking away at the end of the night, telling her friend how much fun she had.
One of my biggest challenges has been the balancing act. Managing events, social media, the internship program and the never slowing down emails for seven publications (CS, Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago, Modern Luxury Brides Chicago, Men’s Book Chicago, Charity & Social Datebook, NS and a new one we are launching this fall, CityGuide Chicago) always keeps me on my toes. Learning to juggle it all and my personal life has been a challenge at times, but something I’m continuously working toward.
…if you are confident in yourself and your ability to lead, others will follow and respect, so don’t be afraid to voice your opinions.
Networking is an essential but often daunting part of a successful career. How do you make the most of your connections with those in your industry?
Networking is vital in this industry as each relationship opens the door to another opportunity. I know many people dread that awkward cup of coffee with a stranger, but I have those to thank for each job/internship I’ve had. So when asked to grab coffee, I always try to say “yes” as I know how important those connections were to me. I also try to always support others in the industry by attending their events or grabbing lunch to catch up and hear about their latest projects.
My biggest tip when networking is never burn bridges, because you never know if you might be meeting your next future employer.
What advice can you give our readers seeking employment in marketing/media/public relations?
Network, network, network. I moved to this city not knowing a single person, but networked my tail end off to meet everyone and anyone I could in the industry. Each connection lead me to another which lead to another opportunity.
It’s all about who you know, but it’s up to you to get to know those people. Send emails introducing yourself to people in companies you are interested in even if there isn’t a job opening at the time. Attend events and introduce yourself to anyone and everyone in the room.
What obstacles have you faced during your career and how were you able to overcome them?
The biggest obstacle in my career has been proving to others (and myself!) my ability to take the lead. As a young woman in the business world, it can be challenging to step up at a meeting and call the shots for people who have been working in the industry for years. Something I am continually learning is that if you are confident in yourself and your ability to lead, others will follow and respect, so don’t be afraid to voice your opinions.
What is a typical workweek like for you?
A typical week consists of emails, events, meetings, and more emails. We typically have about 2-3 events we attend a week and with issues going to print almost every week, no two days are ever the same, which is something I love. Never fails to keep things interesting!
What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
No matter what task you are given, be the very best at it! This is something I have taken with me for every job and tell all of my interns. No matter if you’re doing check-in at the door or running the show, take each job as its own entity and be the very best at it because you never know what opportunity it may lead to next.
No matter if you’re doing check-in at the door or running the show, take each job as its own entity and be the very best at it because you never know what opportunity it may lead to next.
Best moment of your career so far?
My favorite moment was being thanked by the president of CS at the magazine’s 20th Anniversary Party in front of over 1,000 people at the Art Institute of Chicago. I had only been with the company for a few short months at the time and I remember hearing my name out loud and thinking, “This is it, right where I belong.” After graduating with no idea of what I wanted to do, it wasn’t until this moment when it clicked that I had finally found it!
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Although it was only a year ago, so many things have happened in this past year and if I could only give myself one piece of advice it would be to live in the moment and know that everything will work itself out in the end.
Megan Patterson is The Everygirl
Black with splenda
Go-to work outfit?
Midi skirt with white blouse and statement necklace under the collar
Current guilty pleasure?
Binge watching New Girl and Shark Tank
Favorite way to stay organized?
Google docs and color coding everything in my planner
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
Audrey Hepburn. As one of Hollywood’s greatest style icons and world’s most successful actresses, I would love to hear all of her style tips and success secrets! Plus, she seems super sweet.