Name: Meredith Conte
Job Title and Description: Vice President, Marketing at Gannett Broadcasting
College Name/Major: Duke University/Public Policy
Twitter Handle: @meredithconte
Meredith Conte: My current job really revolves around people. As the head of marketing for Gannett Broadcasting, it’s my job to help local news stations attract consumers and advertisers to their brand. It means encouraging audiences to watch their local news, to engage with a local station on social media, to help local businesses understand why a partnership with our stations makes sense and so forth.
There really is no typical day, which is a positive. I like a lot of variety in my work, so the fact that I travel to our 46 TV stations around the country, meet with a lot of different people and work on a variety of projects is all good.
What is the best part of your job?
MC: The best part of my job is coming up with ideas. I love to brainstorm, problem-solve and participate in the creative process.
What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
MC: My first entry-level job was working as an aide on a political campaign. I got the job by networking with anyone and everyone, starting on the campaign as a volunteer, working hard and then asking for the role when the previous employee moved on.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
MC: This really applies to all industries but I wish I knew that “how” you do things really trumps “what” you do. When you are in an industry that’s as relationship-oriented as the media business, interpersonal skills, working comfortably through ambiguity and having a high level of resilience are all critical. Those are things they don’t teach in college, so you have to work hard, gain experience and seek feedback to help create a successful professional style.
Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
MC: This will sound corny, but I’d have to say my dad. He was my first professional mentor, always encouraging, sharing wisdom and helping me strategize about various career moves. He was a successful businessman in his own right, and I always found his stories incredibly inspiring and motivating. He and my mom really gave me the confidence to believe in myself and pursue my career.
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
MC: I have a friend who always signs her emails “Keep on keepin’ on,” and that has stuck with me throughout my career. Every professional has their ups and their downs at every level of their career. The trick is to just keep going. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by any particular issue or circumstance. Just keep plugging away and eventually you’ll find a way out, a new door or an unexpected outcome. Just keep on keepin’ on.
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
MC: I think the biggest mistake I made was taking one position for the wrong reasons. Earlier in my career, I accepted an offer based on tangible merits without doing enough homework on the company’s culture, and it turned out to be an awkward fit.
The lesson there was really make sure you do your homework about the company and its culture before you jump in. You need to feel confident it’s the right fit all the way around. Gut instincts are really powerful. If you feel something’s off, it probably is.
What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?
MC: The whole journey has been surreal, to be honest. My career has taken unexpected twists and turns, which have led me down different paths at different times, and I’m really grateful for the entire ride.
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
MC: Of course I look for the basics: hard worker, self-starter, smart and fit within the organization. But beyond that, I look for spark. Does a candidate have the creativity and curiosity to bring new ideas to the table, to inspire others and to help create a culture of innovation? If so, then that’s a person I’d like to have on our team.
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
MC: The media business is changing so fast. What it looks like today will no doubt look completely different a year from now. So my first piece of advice would be to keep up with all the disruption and changes in the industry in order to be prepared for interviews, to develop a personal point-of-view about the industry and to be in a position to contribute.
And if this is an industry you really want to pursue, go for it. It is a real thrill to be in the media business and in journalism specifically. To know that your passion for multimedia storytelling can ultimately create change in communities is an exciting prospect. So if you have any interest at all, I say go all in. Don’t worry if you don’t have a journalism degree—the beauty of the business is that degrees are only one part of the mix. Creativity and curiosity get you pretty darn far.