Liz Piontkowski (BA 2016 in Psychology with minors in Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise and Global Trade & Commerce)
Director of Operations at SmithBrown Marketing in Charleston, SC
Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on.
I work for SmithBrown Marketing a female owned lead generation consulting firm. I am our Director of Operations and we are a small business which means I wear many hats and no day is the same. Right now, we are lucky to have stayed status quo throughout this year. Our team is taking our growth from the past few months and using it to put the pieces in place for us to fill our funnel right now and grow in recovery. What that means for me is I’m building out processes for us to better service our clients as we grow and I’m hiring a variety of people to join our team! (If you’re looking for a role in the marketing world (or you know someone who is!), reach out on LinkedIn!)
What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?
My first job taught me how to manage up, a skill you may read about in school but not something that you can learn before being in a work environment. Managing up to me means taking initiative and responsibility for providing a solution to obstacles in your company that may not be in your traditional job description. It helps you learn and grow in beneficial ways for the latter parts of your career.
What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?
Figuring out how to balance client expectations versus what was humanly possible to do in a 40 hour week. I learned a great deal about working with people, both externally and internally, that have continued to serve me today.
What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college?
It doesn’t hurt to ask questions, especially about finance, and then ask them again and again until you understand.
How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?
LinkedIn is my first line of defense and then I always try to go to one ‘event’ a month. It’s not easy, especially right now but events are always happening and it’s one thing you can do to help yourself and it was how I made industry friends early on.
Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?
Yes and my Wake mentors hold a special place in my heart. They get where you come from, have been in your shoes (late night in the ZSR cramming for a big test) and always want to help you grow. These are the same kind of mentors I seek out in my current professional life.
What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional job?
Your network is your most important asset. Your skills will not matter and will not help you get your first job. Yes, I said that. You should still send hand-written thank you notes, be timely, and be scrappy. But your network will help you get started and then help you propel your career.
What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?
I’ve always wanted to manage people but its not something you necessarily are exposed to early on in your career. I’ve been intentional in building towards that goal by helping with intern programs at my company, getting involved in mentoring, and continuing to build my network.
Story published in September 2020. For current updates about Liz, or to reach out about out open positions, visit her LinkedIn page.