After 15 years working in retail, Erin Brennan joined the great resignation.
She left her job as the general manager of two boutiques in Burlington, Vermont, to pursue a career in digital marketing.
“Anyone in retail or a service job during the pandemic probably knows very well just how difficult and challenging a year it was. I was fortunate in that I was able to continue working, but I think I was experiencing a lot of burnout,” Brennan said.
Her job leap happened because of a confluence of factors: the pandemic shake-up of the retail industry, Brennan’s mindset shift, and a digital marketing course she took from UVM called Digital Marketing Fundamentals. She was still working full-time when she took the course.
“I realized there was more I wanted to do within my role, and digital marketing made a lot of sense because a lot of our focus became social media and selling through the website,” Brennan said. “The social media piece allowed us to scale and reach all of our customers during the pandemic in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”
She says taking the course while working helped her to see how marketing strategies could be applied in real life and how valuable marketing could be for a business.
“That helped inform a lot of our decisions, like doing a website revamp or how we were approaching some of our social media and email tactics as well… It gave me a very well-rounded foundation to work from,” Brennan said.
Making the Shift to Digital Marketing: Blind Faith
Brennan left her retail job in 2021 after she finished the course and when she realized her job wasn’t a good fit anymore.
“I had worked my way up to this leadership position and realized there wasn’t much more room for me to grow,” Brennan said. “I wanted to be able to use the skills I had just learned… and also create a better living for myself.”
Though she didn’t have anything lined up, she bravely left her job so she could have the space to build her skills further and polish her resume.
“To really intentionally focus on roles that I was qualified for… to take what I just learned in that class specifically and dive into a little bit deeper,” Brennan said.
That’s when she saw the opportunity to take a free certificate program through Upskill Vermont, a program that provides free educational opportunities to eligible Vermonters.
“I was like, this is so exciting, I just took this class, I got a lot out of it, here’s an opportunity to take another class, and it’s free… this is amazing,” Brennan said. “Especially because I was in between jobs and I didn’t know what I was doing next, so the thought of investing money into anything is kind of scary because you don’t know where that next paycheck is going to come from necessarily.”
Through Upskill, Brennan leveled up her skills again with an intermediate digital marketing course and got her Online Social Media Certificate from UVM.
“It did a couple of things, it gave me something to do while I had this time off, and it also offered me a bit of direction, which gives you a sense of security as well,” Brennan said. “For a second, I hesitated, ‘If I’m not paying for it am I going to prioritize it?’ I think knowing that other people weren’t going to have that opportunity because I had taken a spot was a motivating factor to me to take it seriously.”
With her newfound skills, Brennan landed a job at New Breed, a revenue performance management firm that helps businesses acquire, retain, and expand customers through tech-enabled marketing. She was hired as a marketing coordinator the same month after completing her second digital marketing course at UVM.
Brennan says her advice to other people working in the service industry interested in marketing is to do something to make yourself stand out, especially as career-changing becomes more common.
“We’re all looking for something more meaningful, something that is going to pay better, something that is going to offer us better benefits, something that will make our lives more comfortable,” Brennan said. “It also means the job market is highly competitive, so why not put a little extra effort into it? Why not take that opportunity to help yourself stand out? To help your resume fall at the top of the pile and to put your best foot forward.”