A change in plans reveals career opportunities

Emii Le has big plans.

Goals to meet, to-do lists to cross off, boxes to check.

Get into Tippie: check. Join the Marketing Institute: check. Study abroad: check twice. Graduate with two majors, an impressive GPA, and a job lined up: check, check, and check.

“At Iowa, I didn’t have too many ups and downs,” says Emii, “I had goals…and from there it was just ‘up’ and ‘up’ and ‘up.’”

But progress doesn’t always mean perfect—and at Tippie, Emii learned something about plans: they change.

Her junior year, she set up an internship. “I was really interested in entrepreneurship, and I got an offer letter with a startup I was excited to work with,” she says.

But before the semester ended, she got an email: the CEO wasn’t pursuing the business—and she was weeks away from summer, and without any work lined up.

With help from the Marketing Institute, Emii found a plan B—one that would lead her to new opportunities, and a promising new career.

Meet people who motivate you

Even before enrolling, Emii knew Iowa was right for her. “From researching colleges online, I knew Tippie was a good business school. So I decided to visit. You know the feeling when you go to a place, and you just feel like you belong there? That’s why I chose Iowa.”

At 12, Emii moved to Sioux City from Vietnam. As a first generation college student, she immediately felt welcome at Tippie.

“Tippie just felt like a ‘fit’ for me,” she says. “I could see the college was really trying to be an inclusive place. They’re really open to learning more about new cultures.”

But the environment at Tippie wasn’t just welcoming—it was motivating.

“Everyone at Iowa has different backgrounds, different stories, different struggles. And learning about them inspired me to do more than I thought I could.”

“Everyone is striving to do better here,” Emii says.

Make connections that matter

“Connections are everything in business,” Emii says. So she went out and made a few.

Turns out, it wasn’t hard: “I think everyone at Iowa is just really nice,” she says “They’re willing to help.”

Emii went to office hours, and took the time to get to know her professors. “They really care about what you do,” she says, “And they really want you to learn.”

Beyond the classroom, she found support in Tippie community. “Anytime I went anywhere,” she says “I could rely on the alumni network.”

Emii also looked for ways to make connections amongst her peers. She spent four years as an executive member of the American Marketing Association—and it was through students there that she heard about the Marketing Institute.

Embrace new roles

Her junior year, Emii applied, and was accepted into Tippie’s Marketing Institute.

“I really appreciated the experience I got out of the Marketing Institute (MI). They gave us hands-on experience.” Emii says, “We got to work with a real company and clients —it went beyond a class project.”

The “real client” Emii worked for was the Johnson County Food Policy Council. Her team’s goal: get retailers to sell more locally grown foods.

They researched whether a “buy local” branding campaign—which would identify Iowa- grown options—could influence shoppers.

This meant surveying over 1,200 people, and interviewing almost 50 farmers. They built a full-scale campaign strategy: developing audience personas, communication plan, logos, signage, infographics and more. They pitched and revised, and then pitched and revised some more.

Finally, they presented to the board of MI advisors—executives from companies like Hormel Foods, Principal Financial, and Neiman Marcus.

Throughout all of this, Emii was the project manager.

“I was also in charge of keeping track of our project’s timeline, tasks and progress – making sure we meet deadlines

Lean into new challenges

Managing the project with the Marketing Institute meant managing a lot of “wants.”

“We had the ‘wants’ of our client, faculty, and advisors. We had many different tasks, and a lot of limits.”

Limits like: a lack of sales data, historical marketing research, or customer information. While other MI groups started with an informational foundation, Emii’s team was building something from scratch.

Communication, too, could be a bit tricky. “We were working with a client who ran on different schedule than ours; it was hard to get feedback, and answers to questions quickly.”

And while Emii was managing the large-scale, multi-faceted project, she was also managing projects of her own—juggling school, two part-time jobs, and her leadership roles in student organizations.

“I needed to improve my time management,” Emii says, “Learning how to manage time, manage stress, manage deadlines, and still meet my goals was the biggest challenge.”

Rely on relationships

When it came time to face these new challenges, Emii proved herself right: connections are everything in business.

To overcome the “limits,” she encountered, she sought help from a professor and advisor.

“My marketing professor, Dave Collins, gave us insightful industry knowledge. And he was an excellent source of networks. If I needed to talk to someone with any particular set of experience, or insight—he’d make a call.”

To manage the ‘wants,’ and ease communication, she got help from the Marketing Institute director, Peggy Stover.

“She aided us with information and research, and kept us in line with our vision and project scope. She was a tremendous help in maintaining our relationships with our clients.”

And to manage her time, and the workload, Emii relied on her team.

“I’m a planner and a do-er. In group projects, I used to try to do all the work. Learning to divide the workload made everything more effective, and made the process more rewarding.”

All the while, her friends and peers at Iowa continued to inspire her.

“Every time I thought “this is too much”—the people I met motivated me. I thought: ‘I’m not the only one.’”

Chase new opportunities

Fast-forward. Emii’s excelled at the Marketing Institute. She helped build a successful marketing strategy from the ground up, and was ready to apply those skills in a summer internship.

And then she got the email: the start-up she’d planned to work with, decided not to “start.”

“It was almost a ‘down’ moment,” she says. “Something I planned, a goal I had, didn’t go how I wanted it to. But it opened a door. It opened a new opportunity.”

That new opportunity came Peggy Stover, the Marketing Institute director. She reached out to Emii about an internship at Frontier Co-Op, a growing company specializing in natural and organic products.

“The Marketing Institute helped my resume stand out. I had my interview, and got the job right away.”

At Frontier, Emii learned new skills, and began to specialize in digital marketing. And it was that internship, and those skills, that led Emii to the job she has today.

She’d lined up a full-time digital marketing position with Frontier even before graduating.

“People get discouraged,” Emii says, “that they don’t know where they’re going next, or where their career will lead them. What I’ve learned is to have an open mind, and consider all opportunities that come your my way. Never limit your potential.”