Most young people spend a lot of time wondering about what would be a good career when they get out of college. Many students don't have a strong inner desire, (like "I want to be a biologist!") and they often do only informal research to find out what kinds of jobs are "out there." This may consist of reading want ads to find something interesting and talking to guidance counselors or other adults about what the work in different careers is like.


    At Mercy College, we're very familiar with this anxious search of youth, and our staff and instructors spend a lot of time talking with students about career options. Mercy is a nonsectarian college with its main campus in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester County, NY. It has sites in Manhattan, Bronx, Yonkers and other Westchester locations as well. The college offers certificate, undergraduate and graduate programs in business, science and liberal arts. There are a total of about 10,000 students enrolled in on-campus and online classes.


    One of the business programs at Mercy College is Direct Marketing. Students can earn either a New York State Certificate or a Masters of Science Degree in Direct Marketing, including courses on Internet marketing. Needless to say, our administrators and instructors are often asked what we think of direct marketing as a career choice. This is what we tell our students...


    Direct marketing (which includes interactive marketing) is a special part of marketing, and it is being used by almost every one of the Fortune 500 companies plus tens of thousands of smaller firms and organizations as well. Since the 80s, American businesses have been allocating increasingly larger shares of their overall marketing budgets to direct marketing efforts because it is so efficient and easily measurable. As a result, direct marketing today is the fastest growing part of marketing. That means companies will continue to need employees who know how to implement direct-marketing programs and campaigns in a technically professional way.


    There are several distinct components in direct marketing, and each of these provides job opportunities for people with different skills and interests.


    Media positions, for example, deal with planning campaigns using direct mail, magazines, newspapers, telemarketing, television, radio, fax and the Internet buying the appropriate advertising vehicles and measuring the results. It's a great area for people who like research and analysis, negotiations and are comfortable with numbers.


    Creative positions deal with the development of copy and graphics for these same media. Here the emphasis is on using words and visuals to motivate the target audience to respond to advertising either by sending in an inquiry or an order or going to a store or dealer. This part of direct marketing can be very appealing to people who like to write creatively or who have artistic ability and want to sell products and services.


    There are also many career opportunities in the database component of direct marketing. This very important area is responsible for collecting, storing and organizing the billions of bytes of information that describe direct marketing transactions and customer profiles and then the analysis of this data using statistical techniques including modeling. There are challenging positions in this area for well-trained people who are oriented to systems work and quantitative analysis.


    In addition, direct marketing companies need people who are professionally capable in areas such as supply chain management, operations, finance, product development and marketing management.


    Our students are sometimes surprised but then very interested when we explain that DELL Computer, BMG Music Club, America Online, the Lands' End Catalog, FedEx and dealer GE Credit, to name a few, are all part of the huge world of direct marketing. And so are printers, warehouses, lettershops and paper companies. It makes our students realize that training in direct marketing can give them a key to positions in many different types of companies. They don't have to commit themselves to a specific industry (like automobiles) for the rest of their lives.


    It is very likely that direct marketing will continue to grow at a fast pace in the decades ahead. The reason is simple: Corporations want to invest their marketing dollars in the most effective way possible. They want to know that their advertising efforts are really being productive. Direct marketing is the type of marketing that can deliver those results. With growth comes job opportunities. And for people who show that they know what they are doing and work hard, those jobs can become senior management positions one day.


    At Mercy College, we also stress the need for professional training. We point out that many employers today prefer to bring in new workers who can be immediately productive and don't require six months of on-the-job training to learn the fundamentals of a position. That's why the very practical coursework at Mercy College whether at the Certificate level or in the Master's program makes our students attractive to prospective employers.


    Forty years ago, the phrase "direct marketing" didn't exist. There were book and record clubs, catalogs, fund-raising, publishing solicitations and business direct mail, each a relatively small specialized area. Today's direct marketing marries all the marketing techniques those pioneers learned and perfected with the latest computer technology and the new Internet medium. There couldn't be a more exciting area for a business-oriented person to look into for a rewarding career!


    Pierre Passavant is corporate relations advisor at the Center for Direct Marketing, Mercy College. His 35-year career in direct marketing includes management positions at JC Penney, Gerber Life Insurance, Xerox Education and the Kobs Gregory Passavant Agency. He is now helping Mercy College to offer its online direct marketing courses and seminars to corporations. Contact him at