My first job was with Procter & Gamble in 1983 as an assistant brand manager for Crest in Venezuela. At the time, I thought this was a complete 180 from the job I should be doing. I had graduated from Boston College with a degree in Business Administration and had my heart set on a position in finance. I was a serious numbers person—everything had to have a net present value!
I admit I didn’t know enough to appreciate the size and scope of P&G’s portfolio, but I did know that the company was doing international recruiting, and I wanted to return home to Venezuela. So I headed to Caracas for an interview with Mr. Campos, the P&G human resources manager for Venezuela. After 15 minutes of chatting, I told him I wanted a job in finance. “Absolutely not!” he responded. “You are a marketing person.” It wasn’t the answer I was expecting. I didn’t know anything about marketing outside of one course I had taken in school, and I didn’t think I had the creativity required for such a position. But I needed a job. I knew P&G was a well-regarded company, so I took the marketing position, thinking I would later work my way into the finance department.
I was hesitant about my ability to succeed, but that recruiter’s instincts were spot-on, and my analytic skills were actually perfect for the job. My serendipitous start ignited a passion in me for marketing and I learned some valuable lessons: Sometimes people see strengths in you that you don’t see in yourself. Have the courage to trust them. Don’t automatically reject unexpected pathways; instead, give them serious consideration. It’s up to you to take risks and make the best of what you have in front of you. In my new position at Avon, I get to focus on products that help women look and feel their best. And I market perhaps the ultimate enhancer: women’s empowerment. I’m still so passionate about marketing, and ever since my first job interview I have never rejected an alternate path without seriously considering it.