How to Be the #1 Candidate in Your Next Job Search

Insider Tips from Amy Leeper Knox

Want to crush your next job search? Use your Charlotte AMA connections to go beyond LinkedIn and the job boards, and actually get to know the people doing the hiring. People like Amy Leeper Knox of The Creative Group.

The Creative Group is a nationwide staffing firm that specializes in placing marketing and design talent. Amy is Branch Manager and Assistant Vice President of The Creative Group in Charlotte. (Shout out to TCG for being an AMA Charlotte sponsor!) And she’s been intimately involved with the Chapter for five years.

As a recruiter who is also a Charlotte AMA insider, Amy has a unique perspective on the role of the Chapter as a proving ground in the hiring process. And she shared these insights with me in a recent chat.

Q: What’s your connection to AMA Charlotte?

Amy: It’s been really exciting. Over the past five years I’ve done events and promotions and partnerships, and I was also in the President role last year, and this year being the Past President.

It’s become a place where I’ve made friends and colleagues and business partners -- and it’s become my family.

Q: Why would anyone who’s already crazy-busy take on these executive leadership roles?

Amy: Because I 110% believe in what the AMA does.

Because it’s one of those organizations -- a national organization on the local level -- that has the resources and knowledge base to be legit and not make stuff up as they go.

People from all areas of the marketing industry get together to share insights and best practices. And it’s all levels of marketing. You’ll have people who just graduated college up to CMOs. And that’s why I decided to get involved and stay involved because I truly believe in the mission they’re driving here in Charlotte.

The key is to get involved and stay involved.

Q: If you have several candidates to choose from, and some are affiliated with AMA and some are not, does that affect your decision-making process?

Amy: AMA membership definitely moves them to the top of my list, for a couple of reasons:

• I’ve probably met them already, and I feel like there’s a rapport. They’ve been out networking, they’re getting involved, they’re keeping up to date with what’s going on in marketing – so I know they’re already involved.

• I know they’ve got that mindset and that desire to keep learning and growing. Marketing keeps changing on a daily basis. Knowing that they have that mindset to keep learning and keep growing and get outside of their comfort zone to meet new people at these socials – that automatically tells me they’re going to be a great fit with most of my clients.

If somebody tells me they’re an AMA member and I’m looking at them versus another person with the same skill set who’s not involved, that’s going to be something that definitely gets them the job.

AMA membership definitely moves candidates to the top of my list.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who just wants to come to the events once in a while, and doesn’t want to get involved?

Amy: I think that’s great if that’s all they want out of it. If they say, ‘I don’t have the time, I just want to attend when the subject matter is important to me.’

You’re never going to fully experience what you can get out of a networking group if you go about it that way.

Being more heavily involved, especially if you join the Board and get on the Committee level – not only do you naturally learn everything because you’re at all these events, but at the same time, you’re building these relationships and you never know where they’re going to lead your career.

I’ve definitely staffed tons of people through the AMA, who come to me saying, ‘I need a new position, or I’m not happy in my role and I need confidence to look for a new one, or I just got laid off.’ We help them get their next opportunity. I’ve also been able to help companies with their interim staff. People say, ‘I need someone right now, can you help me out -- you’ve been a great partner to me through the AMA.’

I’ve been offered jobs through the AMA. Obviously, I didn’t take them, but I was offered.

People hire who they network with first. People hire who they know first, then they go to the job boards.

If you’re passionate about your industry and growing your career and your knowledge base, and you have that desire and that drive to be the best, then getting involved with a networking or trade association is the way to go. It’s the only way to stay on top of what’s going on in your industry, it’s the only way to network with colleagues who aren’t within your company. Nurture your career by getting involved with some sort of organization that specializes in what you do that you find interesting.

Q: What do you have to say to people who don’t join because they’re afraid they’re too old or too young or too inexperienced, etc.? What is it about the Charlotte chapter, the mindset, the level of serious programming from a group that doesn’t take itself too seriously. What makes the Charlotte chapter unique?

Amy: People in Charlotte don’t have a stable sense of ‘I already have my network.’

Charlotte is a transplant city, a melting pot -- a lot of people are new here and that’s what makes our chapter unique. People come here from New York or L.A. or small towns in the Midwest. And because they’re new here, they don’t have their established network they’ve had forever. We prop each other up.

People are coming together from all over the country into this melting pot, and now we have this marketing association that reflects that and attracts people from the field who don’t know each other.

Trust me, when I walked into that first event, I didn’t know anybody. And the first people I met, they were on the Board, and they said, ‘Welcome! Who are you? We want to know everything about you!’ It was great, and I felt so welcomed! I didn’t feel out of place, I didn’t feel like I was standing there by myself. What helped, too, is that we have a great Board that really embraces new people -- as soon as they see anyone standing alone who looks like they don’t know what to do, they go right over to them and say, ‘I’m on the Board, let’s talk about why you’re here and what you want out of it.’ It’s a unique thing for us, and a lot of cities don’t have that. I lived in San Francisco for eight years and I never knew my neighbors in my apartment building.

Everybody wants to get to know you here.

Q: Any parting thoughts?

Amy: The market’s healthy, so marketing teams have more budget to spend on marketing campaigns and communications campaigns, so that makes it a good time to get involved with networking. It means they’re busier. It’s also a good time to make sure you’re getting up to date on everything that’s going on with the trends.

Have the mindset to keep learning and keep growing. And get out of your comfort zone.

About the author:

Deborah Klaus is a freelance copywriter based in Winston-Salem, NC. Learn more about her at