By Simon Lewis, Content Editor of Only Marketing Jobs
Marketing is one of those sexy industries where you are paid good money to serenade celebrities at swanky champagne events and receive free gifts from big corporate brands as reward for your efforts in piecing together their latest hot campaign. By day you are a communications strategist, by night a social butterfly.
Whilst the above generalisation is certainly an accentuation of the truth the fact remains that a career in marketing is the gateway to opportunities available to only a very small proportion of mainstream industry.
Media affects each and every one of us but since we absorb a vast quantity of it through our sub-conscious it is not until we engage in this space that we truly understand what a wonderful world of creative tactical artistry it can be.
However, the marketing waters can be murky and, at times, ruthless. There is little room in media for shrinking violets so being qualified is the first step in preparing for survival.
Jobs are open to graduates of any degree, though a qualification in marketing or communications is now more than just advantageous, it is essential. A career in marketing remains high on the list of choice pathways and with the number of jobseekers outweighing vacant opportunities, competition is fierce.
So now you have the education what do you do with it, and how?
More than just a degree
While some graduate programmes will offer marketing streams or rotations, these spaces are limited and as such rivalry is high. Competition for roles at smaller firms can be equally fierce so some form of work experience will give you a real edge. A work placement or internship taken during your studies will be a big help. Accept any offer of experience – even unpaid – with open and gratified arms.
Many graduates enter the marketing sector through roles in related industries such as sales, market research, PR or advertising. A qualification from one of the professional bodies, for example, The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM) or The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM), can be a real boost to your application but should not be seen as a replacement for the personal skills or experience that recruiters desire.
Skills and contacts built up outside your studies can help you get a foot in the door. Organising society or department events, writing newsletters, managing budgets and standing on committees all indicate the good communication and project management skills you’ll need for a job in marketing.
Similarly, showing how you developed organisation and time-management skills through combining studies, social life and part-time work will help your application.
Applying for marketing jobs
In any competitive industry to stand any chance of success you must be prepared to be determined and enthusiastic. Without certain zeal you will not last long in an environment synonymous for deadline-driven hours and a work-hard, play-hard ethos.
So when applying for marketing jobs you should take care to research the organisation posting the role and try to identify whether the company is really for you.
It is all well and good matching your experience to an advertised vacancy but if the company goes against your grain you risk diluting your proposition before your career has even begun.
You know your skills so find a company that would best use these and offer the chance for you to develop a sustainable career. That said, in a downturned economy you may need to weigh up the value of a role not quite ideal but able to offer experience.
Here’s a tip for job seeking in a downturned market: look for industry sectors that are able to buck the negative trend. Example:-
When the airline industry suffered a downturn after the 2001 attacks, most airlines pulled up the drawbridge and reduced their marketing, accepting they were going to take a hit on profits.
Ryanair bucked this trend by robustly increasing their marketing, and experienced significant growth as a result. Sometimes, acting counter-intuitively like this can lead to unexpected successes. That’s partly because customer psychology doesn’t always work as you might expect.
There’s evidence that in difficult times, sales of luxury items can actually go up, instead of down. Perhaps this is because people want to treat themselves more to cheer themselves up; certainly, the marketer who wants to benefit from this effect can tailor marketing communications to fit it.
Look at how the sales of ‘comfort’ or nostalgic, retro brands can increase in a downturn too – people want to spend money on things that make them feel safe and reassured.
Once you have identified the type of company you would ideally like to work for you need to identify where the jobs are. There are stacks of industry-specific career sites housing 1,000s of marketing vacancies. Choosing the right ones to connect with is simple and there are suggestions in the resources section of this article to help with your research.
When using a career site you will invariably be asked to register your details before applying for any vacancies. This will allow recruiters the chance to find you in their jobseeker searches. The information you provide here is crucial and care should be taken to ensure you maximise your offering.
Aside from a well-crafted CV you need to ensure your profile is both welcoming and interesting. You will be one of many jobseekers a recruiter could call about an opportunity. Offering examples of your skills and work will ensure you stand out from the crowd.
Developing contacts via social networking
If your course involves a work placement or internship, use it to make contacts in marketing departments. Showing initiative at this stage could really pay dividends in the future. In business terms it is often not so much what you know, as who you know.
The more influential people you know the more you increase your chances of identifying opportunities. More and more we live in a world where altruism struggles against egocentricity but, nonetheless, socialistic attitudes are often rewarded in media, where back-scratching is common-place.
Developing and maintaining contacts is imperative in today’s social-led environment and to this end there are two key routes to achieving positive results:
1. Social media
Social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news and information and has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal, political and business use.
Online publishing technologies such as Facebook, Twitter and in the business world, LinkedIn, afford users the opportunity to build personal profiles online and connect with people relevant to them.
As a marketing graduate, for example, it is possible to identify hiring managers from direct employers and connect with them directly. Your user profile is your selling platform and by establishing something that looks good you will attract useful connections and in turn these people will invite you into their networks.
Social media is an extremely powerful marketing tool and by using it as a means of engagement and information sourcing you will set yourself apart from your competition. By joining groups and online societies specific to your experience and interests you will quickly pick up hints and tips and make business acquaintances that could considerably assist your career development.
2. Business networking
Business networking can be done on or offline but many professionals tend to prefer face-to-face networking over online based networking because the potential for higher quality relationships are possible.
Many individuals favour face-to-face networking because actually knowing and meeting who they intend to do business with is more personal, tangible and rewarding.
By attending marketing seminars and events not only will you pick up useful information but it will allow you the chance to meet prospective employers and people who could benefit your career. Collecting business cards is a worthwhile hobby!
The ‘X factor’
‘Brand you’ is the most important brand in the world and how you market this will have a huge impact on who buys into you.
Personal branding is the process whereby people and their careers are marked as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.
How you look and the knowledge you pass on defines other people’s judgments and leaves an indelible impression that is uniquely distinguishable.
Personal branding is unavoidable. As others interact with you, they’ll automatically form mental associations that connect you with certain labels, often within the first few seconds.
You can’t avoid being labeled, and other people can’t avoid labeling you. It happens automatically because our brains are wired to recognize patterns and form associations. The labels people attach to you become part of your personal brand.
If you type an email, you’re branding yourself. If you have a conversation with a friend or family member, you’re branding yourself. How you dress, what you eat, and how you talk all contribute to your brand. Think of your brand as the summation of all the associations about you that are stored in people’s minds.
That ‘je ne sais quoi’ factor comes when someone you meet thinks ‘there’s something rather impressive about that person’. And this is the impact you want to make. Consider the answer to this question: if you were a famous brand, which would you be and why?
Companies such as Changing Gear offer one-day personal branding and styling experiences, preparing you for interviews and networking events by making you feel like the business professional all your hard work deserves.
The world of marketing can be wonderful, with so many avenues and channels to explore. You could find yourself involved in PR, advertising, sponsorship deals, web design and SEO, social media, event organisation or digital marketing.
To be successful in marketing you need to be multi-faceted: fantastic interpersonal and communication skills go without saying.
Depending on the role you may be required to write copy for marketing materials and press releases or help with the layout and design of media; so creativity is important, too. Commercial awareness, understanding consumer wants and needs and the business requirements of clients are equally essential for success in a marketing role.
But above all though, it is about ‘brand you’: your skills, your determination and your passion. How you market these is important, but that is your job after all.
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