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How graduates can break into a career in marketing

How graduates can break into a career in marketing

By Laura Hooke, Careers Consultant, City University London

For graduates, a career in marketing is very attractive. However, if you’re seeking to break into the exciting marketing industry, ensure you make an informed decision. What do you really know about the work, and have you got the persistence and determination to land an entry level role?  

Consider your contacts

The best start is often to find someone working in marketing who can offer you advice and contacts. Think about your contacts – do you know anyone who works in this industry? Your network could be family, friends, work colleagues, fellow students, or their friends, family and colleagues. If you are studying, consider contacting the marketing department of your university or college. If you are in work, consider the contacts your employer may have.  Is there an in-house marketing department or is an agency brought in to do the marketing?

Some universities have contact details for graduates who are happy to advise students about breaking into their area of work.  Ask your university careers service if they offer this kind of networking support and if any of the contacts work in marketing.  While you are at it, make use of university careers service. Careers services offer a range of help and resources, often continuing after you have graduated. There may also be a lot of useful resources on their website.


Think first before you get in touch with anyone working in marketing. This could be the start of a potential network of industry contacts, so carefully consider what questions you want to ask and how you are going to present yourself. You may only be asking for advice, but you want any contact to remember you for all the right reasons, as you never know what opportunities may come up in the future. Build up some basic knowledge of the range of different jobs within the industry and the different skills they demand before you start asking for tips on entry.

Marketing specific job sites can help you get a feel for the range of jobs currently available, from marketing assistant to more experienced hires.  You might also start to get the hang of some of the terminology used, the range of sectors employing marketing professionals and stay up to date with current issues and trends in the industry.

Consider your credentials

Getting to know the industry and the range of jobs is one objective. Another is to know yourself. How well do your strengths and skills, qualifications and experience match up to the needs of the sector and requirements for particular marketing functions?  

Don’t despair if you don’t quite match up to the requirements, but be honest with yourself. Is this the right industry for you?  If you still think so, find out how to fill the gaps. If your experience is lacking, try to arrange some work experience or work shadowing. Consider some voluntary work. For example, some charities and voluntary organisations might welcome input with their own marketing.

If relevant qualifications or training are required, find out what employers in the industry particularly value by talking to them. The Chartered Institute of Marketing offer a range of courses, which you can find on the website.
Seeking out opportunities.

Some organisations look for graduates to join formal training programmes in marketing, but there aren’t many of these opportunities. Many graduates looking for an entry level role in marketing seek out vacancies for junior roles such as a marketing assistant, and then develop their career from there. You can choose to work ‘in-house’, that is for an organisation with a marketing function, or for an agency providing marketing services to client companies and organisations. Give some thought to whether working in-house or for an agency would best suit you.

Your university careers service is likely to have an online jobs board too, which you might still have access to after graduating.  To make direct approaches to companies, check out professional bodies for contact details of member organisations.  

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