So You Want to Be a Marketing Rock Star?

I was talking to our intern today, and she inspired me to write this post.  As a young person trying to break into the marketing field, she was interested in hearing my advice on how college students or recent college grads can land a gig in the highly competitive field of marketing, advertising, or public relations.  So I thought I would give it a go.  Finding a job is not easy.  Finding a job in marketing can be twice as hard due to the current economy as well as competition.  So here are my tips to land a gig in marketing.

Take a Step Back: I think this is the most important step.  Take some time to figure out what you really want to do, and which companies you want to work for.  Gone are the days where you can simply send your resume to a bunch of companies and hope they respond.  Monster is a lie and not real anymore.

Your search should be just like a successful marketing campaign, strategic and highly targeted.  Focus on at most 10 companies.  Research them.  Know who the players are.  Find out how to get in.  Develop a marketing plan for yourself on how to get in.

Throw Away Your Resume: Seriously.  Take a look at it, and then throw it away and start over.  Resumes today need to tell a story, and if yours is simply listing out what you have done, it may not catch the eye of a recruiter.  Someone in my circle recently applied to a marketing job where there were over 400 applicants for one position.  To win this game, you need to stand out early.

One of my best tips to resume writing is to have a core design (if you are using a Microsoft Word Resume template, throw it away, burn it, then burn it again) and customize that design for each job you apply to.  If a company posts an open position, they usually list the skills desired.  Take your template and create a resume that highlights exactly the skills they are looking for.  Note: Do not lie, just focus your experience and tailor it to their needs.  Become the person they are looking for by highlighting your skills that are relevant for each position.  Don’t list “internet” as a skill either.

Remember Every Day is an Interview: I was recently reminded of this at work, and it is good advice.  If you are a student, you are interviewing with your peers who may land jobs, your instructors who probably have jobs, and a variety of other people day in and day out.  You are under the microscope every day on how you handle pressure, challenges, and create opportunities.  Never miss a chance to sell yourself in any situation.  Be a rock star every day – you never know who is watching you.

There is No Career Path: When you talk to marketing professionals, you will soon realize that they all have a very different backgrounds.  The days are over where you start a job after college and have a career path to a certain position.  You need to make your own path.  Every job you have from here on in is experience and a way to network in to other organizations.  Take advantage of all of your experience.  You will find you will also need to make your own way, and no one can do it for you.

Your First Job May Be the Path to Your Dream Job: While you might want to start your career in a corporate marketing department, you may soon realize that these positions often require experience and are not entry level.  While that can be discouraging, don’t let that stop you from reaching your goal.  Let’s say your dream was to be a Marketing Manager for Ford – but are unable to get into the door at corporate.  Take a step back and understand the experience you might need to make that happen.  You could possible explore working at JWT, Ford’s advertising agency, or getting experience somewhere else in automotive.  Never lose sight of your goals.  If you are driven (Ford, Driven, see what I did there?) you can reach your end goal.  It might not be easy, but in the end when you reach that goal it will be that much more rewarding.  You could also reach out to @scottmonty for advice on getting into Ford.

Network: Talk to your instructors.  Join LinkedIn.  Meet people in fields that you want to work in.  Most marketing people have huge egos and would love for you to listen to their success stories.  Half kidding here – but for the most part they will be willing to help.  Talk to as many people as you can.  If you land an internship, connect with people and stay connected with them throughout your career.

Be Mobile: While you are young, the positions and opportunities may not be where you currently live.  You may have to move for awhile to gain experience.  Look at it this way – you can always return after you have experience.  Trust me – do this while you are young and before kids.  Making your way in a new city is one thing, uprooting a family is another.  Hopefully you won’t have to do it – but if you cannot find a gig in your current city, making the move can be a great opportunity to gain experience.

Be Humble.  Be Patient: Hard work is still the key ingredient to success in marketing, as in any field. Put your head down in whatever you do and work hard.  Be honest.  Work smarter.  Be patient.  While your first job may not be your dream job, it is what you make of it, and remember you are creating your own path.

I read an article about goals in 2012 – and I think they are valid for every year.  To make every year your best year.  Good advice to share today and always, especially for young people: Do what you say you are going to do, otherwise known as accountability.

  • If you say you are going to call, call.
  • Promise to send someone information? Send it.
  • Finish a job when you promised–or earlier–with quality work.
  • Let people know as soon as you can when you are running late for a meeting or won’t make it at all.
  • And, my personal favorite, make good on the promise “Let’s get together sometime.” Make a note on your calendar in the near future to set something up. Or don’t say it at all.

Pretty simple advice, but amazingly, we can tend to forget it.

Don’t Get Discouraged: You will probably get shot down a few times.  Maybe more than a few.  We all have.  Don’t ever let that discourage you.  Once you get discouraged, the search gets even more difficult.  Don’t blame others.  Don’t blame the economy.  Just get better and keep getting up.

I realized I left out that whole interviewing thing – but this felt like a good start.  Maybe next time we will touch on that.


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