A lot of people ask us what skills they need to get a career started in marketing (or how to get their foot in the door here) so we thought we’d give you some tips and ideas.
1. Do your homework. First off, if someone calls our firm looking for work, the first question we ask is “Have you visited our website?” If the answer is no, then you should go back to the drawing board. Being able to talk intelligently about why you might want to work for a specific firm is an absolute requirement. But let’s assume you’ve got that part right. What kinds of jobs might you be able to find in the first place, and how do you get your first shot in the industry?
2. Consider a sales job – with a marketing component. If you’re a student, fresh out of business school, you are likely going to end up with a starting position in sales. If you want a marketing component to your sales job, then consider a smaller firm for whom you could be an “all in one” marketing and sales person. That way, you’d get to create your own marketing plan, selling tools (brochures, web sites) and then put them into use.
3. Check out trade shows. To find a job in marketing, a great place to look is at trade shows. Most small businesses in trade shows will hand out their marketing literature, and this will tell you what the companies do, and whether they need marketing help. Make up your own business cards with your personal credentials, and pass them out to companies who may be interested in getting some help with their marketing or sales. Hand them out and follow up with the people you met personally at the trade show. You could then see if they need your help as an employee or as a freelancer.
4. If you want to be in an agency, go through the vendor’s door. If you ultimately want a job in an advertising or marketing firm, look for businesses who sell things to them. Good examples of sales jobs like this are at printing companies, promotional products companies, sign companies, trade show display companies, magazines, television or radio stations, web development companies and many others who sell services to advertising and marketing companies. That would make all the marketing / advertising companies your clients. And if you stand out when you sell to them, there’s a good chance that one of them will want you sell for them at some point.
5. If you are you an artist, do spec work. If you have graphic design skills, web design skills, or writing skills, build a portfolio by doing “spec” work, like this: Take examples of ads in newspapers, radio, television, or web sites that are weak, and need re-writing or re-designing, and simply re-do them your way. You can pitch the new ads to the companies you created them for by calling the businesses, and asking for the person in charge of advertising or marketing. Tell them you worked up a sample for them and would like to show them. If they are open to it, ask for an interview. If they really like the ad and want to use it but don’t have a full time job for you, then perhaps they will pay you for your work, and you will have a customer as a freelancer. Not to mention a “real” job for your freelance portfolio.
6. If you like research, spec research is great too. If you have strength in market research, another good technique is to do speculative research work. Perhaps do some secret shopping on a specific business where you would like to work, or have as a client, and then call them up and see if they would like to see your report. Research a company’s competitors if you like, and tell them you would like to show them your report, free of charge, and see if they will give you an interview. You could also say that upon researching their competitors, you found that you preferred this company best for several reasons, and you would like to tell them the reasons and your findings, and see if you can help them as a freelancer or as an employee.
7. Plug into the industry and job channels. Another way to get a career in marketing is the traditional way – looking at posted job sites. You can also seek specific firms, through their web sites, and look under their employment offerings. You could also subscribe to Marketing Magazine, Advertising Age or other trade journals, and look at the jobs posted there – much more within the field. And if you’ve done your grunt work, and built some sort of portfolio (as per our suggestions above) you will have something to get you in the door. Work samples are important when looking for jobs in marketing. Critical also is the cover letter – always be sure to tell prospective employers what you learned about them, and why this made you want to work for them. That will help you stand out more than just talking about yourself.
8. Use your sales contacts. If you’ve been in sales, and have a client base, you could also likely get letters of intent from your clients stating that they would be open to receiving marketing help from whatever marketing firm you join. This would be a powerful selling strategy to get you into an account position with a firm who wants to hire you but needs you to support yourself with a base of business you can call your own. It is also an excellent way to transition yourself from sales into marketing consulting.
9. Prove yourself for real. If you really want to get your potential employer’s attention, you can start your own business and gain so much attention that those firms want to buy you out. If you’re that good, get up your own website, learn how to rank on every conceivable keyword your potential employers want, and they will notice you for sure. Or they may hire you to consult for them. That’s exactly what happened with a couple of our associates here at Tenato.
10. Get and education, and then keep learning! Many students have called us over the years, wondering what sort of education they need to succeed in marketing. Your education depends on the area of specialty within marketing that you wish to have. It speaks to your level of commitment to the profession. Sometimes people come in with a degree or track record in another field entirely, and then say, “I think I’m creative. I should have a job in marketing!” That doesn’t really cut it. You still need to take your interest and pursue professional development of some sort. A marketing degree is a serious commitment – and an MBA is even better. An advertising or public relations certificate are extremely useful. That said, any education would need to be accompanied by work samples (marketing plans you’ve built, news releases you’ve developed, etc.) New programs like social media or web development certifications are also excellent sources of education. One of our Associates, Ernest Barbaric, has recently developed a social media certification program at Mount Royal University. The courses are cutting edge, and great knowledge for anyone in the field of marketing.
The upshot is, if you’re good at marketing yourself, then with some tenacity, you’ll find (or create!) that marketing job you really deserve.
Jacqueline Drew, BComm, MBA
CEO & Principal Consultant
Tenato Strategy Inc.