It is already July. Kids are on break or have graduated from college and the ominous job search is in full battle mode. Whether it for a great internship or the first "real" job post-education, there are many candidates out there searching and trying to break into the marketing field.
The fact of the matter is marketing is a tough and small field. As a fictitious example, for every 10-15 sales positions, there may be one marketing position. So a company with a sales force of 50 positions may employ 3-5 full time marketing positions. For a company that size, there isn't a ton of potential marketing positions.
I have talked to countless people through my career who struggled with finding a marketing position and have asked how I got to where I am.
Here is a dirty little secret [okay, maybe I wear it as a badge of honor], I have a degree in Art Education. I never took a PR, advertising or business class in college.
But I worked my butt off creating opportunity for myself.
Getting into many fields such as healthcare, education or IT there is a hierarchy to the process. You must have degrees and certifications. You must have school-approved internships. You must take tests and earn credentials.
Marketing is different. There is no road map and there are no set standards to break into the field.
That being said, there are a few key things that helped me get ahead in the field.
First, I became a lifelong learner.
Just because I didn’t take a class on advertising doesn’t mean I didn’t spend hours researching and teaching myself the basic set-up of a classic magazine ad, the “rules” of billboard advertising, the lingo of print houses, and how to write a radio ad script. I did. I do everyday.
I ran my own business from the age of 16 [with a lot of support from my parents].
I started painting Christmas ornaments for family members, and with my parents’ encouragement, realized I could sell ornaments for a profit. My parents helped guide me, but ultimately, I had to learn to run, and market my own business. At 16 [and at 18 and 21...], there are stumbling blocks. But if you can run a successful business, you can market, sell and book-keep successfully. Future employers realized this.
I had the self-confidence to walk into an interview for job A, and convince the employer I would be better suited at job B, a marketing job they didn’t even know they wanted.
This happened twice in college. I found the company’s pain and showed them how I could help. [Liz Ryan with the Human Workplace has some great posts on how to understand a company’s pain and how to fill their need.]
The first was a summer data entry job at a larger company [700+ employees]. I walked in for the interview, showcased the skills I had above and beyond entering data, and talked about my aspirations and willingness to work from the ground up. The hiring manager went to get the Marketing Manager. She hired me on the spot for a summer marketing internship.
The second internship started out as an interview for a part time receptionist position. A local tech start-up needed someone answering their phones. They had no marketing department and no marketing plan. I offered the company an opportunity to have not only have their phones answered, but to help guide and start their marketing efforts. That summer I learned what a 50 hour work week felt like, how to put on a 500+ person event and gained the confidence in myself that I could take on any marketing department with success.
Now, when I interview others for marketing positions, I could care less what their degree is, or if they have a higher level degree. I want to see what experience candidates have, that they have more than the requisite experience for their degree, how they do out-of-the-box and how they are planning to help change our company for the better.
The best advice I can give those just starting in marketing, or trying to get a break in the field is this:
Go beyond the requisite. Get better internships. Learn through more internships. Run a successful small business.
Photo Credit: vivekchugh on freeimages.com