5 Tips and Considerations If You Want to Pursue a Career in Marketing
No matter how smart, educated or worldly you are, chances are if you’ve never worked in marketing, there will be things you won’t know or understand. This is because marketing functions vary greatly depending on things like a company’s size and structure (whether it’s a corporate department or an agency), the industry, and the type of business (whether B2B or B2C).
Here are 5 tips and considerations for those wanting to start or evolve a career in marketing.
Tip #1: Get your foot in the door, learn, add value
If you want to work in Marketing, get your foot in the door somewhere so that you can learn and get real-world experience (while adding value).
There are a variety of roles that can make up a marketing function—from branding to campaign planning to content development to analysis. In addition to traditional methods to find jobs in these and other areas, here are some ways to get a foot in the door at the entry level:
- Find companies that interest you and get to know senior managers who “suffer” from a lack of administrative and project management support. Many need help with time-consuming and/or menial tasks that mount up when marketing projects are in execution mode. This can be a good ground floor opportunity to contribute and expose your value to multiple functions and people.
- Similarly, introduce yourself to people in various marketing functions to learn about the reality of the workload they deal with every day. You may find critical gaps and identify ways you can help.
- If you work in another department, offer to be put “on loan” to a marketing team that needs temporary help with a project where you feel you can add value. This will get you exposure and experience. The key is to negotiate carefully so as not to interfere with your “day job”. I mention this tactic because it’s how I “broke in” to Marketing 15 years ago.
Tip #2: Achieve small successes and build from there
Initially you may need to take jobs that have nothing to do with marketing. The good news is that this gives the opportunity for cross-functional training and experience, and for successes that expose your value.
Examples of corporate functions that connect to Marketing are: Sales, Legal, Finance, Technology, Operations, Customer Support and Employee Training. All of these could have jobs that support the marketing function and if you have skills that match, they can be great areas to contribute results and improve your opportunities for growth.
Tip #3: Say “yes” to as many assignments as you can
Be willing to take assignments you don’t necessarily like or want. This will give you more experience, practice, exposure and make an impression on the powers that be. Successful people have their eyes on the future while doing what is needed in the moment. Be happy for the chance to learn and grow (rather than say, “This is beneath me” or “I demand to move up faster than this”).
If you are able to do the task; do it. Demonstrate that you are a team player and use each opportunity, no matter how small or uncomfortable, as a way to add value to the organization and the person you are working for.
The great thing about Marketing is that it offers huge diversity in project opportunities. It’s usually a fast-paced environment with demanding deadlines and people will most definitely remember you if you help with critical assignments. Plus, by “getting your hands dirty” you will likely learn something that will help you do a future job better.
Tip #4: Get a mentor and/or coach
As you go through the process of learning and gaining real-world experience, it’s good to find mentors who can help you hone specific skills or teach you about something you want to better understand (e.g. mobile advertising, marketing automation, strategic planning, tradeshow sponsorships, lead nurturing, content strategy).
You can talk with them about targeted questions or concerns as well as ask them to critique you and give general advice. It doesn’t have to be someone in your organization; it could be someone you “meet” through social media, and/or you could leverage LinkedIn Groups and training webinars from industry resources (like Business2Community, MarketingSherpa, MarketingProfs, etc.) to learn and evolve.
The point is that as you develop, prove and perfect your talents and value—be sure to ask smart questions and get help from people who know the ropes and the nuances of your company or industry.
Tip #5: Hone specific skills
Through Lessons 1-4 you will start to hone in on the aspects of marketing you are great at or have the potential to be great at (and are excited about). For example, maybe you are:
- A data geek with an ability to find meaningful insights from gobs of data that no one else can make sense of.
- A gifted writer that has found new ways to apply that skill.
- Someone showing a propensity for design or wildly creative campaign ideas.
- Someone that always looks at the big picture, constantly wondering about leadership, metrics and accountability.
Even if you already know what you’re good at, once you get to know a specific company or department and work on real-life projects, you can fine-tune natural talents and skills through exposure and practice. The point is to focus on ways you can get as much experience as possible, so that you become highly skilled, well-rounded and invaluable to whomever you work with and for.
To sum up
In most cases, people who succeed (both personally and financially) in their careers are the ones that: a) pursue something they truly enjoy, b) work tremendously hard, c) are ambitious but also patient, and d) possess a level of maturity and emotional intelligence that balances the ego and makes the possible, possible.
Marketing has many legs and can be a complicated and fast-paced industry with a plethora of career opportunities. So practice as much as makes sense for your talents and ambitions and once you get opportunities, attack every task with a goal to learn, grow and do great work.