Are you looking for an entry level marketing job?
Maybe you're close to finishing university and starting to look at the current job market or you're switching careers and want to get into marketing. In either case, you probably know by now that the competition for marketing jobs is fierce.
And when I mean marketing jobs, I don't mean marketing jobs where you sit in a call center all day annoying people or selling door to door for some MLM scheme. I mean a real marketing job with a real marketing agency doing real marketing.
I've hired my share of marketing newbies over the past 9 years and have also hosted several marketing internships. I've also hired for many marketing positions on behalf of my clients. What I have learned is that most universities (at least the ones I have hired from) do a poor job in preparing marketing majors for the real world. Sure, they may learn all about brand positioning, AIDA, the P's and C's of marketing, market research, etc, but they rarely teach the skills that marketing agencies are really looking for.
Too Fast For School
I work primarily in the digital marketing space and I think it moves too fast for university curriculums to keep up to date with, which is why they mostly teach broad, timeless marketing principles. Many that are woefully outdated. While this may serve as a good foundation for individuals just getting started in marketing, it still leaves marketing agencies with the heavy task of training new hires in pretty much everything.
Have you ever done a marketing internship? If you're like most students, you were either the office gopher (more coffee please?) or you were stuck doing the grunt work nobody else in the office wanted to do. Why? Because you did not have the skills that they were looking for and they did not have the time or energy to train you or hold your hand all summer so instead they matched you for what you were qualified for, not much.
Am I being harsh? A little bit, but there is a lot of truth in what I am saying because I hear it from marketing students all the time.
So what do you do?
The first thing you do is to realize that a marketing degree gets you a ticket to the game, but it does not get you a ticket to a marketing job, or even a marketing internship position. It's nice that you graduated with a marketing degree, you and 50 thousand other people this year.
The second thing you need to realize is that what will get you your first entry-level marketing job is not what you have done in school, but what you have done outside of school while you were in school. That's a mouthful.
When I look at a marketing resume, the only things that jump out at me are the marketing accomplishments outside of school.
Things I Look For
Your Own Blog
Do you have a blog? No? Why not? Having your own blog shows that you not only love marketing, but also love to write about it. It's your chance to show people and future employers your ideas about marketing, how you think and to show off how much you know. Marketing today revolves a lot around content, showing future employers that you know how to write gives you a leg up on your competition.
Social Media Presence
On a personal level, I'm not that active on social media, though I do have a decent Twitter following. This only happened once, but I had a marketing student interview for an internship and when I checked her Twitter profile, she had a following twice the size of mine. Color me impressed! Not only do I know that she understood social media, she was really good at it. Moral of the story? Actions speak much louder than words.
Certifications and Skills Earned Outside of School
Most people don't realize this, but you don't have to go to university in order to learn. Want to walk into a marketing interview with accomplishments that 99.99% of your peers will not have? Show up to an agency interview as a Google Certified Adwords Individual (you will have to get an agency to sponsor you or sign up as an agency) or a graduate of Hubspot Inbound Marketing University or Hootsuite's Podium. What do all of these have in common? They are freely available to anyone who wants to take them. You can also sign up for courses on Udemy or similar platforms and start educating yourself on that is important in marketing today.
Skills Most Agencies/Companies Look For In New Marketing Hires
Content plays such a big role in marketing today. From SEO to branding, inbound marketing is how many companies are spending their marketing resources and creating great content is the cornerstone of a great inbound marketing strategy.
You should have an understanding of copywriting, how to edit and format content for the web and how to use Content Management System, like WordPress. Having your own active blog will demonstrate all of these proficiencies for you to a prospective employer.
Conversion Optimization gets its roots from direct mail, where you are creating an environment for people to take action. It's setting up your website, landing page, advertisements, and emails so they move prospective customers through the path you want to take them, which will eventually lead to a sale or similar conversion goal.
They really don't teach this in school. but if you have a firm grasp on how conversion optimization works, you will be ahead of pretty much all of your peers, even many of the people you would be working with. This is something you can learn on your own and practice on your own. You can learn about Conversion Optimization here, here and here.
Search Engine Optimization
This is the holy grail of skills in marketing. Many people claim to be good at SEO but most people don't really understand what it is, let alone have the skills/knowledge to be good at it. The reason is that good SEO involves a wide skill set and involves have a grasp of technical/coding knowledge, content creation, and the hardest one of all, link building (or link earning, as many new age SEO's like to say).
Now, as an entry level marketer, you would not be expected to know all of this, but you can look like an all-star in your interview when you can demonstrate functional proficiency in SEO. You can learn the basics of SEO here.
Most companies (even agencies) are still trying to figure out how to make social media work for them. Having a firm grasp on how social media works, and being able to prove it with your own social media profiles, will go a long way in demonstrating you can “walk the walk”.
It's a big letdown when I read a resume saying they can have experience in social media and then check their social profiles to see that their online presence is lame at best. The funnier thing is, you'll see marketing agencies specializing in social media with pathetic online presences…..go figure.
If you are going to walk into an interview saying you get social media, be prepared to show them proof through your own social media accounts.
Pay Per Click and Social Media Advertising
Google Adwords and Facebook Ads are the two Kings of pay per click marketing, with the two of them giving you advertising options for a good chunk of the internet. Pay Per Click advertising is when you show an advertisement and only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
The thing is that getting start with pay per click advertising is not very hard, but it is very hard to be good at it. When it comes to online advertising, you need to be both a creative person and a data geek at the same time. You have your creative side where you research and create the ads and the data side where you have to figure out what is working and how to make the ads perform better.
This is a skill I don't think even gets touched on in University. Like SEO, it changes so fast that it is difficult to create curriculums around it as they are usually outdated by the time you graduate. The good news is that there are lots of great resources online to learn about pay per click advertising, you read about it here and here.
So much of marketing today is data-driven, even branding is getting more and more data-driven as companies want to understand what is working and what is not with their marketing dollars. The most popular web analytics platform used today is Google Analytics. Looking through Google Analytics is like peeling a never ending onion, there are always additional layers of data underneath the data you are currently looking at.
Google Adwords and other ad platforms also have a plethora of data and you will need to be able to read through the data and derive meaning from it.
The real skill with analytics is being able to look at the data, pull the few points that are important to you and your business, and be able to derive meaning from it. Analytics is useless without action, so someone good at understanding analytics can pull actionable insights out of the data. You can learn more about the basics of Google Analytics here.
So, I need to learn all of this?
No, you don't. Even seasoned marketing professionals aren't experts in all of the above, but they do have a solid understanding of them.
Most likely you will be applying for a specific position that will only require 1-3 of the above skill sets as many of them overlap. But also, be prepared to be thrown into other areas of marketing not outlined in the job description, as many companies will try and use your skill sets across different marketing channels.
The more skills you have in your toolbelt, the more valuable you will become in the eyes of a marketing agency or company looking to hire an entry level marketer. You don't have to wait for school to teach you marketing, it is all around you if you look.