Eager to launch your career in marketing and rise through the ranks? We have some advice to help you get your first entry-level marketing job and thrive in your role once you get it.
If you’re just graduating or are making a career transition, it can be challenging to get that first marketing job because you may not have the right experience or connections. But how do you get that experience and meet people who might hire you?
“I’d suggest networking and going to events where other marketing professionals are and asking how they got their start in the industry,” says Kat Howerton, branch manager for The Creative Group (TCG) in Houston. “Here, we have the American Marketing Association and Houston Interactive Marketing Association. And most cities have similar groups you can check out.”
Howerton says there are often volunteer opportunities within these organizations to help those new to the marketing field gain relevant experience. LinkedIn is also a great way to network and look at the skills and experience people have at the firms you’re interested in.
And don’t forget staffing agencies. They can offer feedback on what additional skills you might need to get your first marketing job and, if you have the right skill set, place you in a job.
Companies often seek both traditional and digital talent, and you can make yourself more valuable by knowing digital trends and getting certifications to boost your marketability. “Even if you’re not a designer, it’s always helpful to understand Adobe Creative Suite,” says Howerton. “Knowledge of relevant software programs is a must for entry-level marketing candidates.”
Make sure you’re familiar with programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, for example, as well as email marketing software. Research job listings in your area to find out what programs you’ll need to know to get the job you want.
Is a four-year college degree important when looking for marketing jobs? In many cases, yes. Most entry-level marketing candidates Howerton places have one, although not every company requires it.
Entry-level marketing job portfolios and resumes
If you’re applying for a social media, digital marketing or design-focused role, you’ll need a portfolio or some samples of your work, according to Howerton. Your samples should be professionally presented and relevant to the role you’re applying for, although you don’t need to be fancy. A website presenting your work isn’t always required, for example, depending on the job. You could simply have a leave-behind page showing your work, or add a PDF attachment to your resume.
However, a portfolio isn’t required for every marketing job, and often it’s enough to present relevant case studies or other work you accomplished in school or while volunteering.
Be sure to tailor your resume to highlight experience that matches the job description. “Even if you aren’t a 100% match for the role, read the job description and include any skill or relevant experience you have that’s a match for the job,” says Howerton. “Never lie on your resume, but also don’t assume that the same resume fits every job you apply for.”
Howerton also advises entry-level marketing candidates stay open to all opportunities. “Many candidates we meet have already decided they don’t want to work in specific industries, or they have unrealistic salary expectations and are unaware of how competitive the marketing space can be.” Don’t say no to interviews based on industry or salary just because you have a dream job in mind, even in a candidate-friendly job market. The experience you gain could lead to that dream job down the road.
Find out the starting pay for marketing jobs in your city:
Howerton adds that people looking for their first job in the marketing field should find a way to set themselves apart. “Whether it’s creating your own brand when interviewing, doing in-depth research on the company or sending a handwritten thank-you note after the interview, it’s important to go above and beyond,” says Howerton. “After all, marketing is about brand recognition, sales and creating awareness — so why not do it for yourself?”
Making the most of your entry-level job
Once you land an entry-level marketing job, you want to make sure you thrive in the role. First jobs in any field may not always be the most glamorous, but they play a key role in setting your career dreams and goals in motion. Set the stage for success early on by following these tips:
1. Go beyond the call of duty
Demonstrate a strong work ethic by completing your assignments — no matter how tedious or tiring — on time and making sure they’re free of errors. Offer to assist others with their workloads or take on those tasks no one else wants to tackle. As others discover your tenacity and talent, they’ll likely hand over projects that carry greater weight and a higher thrill factor.
2. Show confidence, not cockiness
One of employers’ chief complaints about recent grads is that they often expect too much too soon; some even presume they know as much as — or even more than — seasoned employees. Understand that you need to earn your stripes before being given greater responsibility. Doing an excellent job on every project you’re assigned while keeping upbeat is the best way to impress your manager and win your colleagues’ respect.
3. Watch and listen
Pay attention to the behaviors and accomplishments valued in the organization. Ask yourself what types of marketers seem most successful and identify the attributes they share. Try to connect with a star performer who can serve as a mentor and provide career advice. Also, note how employees interact with each other and how various tasks are handled. Focusing your attention on how different departments communicate and collaborate will help you boost your soft skills.
4. Hop into the driver’s seat
No matter how supportive or sympathetic a supervisor you have, advancing your career isn’t their sole mission. It’s up to you to build your knowledge bank and acquire new skills. Volunteer for interesting projects and pursue professional development opportunities both within and outside the organization. Attend training seminars or take classes that will help you perform your current duties better or prepare you for your next level of assignments.
5. Follow the leaders
Aspiring to be a marketing leader? Find out who the key industry influencers are and which marketing-related topics are hottest. Follow marketing thought leaders on social media and consume their content voraciously. For example, if you want to learn more about SEO, a great place to start is watching Moz founder Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday series.
6. Request regular feedback
Even if it’s not part of the protocol, consider asking your manager for a three- and six-month performance evaluation. Identifying your next career steps and discussing strategies for improving your overall performance will prevent your career from stagnating. Take note of any constructive criticism you receive and store any positive remarks in a file for future reference — this will come in handy when you seek a promotion or apply for a new job.
7. Explore internal job opportunities
Don’t be afraid to follow a different career path than the one you initially identified. If after a while you begin to think you would be happier in another type of role, inquire about other openings in your firm or marketing department. Remember that this is the perfect time to test the waters and find where your true interests lie. Perhaps it’s social media, email automation or brand management. Use this entry-level opportunity to explore different areas of marketing, the kinds of projects you prefer, the types of people you enjoy working with and the management styles you thrive under.
8. Remember to have some fun in your entry-level marketing job
All work and no play can lead to burnout. Make sure to leave room in your schedule to socialize and get to know the colleagues around you.
While finding your first entry-level marketing job may be a bit challenging, once you have one be sure to approach it with an open mind and enthusiastic outlook. Even if the experience doesn’t pan out exactly the way you planned, you’ll at least have a clearer sense of where you want to go next.