Looking to break into marketing and rise quickly through the ranks? That’s understandable, as it’s an exciting, ever-evolving and potentially lucrative field. If this is the career you have your sights set on, keep reading — we have advice to help you get an entry-level marketing job and be impressive in your role from day one.
If you’re just graduating or switching careers, you may feel you lack the experience or connections to land your first marketing job. Don’t let that put you off. In the current hiring market, employers may take a chance on talented rookies willing to learn on the job.
Even so, it pays to do some research before firing off resumes. The Robert Half Salary Guide is a great place to start. It features the hottest entry-level marketing jobs by specialization and starting salary. It also highlights the most in-demand marketing and creative skills, namely:
- Account management
- Adobe Creative Cloud
- Digital marketing
- Marketing and email campaign management
- Social media
You can boost your value to a potential employer by honing one or more of these skills or getting some certifications. And avoid the temptation to stay in your lane. Even if you’re not a designer, it’s always helpful to understand Adobe Creative Suite and other common tools of this trade. Make sure you’re familiar with software like Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as email marketing applications.
Try to attend some marketing conferences to network with professionals in the field and hear about the latest industry trends. In some ways, this is easier now than it was two years ago, with many high-profile events offering a mix of virtual and in-person forums. LinkedIn is also a great place to read about the marketing field, learn about its current trends, network and check out the skills and experience people have at the firms you’re interested in. And consider joining the American Marketing Association, which gets you access to boot camps and training programs where marketing thought leaders share their insights.
If you need a helping hand with your job search, reach out to a talent solutions firm. Specialized recruiters can offer feedback on what additional skills you might need to get your first marketing job — and could place you in a position if you have the right skill set.
Resumes, cover letters and portfolios
Always remember to tailor your resume and cover letter to the job description — though never lie or stretch the truth to cover any skills gaps. Instead, highlight what skills and experience you have that are mentioned in the job description, and emphasize your enthusiasm, initiative and learning mindset, signalling to the hiring manager that you’re someone with potential who could be groomed on the job.
If you’re applying for a social media, digital marketing or design-focused role, you’ll need a digital portfolio. Select your strongest samples relevant to the role you’re applying for and try to showcase your unique creative style. Even if you have your own website, place your digital portfolio on your LinkedIn profile page, where recruiters and hiring managers are most likely to find it.
However, a portfolio isn’t required for every marketing job. It’s often enough to present relevant case studies or other work you accomplished in school, while volunteering or on your own.
Find out the starting pay for marketing jobs in your city with the Robert Half Salary Guide.
Stay open minded
Even in this candidate-friendly hiring market, you might regret waiting for your dream job to be posted. A better strategy could be to develop your skills in a less-than-perfect role or industry. That way, you’ll have some practical experience when your ideal opportunity arises.
Whatever roles you apply for, look for ways to set yourself apart during the recruitment process. For example, setting yourself up as your own brand via your website and social media accounts fits right in with the marketing mentality. You can also do extra in-depth research on the company (and position) by reaching out to their current employees on LinkedIn, or send the hiring manager a handwritten thank-you note after the interview. It’s important to go above and beyond, however you decide do it.
Landed the entry-level marketing job?
Once you get the job, you want to make sure you impress in the role. First jobs are rarely glamorous, but they play a crucial role in setting your career in motion. Set the stage for success early on by following these eight tips:
1. Go beyond the call of duty
In addition to delivering your assignments — no matter how tedious or tiring — on time, error-free and without complaint, offer to help others with their workloads or take on tasks no one else wants. As managers discover your tenacity and talent, they’ll likely hand over weightier projects with a higher thrill factor.
2. Show confidence, not cockiness
Employers often complain that recent grads expect too much too soon, or even presume that 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. If you’re a digital native who can help less tech-savvy colleagues master a software package, do it quietly and without fanfare. They’ll remember and appreciate it.
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 act as a mentor and provide career advice. Also, note how employees interact with each other and how various tasks are handled. Observing how people with contrasting personalities communicate and collaborate will help you hone your soft skills.
See what entry-level marketing jobs are out there — in your location or remote.
4. Hop into the driver's seat
No matter how supportive or sympathetic your boss is, advancing your career isn’t their sole mission. It’s up to you to build your knowledge base 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, follow them on social media and consume their content voraciously. For example, if you want to learn more about SEO, watching Moz founder Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday series is a great place to start. Got a boring commute? Content gurus like Seth Godin and Joe Pulizzi host popular podcasts that you can listen to on the go.
6. Request regular feedback
Even if it’s not part of the protocol, consider asking your manager for three- and six-month performance evaluations. 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 record any positive remarks 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 started on. If you begin to think you would be happier in another type of role, inquire about openings in your company. 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 fun
All work and no play can lead to burnout. Make sure to leave room in your schedule to socialize and get to know your colleagues. This is particularly important if you’re working remotely or on a hybrid schedule with little time in the office to be in person with your peers. If your team has a virtual happy hour or a casual chat thread for non-work-related conversations, make it a priority to attend or contribute in your first few weeks. Remember, making connections is just as important as having in-demand skills, so being sociable can help you cement your marketing career just as much as the work experience you gain.