Getting your first marketing job can be difficult even under normal circumstances. Marketing is a competitive field and because almost every other industry deploys marketing in some form or fashion, the ability to stand out in a crowd amongst marketing professionals 2, 3, or even 10 years your senior requires innovative, outside-the-box thinking.
But what about landing your first marketing job under not normal or unusual circumstances? Like, for example, a global pandemic that altered the way we interact with each other, significantly limited movement or travel, and dealt a seismic blow to the world economy?
It’s safe to say as the world responds and adjusts to the COVID-19 crisis it’s going to be even more critical for today’s aspiring marketing professionals to be more creative, forward-thinking, and nimble when positioning themselves to potential employers. And especially in a time when so much communication and interaction is being done via social media, video content, photos, or other digital means, understanding how to make a name for yourself using these tools can be a key factor in whether you get the gig.
With that in mind, let’s examine 5 smart, good sense approaches for landing your first marketing job.
1. Discover your lane
Marketing is a large umbrella for a variety of different specialties and even sub-specialties, especially as technology and platforms evolve and develop at such a rapid pace—what is new today is old tomorrow. Rather than simply spamming your resume and cover letter to every marketing-related you find, you first need to discover which kind of marketing you’re most interested in or passionate about.
This might sound super-basic, but it’s actually a more nuanced question-and-answer relationship than you might think. First, are you more passionate and driven toward traditional marketing (i.e. radio, television, print) or digital marketing (online, social media, apps). That itself can be a challenging question. Then, once you’ve discovered the lane the best suits you, there’s a whole host of specialties to explore:
- Social media marketing
- Recruitment marketing
- Inbound marketing
- Email marketing
- Content strategy
- Web content development
And these are just a handful of the potential careers paths that fall under the marketing moniker. Understanding the kind of marketing you’re passionate about pursuing and why already gives you an important leg-up on the competition because of the self-actualization that comes with knowing your interest, strengths, and weaknesses.
2. Honing your passion
You’ve cleared the first hurdle of nailing down the type of marketing work that most interests you, but if you’re like a majority of aspiring or young marketing professionals out there, your education likely gave you only an overview of the concepts, principles, and skills necessary for success. This is where you love of learning, discovery, exploration, and honing your existing skills needs to be at the forefront of your job search. Just because you have that marketing degree does not in fact mean you’re know a Jedi Knight of all things marketing—you’re training has really only just begun, and there are so many resources to take advantage of to both enhance your knowledge-base but also demonstrate to a potential employer that you’re adaptable, hungry for new information and insights, and willing to invest in your own professional development.
- Online seminars/bootcamps: Online marketing seminars and bootcamps are a super-effective method of honing your skills and diving deeper into certain areas of marketing but with the flexibility of an online learning environment. Such seminars and bootcamps are most commonly designed for those who already have careers in marketing or at least a solid knowledge-base about basic concepts, which means they have the latitude to be more in-depth but also fit easily into the traditional 9 to 5 office life.
- Online forums: Be it a Reddit board, Facebook group, or message board on an independent website, online forums can be a great way to connect with others who are in your position to share knowledge, experiences, and resources. Hunting for your first job can be somewhat of an isolating experience and it’s easy to get lost in a sea of resume versions, cover letters, and email correspondences. Establishing connections with those in your shoes (as well as those who have achieved success in your chosen field) is a reminder that you’re not alone in striving to land that first job, and that so many before you have seen this process through.
- Networking events: Local Business After 5 events, Chamber of Commerce gatherings, or young professionals meetings not only provide networking opportunities, but they also allow you to gauge the level of competition within your community. For example, the lack of marketing professionals at your local Chamber social night could mean either there are not enough marketing professionals in your area (which could be an avenue for you to emerge as a thought-leader or disrupter), or that the need for marketing-driven services isn’t as robust as you originally had believed. Either way, getting your name, contact information, and skills-levels/interests in front of potential employers or clients is a low-cost, low-effort approach that could very well pay dividends down the line.
Every young marketing professional wants their first job to be a sure thing, but the fact is that with today’s technology, mobility, and increasing diversified/global marketplace, opportunities for freelance marketing work are not only more prevalent, but can actually be beneficial in finding a more senior-level first job than you could have without freelancing.
Yes, freelancing positions are most often not full-time positions with large salaries or benefits, but what they do offer is a wealth of experience in terms of managing several projects at once, the ability to build a profile of work, and the opportunity to demonstrate you can leverage your marketing skills across a variety of industries or contexts. Freelancing does afford you the ability to make your own schedule (to some degree), which in turn allows more time for the professional development opportunities we discussed above.
While freelance marketing work can be viewed as temp work, most young professional fail to realize that freelance work quite often materializes into full-time, benefited positions. The advantage of freelancing for a company or organization before landing that full-time job is that it decreases the learning curve in terms of understanding the company’s culture, mission, outlook, voice/tone, and place within its industry.
4. Passion projects
Interested in Inbound marketing? Start your own blog/website, create a robust content calendar, and work to build your own audience. Driven to work in digital marketing? Create your own YouTube channel and begin posting creative videos. What might seem like simple passion projects to fill time can actually be important leverage pieces in landing your dream marketing job.
First, these passion projects are public-facing and accessible to those in the marketing industry who may very well be reviewing your application or calling for an interview. As such, these projects comprise a body of work that demonstrate to a potential employer you have the ability to put your skills into action, you’re self-motivated, and you can see projects through to completion without constant direction or supervision.
Second, such projects can also lead to interesting or exciting freelance marketing opportunities as we discussed above. If you run a blog about the benefits and advantages of Inbound marketing and a company in Dallas finds your detailed blog post while researching how Inbound marketing can benefit their business, it’s more than plausible that said CEO would contact you for advice or strategic frameworks to help grow their business.
Lastly, a passion project such as the ones outlined above give you the reps you need to develop your skills and deepen your understanding of your chosen field in a low-stress manner. Yes, of course you want people to read your blog and view your videos, but odds are it will take time to grow that audience and that’s time you can use to make mistakes, take chances, experiment, and find your own unique marketing voice.
5. Curate your social media presence
It almost sounds cliché at this point, but social media is not only how you share pictures or chat with your friends, but it’s also how business professionals share ideas, collaborate, discover new opportunities, and connect with other talented individuals. This is why it’s important to curate a social media presence that puts your best foot forward in positioning yourself as a young marketing professional who is knowledgeable, aware, insightful, and motivated.
Sharing and commenting on LinkedIn articles discussing your areas of interest—or even posting your own articles with your insights on various topics. Maintaining professional social media accounts to network with marketing professionals. Following and engaging with those marketing professionals, organizations, groups you admire and joining in on comment threads or conversations.
These are strategies to consider when thinking how you can leverage social media as a tool to land your first marketing job. It’s easy to forget that the internet and social media are written in pen, not pencil, and being mindful of what you put into the world, the conversations you engage with, and the idea you bring to the table can be valuable in discovering your dream career opportunity.