5 Smart Approaches for Landing Your First Marketing Job
Getting your first marketing job can be tricky, 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 ten 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 is more critical than ever 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 are 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 critical factor in whether you get the gig.
With that in mind, let's examine five smart, good-sense approaches for landing your first marketing job.
1. Discover your lane
Marketing is a large umbrella for various 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 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 that best suits you, there's a whole host of specialties to explore:
Social media marketing;
Content strategy; and
Web content development
And these are just a handful of the potential career paths that fall under the marketing moniker. Understanding the kind of marketing you're passionate about pursuing and why already gives you an essential leg-up on the competition because of the self-actualization that comes with knowing your interests, strengths, and weaknesses.
2. Hone your passion
You've cleared the first hurdle of nailing down the type of marketing work that most interests you. Still, if you're like most aspiring or young marketing professionals, your education likely gave you only an overview of the concepts, principles, and skills necessary for success; this is where your 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 mean you're now a Jedi Knight of all things marketing—your training has only just begun. There are many resources to enhance your knowledge base and demonstrate to a potential employer that you're adaptable, hungry for new information and insights, and willing to invest in your professional development.
Online seminars/bootcamps: Online marketing seminars and bootcamps are a super-effective method of honing your skills and diving deeper into specific 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 in your position to share knowledge, experiences, and resources. Hunting for your first job can be somewhat of an isolating experience, and getting lost in a sea of resume versions, cover letters, and email correspondences is easy. Establishing connections with those in your shoes (and 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 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 pay dividends.
3. Explore Freelancing
Every young marketing professional wants their first job to be a sure thing. Still, the fact is that with today's technology, mobility, and increasingly diversified/global marketplace, opportunities for freelance marketing work are not only more prevalent but can 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 allows you 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 professionals 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 a full-time job is that it decreases the learning curve in understanding the company's culture, mission, outlook, voice/tone, and place within its industry.
4. Launch Passion projects
Interested in Inbound marketing? Start your blog/website, create a robust content calendar, and work to build your 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 be essential 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 review your application or call for an interview. As such, these projects comprise a body of work that demonstrates to a potential employer you can put your skills into action and that you're self-motivated. 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 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 gives 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 unique marketing voice.
5. Curate your social media presence
It almost sounds cliché at this point, but social media is how you share pictures or chat with your friends. Still, it’s also how business professionals share ideas, collaborate, discover new opportunities, and connect with other talented individuals. This is why it’s essential 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 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, and groups you admire and joining in on comment threads or conversations.
These are strategies to consider when thinking about 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. 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.