Leading up to my college graduation, I was searching for what would be my first job post-school. I was excited to finally put all of my hard work in school to the test in the “REAL WORLD.” But as I went about my job search in true naïve, eager-beaver, post-graduation form, I was met with an unfortunate reality. Most of the entry-level jobs I was interested in asked for someone with three to five years of experience! I found myself asking, "How am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me?"
And the same trend has continued to the present day. Many recent college graduates still find themselves in the pickle of needing a job to get experience, but not being able to get the job with no experience. So what’s an ambitious, wannabe-marketer to do?
Well, my friends... I am here to help! This post will give you the inside scoop on what today's companies wish marketing applicants knew prior to – and during – any recruiting cycle.
1. Education is important--but not what your degree is in.
I have met so many marketers whose degree is NOT in business or marketing. Marketers come from all over the place. My degree is in graphic communication (a nice parallel, I suppose, yet still not technically the same field). But I have coworkers with degrees in psychology, political science and even engineering. The point is that having your undergraduate degree is important but the field itself doesn’t matter as much. It’s far more important to a potential employer that you are qualified for the position and have some relevant experience to back it up than if you attended the such-and-such school of marketing at your university.
2. Experience is not as hard to get as you might think.
The reason that employers often look for applicants who have some experience versus none is because they want the person to be able to hit the ground running. If you start in a marketing position with the best intentions, but not much else to prepare you, there’s likely to be a steep learning curve. To an employer, this means spending a lot more time and money to get you up to speed than they would have to if you had a couple years of on-the-job training under your belt.
What does "experience" actually mean?
But just because a job ad specifies the need for “experience” doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance if you haven’t yet held a marketing position. Sometimes the experience desired by the company leans more heavily toward technology proficiency and sometimes more toward general knowledge. For example, a company may want you to know how to use certain computer software (like Marketo) or they might expect you to be familiar with certain business processes (like account-based marketing).
How to get "experience"
Education can go a long way in helping you circumvent the experience requirements, but traditional education most likely isn’t going to cut it in the ways you need. After all, even sitting in the most knowledgeable and compelling professor’s marketing class isn’t going to help you understand how to navigate a tricky work situation once you’re out of that class. So, you may want to look to other, less traditional methods of getting your hands dirty and picking up applicable skills businesses want.
So what are some of the ways (other than racking up more college credits – and bills) to get practical marketing experience? Here are a few:
- Do volunteer work (non-profits are always looking for people to help them market their causes).
- Get involved in a leadership position for a club (either at your school or in a professional association).
- Get an internship (talk about real world experience!).
- Do freelance or contract work (more on-the-job experience).
- Do personal projects or online simulations. Ideas include creating a compelling marketing deck for a company you wish you could work for or designing an email campaign for an imaginary business so that potential employers can see samples of what you can do.
How to communicate "experience"
Also, make sure to highlight how your experience lines up with the experience that the company is seeking. A small blurb in the sea of words on your resume won’t stand out; be sure to call attention in your cover letter to the on-the-job experience you have (in whatever form it’s taken).
Another point to keep in mind is that most marketers care an awful lot about numbers and measurements. If you’ve had any successes you can quantify, be sure to do so on your resume and/or cover letter. And when you nab that interview, weave those quantifiable accomplishments into your conversation. A prospective employer is sure to have her ears perk up if you speak the same language of benchmarks and metrics that she does.
3. Show off your soft skills.
Arguably more important than the first two points, soft skills often get overlooked by applicants. This is the stuff that you either have or you don't. It is very hard to teach someone to have attention to detail, but if you’re one of the few who has it, make sure that the company you’re interviewing with knows it!
Here is a short list of the top soft skills that are typically on companies’ wish lists:
- Time management
- Attention to detail
- Professional communication
- Ability to work in a team
Many people put soft skills on their resumes, so avoid getting lost in the crowd by thinking of specific situations in which you’ve exemplified these skills so you can be ready to share them during your interview.
How else can you set yourself apart?
The marketing industry is very competitive. Whether you are a recent graduate or a working professional looking to transition into marketing, keep the three points above in mind and you’ll already begin to set yourself apart from all the other applicants. Beyond this, though, there’s still more you can do to get a leg up and be an even stronger contender for the position you’re seeking. One way to do this is through comprehensive, practical learning that you take the initiative to pursue. And to help you do this, we have a platform called Six Bricks.
Six Bricks is uniquely positioned to help increase your marketing knowledge and give you hands-on experience at the same time. We have courses that will teach you about common marketing technology and processes that the hottest employers want you to know about. Plus, we also give you direct experience with this technology and processes through simulations and practical projects.