In a world of fast-paced media, in formats from television to Twitter, the demand for outstanding marketing professionals has never been stronger. The more connected the human race becomes, the more value corporations and interest groups place on those who know how to spread the word in a profitable way. (Are your shoulders wide enough to carry a company's reputation? Read The Marketing Director's Pitch.)
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If you are looking for a career in online content creation, print advertising, public relations, relationship management, logo design, copywriting, website design or the many other careers in which it's your job to take a product or service and make it the next item people can't live without, marketing is the career path for you.
Although marketing professionals are in high demand, there is intense competition for the best jobs. Anybody wishing to enter the marketing profession should first earn a bachelor's degree in marketing from a four-year university. Although some believe that a degree from a prestigious school may offer a competitive edge, human resource professionals who recruit for marketing firms often believe otherwise; more important than the school is the performance of the candidate. Recruiters are more interested in a standout college graduate from a lesser known school than an Ivy League graduate who presents himself as middle of the road.
Because marketing is such a diverse field, most professionals also specialize within the marketing genre. For those who like to draw, a minor in graphic design is advisable. This gives the candidate the ability to design print campaigns, as well as logos and magazine layouts. For those who wish to enter the rapidly growing world of online marketing, a minor in computer science or certification in HTML or other web-based language is an attractive addition to any marketing degree. (Accelerating your post-secondary education can save you major time and money, check out The Benefits of an Accelerated Bachelor's/Master's Degree.)
Regardless of the person's career path, every person in the marketing field must be an above-average writer, along with having skill as a copywriter – somebody who can use language to sell a product or service.
A Career Guide For Marketing Majors
In order to receive a marketing degree, an internship is not required, but consider this: If the best jobs are highly competitive, sometimes with hundreds of people applying, could anybody who is serious about a marketing career afford not to consider an internship? A person fresh out of school will be submitting a resume for jobs where other applicants may have years of experience.
Successful industry experience may be the most important factor when considering an applicant, and an internship can provide the recent college graduate with just that. An internship also provides the opportunity for an influential reference, a letter of recommendation and items for a portfolio.
Don't apply for just any internship. Pick one in an area of marketing where you want to start your career and find a company that fits your dream profile. If you want to work for a large marketing firm once you graduate, look for internships with larger companies. If you want to start your own firm or work for a small company, look for an internship that may require you to be talented in a number of different areas. (See 7 Tips to Land That Internship)
First Job Interview
As a marketing professional, you will be held to the highest of standards during an interview. The person interviewing you will be thinking of one key item as they speak to you: If you can't brand yourself in a way where he or she can't imagine their company without you there, you probably aren't good enough for the job. A marketer must know how to brand in a way that makes the product or service infectious. The person who comes in contact with it has to be drawn to it, and when you leave the interview, your interviewer should be thinking about you as a person who stood out. Before interviewing for jobs, construct your personal image and decide how you will present it in a way where the interviewer can't say no.
Next, research the company. You have to know everything about it – the top clients, famous marketing campaigns, the services offered and image. Then, think of each of these areas, and be able to speak to what your talents can do in order to help continue moving forward in these key areas. (To learn the steps that will help lead you to a new career, read Taking the Lead in the Interview Dance.)
Remember that an interview is largely a sales call. If you can market yourself effectively and extraordinarily, your chances of being hired rise dramatically. Concentrate on what you can do to bring value to their company.
Building Your Career
Continue building your personal brand. Go to conferences and seminars, not just for the educational and industry-related sessions, but also to network and build awareness of your brand. As with any career, never stop learning. Try to read at least a few industry publications each week. Progressive or new ideas will be easy to spot. In any field where success is largely based on creativity, staying in touch with the latest design trends is critical.
Find projects where your work can stand out. Although it may be an honor to work on the next high-profile corporate campaign, it may be a much better career accomplishment to take a relatively unknown brand and dramatically increase its awareness. Think about the positive or negative implications on your brand before accepting or declining any project.
Exiting the Field
If you decide that marketing is not for you, there is good news. Marketing is a field in the business world, and because of that, many careers are open to somebody with a marketing degree and experience in the field. For those with an MBA, even more opportunities are available. Retail sales, graphic arts, online sales, account executive and management are just a few of the options.
If a career related to marketing is not appealing, draw on your experience in the marketing field when interviewing for your next career. (Quit your job, be your own boss and earn a paycheck. Find out what to do to make it happen, in Starting a Small Business in Tough Economic Times).
The Bottom Line
Before any company will hire you to sell a brand, they want to know that you can brand yourself, and often that comes naturally. If you would describe yourself as somebody who works hard but enjoys working alone, marketing may not be the right career for you. If you enjoy the challenge of selling a product, service or person to the public, you have found the right career. (Learn more in Advertising, Crocodiles and Moats.)