How to start a career in marketing

Marketing is a wide field consisting of all the activities a company or organization uses to promote products or services to a target market. Your career direction will depend entirely upon your education, skills, and ambition. As graduation nears, it’s time to make a choice of advertising, public relations or sales promotion, and which side: creative or management.

The first step is a skill assessment. For any position, writing and computer software expertise is required, especially in the development of written or multi-media marketing communications. Knowing how to use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and page layout programs such as QuarkXpress, PageMaker or Publisher would be a plus. Some expertise using both Windows and Macintosh computers will be needed.

What did you study in college? Summarize subjects and make a list. Read over papers you’ve written and make a list of group projects, their objectives and what you learned from these experiences. Most likely you participated in developing and implementing a PR campaign, or an advertising product or service marketing plan for a small business or organization.

Did you write copy for scripts, ads, newsletters, brochures or white papers? How about print design? Did you create designs for a variety of print communications or advertising? What about multi-media presentations. Did you develop any materials for the internet? Web-based marketing contains the same elements as a print, but are developed with entirely different methods. Make copies of any materials you developed for your portfolio.

Keep in mind that, lacking experience, employers will be looking for a can-do team player attitude. It will be your job to convince them that you can fill this role. This is where a resume comes in. Its job is to open the door and get you an interview. Selling your skills will be up to you when you appear before a hiring authority from personnel, a department head, or a business owner.

Write a one-page summary resume highlighting your skill areas. Break the resume down into sections of Administration, Public Relations, Management, or Sales Promotion depending upon your career goal. Write an objective keyed to one of these areas and list your summarized skills or experiences relating to your chosen field. Keep it honest and don’t pad it. You’ll have to defend anything you write.

Keep in mind that while print and online resumes differ, each must have key buzzwords that employer scanning software, search engines or a screeners eyes will be looking for. Polish the copy and your cover letter until it shines. Layout and print your resume on quality white stock, no colors or pictures. Keep it short and simple. Send out resumes via snail mail and upload onto a job site like Monster

To gain valuable experience, volunteer to assist a non-profit in marketing their services or offer your skills to a small business owner for free. Non-profits are always willing to accept assistance and no small business owner will refuse an offer of free help in promoting his company’s product or services. Make an appointment with the marketing or sales manager if the company has one, and explain what you are trying to do.

In most small businesses, the owner takes care of all of these functions. During the meeting, offer to assist in developing advertising copy, PR releases or to assist with, not develop a marketing plan. Never arrogantly assume that you know more about a business than the owner does. With luck, you may even talk yourself into a paid position, but don’t count on it. Your objective is to gain experience you can highlight in your resume.

Once you have obtained a position, cultivate contacts you make and enlist them in your job search. Networking will be your best bet in obtaining a job. Be polite and send Thank Yous to everyone who assists you, but don’t bug them. Check-in occasionally to insure that the contact remains warm and friendly. Be polite in your approach, especially to secretaries or personal assistants. These folks can open or shut the door.

Develop a job search strategy and stick with it. In any market, openings always exist but are mostly hidden. Networking will help to unlock them. But in any case, be prepared for a long search and don’t become discouraged. A part-time job in another area may help to pay the bills and doesn’t have to be listed on your resume. Be prepared. When called for an interview, make sure to arrive on time and dress well. You’ll only have one chance to make a good first impression. If nothing results, you’ve still gained valuable experience in interviewing.

Take what you’ve learned and applied it to the next one. Keep at it. And keep in mind that no matter how good your school or grades, don’t except to begin at the top. Remember that an entry-level position is what you are shooting for, one that you can build on as you advance your career.

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