Marketing is an umbrella term for a complex industry comprising drastically different roles. Recent college graduates have the ultimate challenge of finding an entry-level marketing position they can fit into their long-term career goals.
“You have the advantage at the entry level to try a few different things. Sometimes you need to take a job to realize you don’t like it,” says Beth Hendler-Grunt, president of Next Great Step, a New Jersey-based career coaching company for college students and recent grads. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. You might determine there’s a different part of marketing you’re interested in that you never thought about.”
Recent grads can learn to cut through the noise and find an entry-level marketing position that will give them the skills to compete. Marketing and recruiting experts say there are a few ways to determine where you fit, along with surefire ways to impress a hiring manager.
Nail down an area to pursue
Whether you can pinpoint the facet of marketing you’re definitely interested in or you haven’t got a clue, experts say you first have to look inward. Assess your own natural abilities, the experience you have and what skills you want to learn.
“Start with what you think you’re good at and what you love to do. If you feel like you’re very creative and have ideas graphically or through copywriting, then public relations or advertising might be a good fit. If you think you can persuade people, then sales might be better,” Hendler-Grunt says.
Some areas of marketing to consider:
- Creative and content marketing. If creativity comes naturally, you could pursue entry-level jobs related to graphic design, advertising, video marketing, copywriting or content creation.
- Research. If you’re data-oriented or enjoy analyzing information trends, look for positions related to research, where you might track and analyze consumer habits or compare competitors.
- Public relations. This area of marketing focuses on creating and maintaining a public image for a company or brand. It’s perfect for people who can have excellent interpersonal skills and can think on their feet.
- Sales. Sales is attractive to those who have a knack for anticipating needs and enjoy working one-on-one with clients and customers.
- Digital and social media marketing: This area of marketing is always in demand. Those with a penchant for all things digital could thrive in social media marketing, web development, search engine optimization, email campaigns or other online strategies.
Maintain realistic expectations
Entry-level positions rarely fall under the category of “dream job.” But, a good-fit entry-level job is one that will help you gain skills to excel in your role and make you more appealing to your next employer.
“Too many students come out of college thinking, ‘I need to find the best fit and my lifetime job,’” says Katie Bisson, who heads marketing for Technology Seed, a managed IT service provider in the Boston area. “But, you have to be flexible. You have to go into an employer anticipating that this is your first job and this is a learning experience.”
Bisson suggests focusing less on a job title and more on the company, and what you can learn from the position.
Market yourself in your cover letter
Even with a degree and an internship or two to your name, employers know you don’t have a ton of industry experience. Experts say employers look to your cover letter to learn more about your potential for success in a position.
“I think for me the biggest part I’m looking for is cultural fit, aptitude, their attitude and their core values,” says John Reiner, director of marketing and customer experience for LogicalPromotions in Waltham, Massachusetts.
What no employer wants is a standard, dull cover letter that rattles off the same information on your resume. “It’s like marketing itself; you can either sell features or you can sell benefits,” Reiner says. “I think applicants are selling benefits and the features those candidates have to deliver those benefits.”
Since marketing is both a performance-based and naturally creative career, use your cover letter to show through narrative or real numbers the impact you’ve had on a project in the past.
“It’s no longer this ‘Mad Men’ era where you can have this creative idea and put it out there and hope for the best,” says Jeremy Schifeling, vice president of marketing and business development for Fidelis Education and former senior product marketing manager for higher education at LinkedIn. “Marketers now are very quantitative and they have to provide data. On the other hand, you also need to have that creative essence to stand out in the marketplace.”
When you do land an entry-level marketing position, remember that your search for a best-fit career in the industry isn’t over. Be open to the experiences that come with having your first job. Soak up as much new knowledge as you can until you’re ready to take the next step on your career path.
For more advice:
- 4 Simple Resume Tweaks That Will Get You Noticed
- 8 Tips for Answering the Most Common Interview Questions
- A Recent Grad’s Guide to Salary Negotiation
Anna Helhoski is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @AnnaHelhoski.
Image via iStock.