How can students find their marketing dream job after college? It takes hard work and a little luck, but it’s easier when marketing majors follow a framework. As Triangle AMA’s VP of Collegiate Relations, I shared my advice during a guest lecture to the NC State AMA chapter based on my experience recruiting and hiring marketing students.
Finding the perfect (or close to perfect) entry-level marketing dream job isn’t easy. As an operations manager and Director of Operations at marketing agencies in Raleigh, I’ve hired or helped hire 10+ positions, interviewed 100+ people, and reviewed 1,000+ resumes. There’s a lot of competition out there. Here are my tips:
Introduction: Who gets hired?
Managers hire people who do three of three things: they can do the job, they want to do the job, and they fit the company’s culture. And they’re known. Finding a marketing dream job requires more than submitting a single online job application or going to an on-campus Career Fair.
Activity: Write 2 sentences
I asked students to write a sentence or two about what their marketing dream job is like. What are they doing? What kind of company? Where are they geographically?
Then I asked students to volunteer to share. Their answers ranged from working as a strategist at an ad agency to working in fashion marketing in New York City. From my survey, three-quarters wanted to do in-house marketing, and one-quarter wanted to work at a marketing agency.
Step 1: Figure out what you want
- Don’t skip this step. It’s really important–everything else flows from here. If you haven’t figured out what you want (or have made steps toward figuring that out), you may be positioning yourself for a job you don’t really want.
- Talk to people who do the job now. Using informational interviews, students can meet people who do the jobs they’re considering to see if the jobs are ones they really want.
- Be realistic. There are tradeoffs to any job. For instance, working in publishing means needing to make it in New York for several years on $30,000 or $35,000 a year.
- Acknowledge your “dream job” will change over time. My ideal job has evolved over time, from management consulting to investment analysis to marketing agency business operations. The more you learn, the more things may change. That’s OK; just keep adapting.
Step 2: Position yourself as someone people would want to hire
- Make sure your resume has quantified achievements, not just duties. For instance, if someone worked at a restaurant as a server, it’s better to have bullets like “Received tips 10% above average” or “Won award for most up-sells, three months in a row” instead of duty-oriented “Served food to customers.”
- Do internships or get other experience. More and more students are doing internships before they graduate. I’d rather hire someone who has some experience over someone with no experience. Internships don’t have to be full-time; part-time is fine. And it doesn’t have to be a big-name company; internships at smaller companies are often more hands-on than at big companies.
- Be realistic about the starting salary. Making a six-figure salary with no experience is unlikely. In the Triangle, entry level marketing positions tend to pay $28,000 to $35,000 plus benefits.
- Sort out your positioning before going to a Career Fair or similar event. Saying “I want to work in marketing” isn’t positioning. Get specific and think “What’s in it for them” (WIIFT).
Step 3: Find the people who’ll help you get there
- Set up informational interviews with alumni and others. Meet people doing what you want to do, learn about potential openings, and impress people with your potential. As you can imagine, I’m more likely to recommend someone I met who impressed me than to recommend someone who cold-emailed me with no context.
- Plan a budget for your job search. Searching for a dream job in marketing isn’t free. Meal-time networking events tend run $20 to $50. Meeting people for informational interviews at Starbucks will cost $5 to $10 plus gas. Joining marketing trade associations to get member-only discounts and access (like Triangle AMA’s excellent monthly SIGs) costs money, too. I also recommend that marketing students get business cards with basic contact info, so they have something to exchange when they meet people at events or for informational interviews.
- Read marketing and career blogs. Alison Green shares career and job-search advice at the excellent AskAManager.com blog. And I’ve written over a dozen articles sharing marketing job-search advice at my blog.
- Follow-through on what you start. When someone asks for help and then disappears after I agree to help, I wonder what’s going on. When I make an introduction and the person never follows up with my referral, I’m not going to make any more introductions for them. Flakiness is never a good quality, especially not when it comes to finding a marketing dream job.
Optional Homework: Three action items now for long-term success
I encouraged the audience of NC State AMA members to do three optional “homework” items today to improve their changes of finding their marketing dream job after college:
- Write a list of the obstacles you’ll need to overcome to get your marketing dream job.
- Look up Clair Fabrizio (Meredith) and Meghan Prichard (UNC), and analyze what you think they did to get where they are today.
- Create a LinkedIn account, if you don’t have one already.
I offered a bonus for the marketing students–the first two people to email me those three items would get a free one-on-one custom career consultation. I told the NC State AMA I expected them to figure out my email address–not because it’s hard to find, but because companies want to hire people who take initiative.
Out of 40 people in the audience, I heard from only two students (Ashley Towne and Emily Weber) by email. But extra credit goes to Kierstin Chambers, a sophomore who came up to me afterwards and said, “I probably won’t be one of the first two to email you, but could we meet to get your advice anyway?” Yes… because she took the initiative to ask!
Question: What’s your advice for college students trying to find their entry-level marketing dream job? You can leave a comment by clicking here.