Graduates seeking their first job in marketing today could well be forgiven for believing hopping on a plane and taking a year off is the best option. Rising unemployment, recruitment freezes and the fall out from the meltdown of the UK's leading financial institutions have combined to create a challenging jobs market.
However, all is not lost and the long hoped for green-shoots of recovery have already been heralded by leading US analysts. With this in mind we asked the UK's top marketers under 30 to share their advice to those starting out in the industry. Here is what they said:
1. Get Some Work Experience
While critics dismiss work experience as the ‘finishing school for the middle classes' employers - particularly in the creative industries - increasingly expect graduates to invest significant time in work experience or internships.
Shona Campbell, marketing manager of Harvey Nichols, advocates the importance of work experience. ‘We always have a lot of work placement students in Harvey Nichols and personally I have also invested a great deal of time in work experience. It helps you think about what you really want to do and it also gives you the real world experience of brands which you simply can't get at university,' she says.
This view is echoed by Anita Kinniburgh, Brand Manager Green & Blacks, who says: ‘Its important to do work experience to gain some understand what marketing is really about. People use the term so much its easy to loose sight of what marketing is really about.'
2. Market yourself
Put simply if you can't market yourself properly to potential employers it will be difficult to believe you can market their brands.
Tom Cartmale. UK marketing director of Oakley, says it is crucial to identify exactly what you can bring to the table. ‘Interviews are an increasingly intense process and there is a lot more competition - particularly for in-house sports roles. Now more than ever it is all about showing your versatility,' he says.
3. Don't be held back
Don't let your academic background - or lack thereof - hold you back - marketing professionals have a wide variety of backgrounds.
Sarah Kilmartin, Brand Development Manager, T Mobile, had a French and English degree which she said meant ‘everyone assumed I would be a teacher. ‘Don't feel bound by what you study - focus on what it is you want to do she says.'
4. Understand the commercial realities of marketing
Marketing is a vital business discipline - its not a fluffy career option.
James Millett, Brand Communications Manager Audi, says there is a genuine need for marketers to be commercial. ‘It is vital to be creative and come up with new solutions to old problems, whilst understanding the commercial implications of everything you do.'
5. Understand the complexities of marketing
As one of the most over-used words in the English language many prospective employees actually have very little idea of what marketing actually entails.
Fiona Bosman, Nokia says: The whole marketing world has changed so much since I was a student. People don't just passively consume ads its a much more complex market now. To come out of university and go straight into marketing is not as easy as it was. Marketing is no longer about simply making a TV ad and s few posters with a bolt on bit of digital work. People are no longer interested in brands telling them what to do - you only need to go on tweet deck and you can easily access thousands of opinions on your brand. The digital space has made the whole communications channel far more complex than ever.
6. Visualise your long term career
Its very easy to get stuck in a rut - particularly if you grab the first job you are offered or specialise too early.
Jennifer Gershon, European Brand Director Snickers & Milky Way says: ‘Think about the steps you are making to build your career - it is an easy trap to think that simply working on different brands is enough to grow your experience. If all the brands are similar the experience you get will be very similar.
7. Manage your digital footprint
Criticised a company on Twitter after a bad interview? Got a load of dodgy photos on Facebook? Remember your potential employees don't want to see all of you.
Oakley's Cartmale, says being able to communicate with a broad range of people is key. ‘Step out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to new experiences as much as possible,' he says.
9. Do your research
When you get an interview take the time to find out about the brands you would be working on and respect the fact that others in the business will inevitably know more about the challenges facing these brands than you.
Mike Smith, group brand manager at Dairy Crest, says: ‘Trust your instinct but always make sure your opinion is qualified.' He advises being ‘like a sponge' and picking up as much information as you possibly can.
10. Be passionate about what you do
Realistically not every graduate will land a job at a brand they are passionate about - but enthusiasm is key. As Dairy Crest's Smith says: ‘If you don't believe in your brands how can you expect consumers to,'
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