I get the whole ‘OMG YOU ARE NEARLY THIRTY?!’ thing quite a lot, especially online – it seems like most style bloggers are students or recent graduates, and so compared to a lot of them, I’m quite the oldie. It does mean that every now and then I can give out a patronising look and say ‘Ah, when I was your age...’ (which, after a lifetime of always seeming to be the youngest, is rather satisfying).
The biggest difference between being 21 and 29 is work. When I was 21, I worked in a bar at uni, and as a receptionist/postroom assistant in the holidays. At 29, I’m in a marketing management role. It was a fairly natural progression, but at the same time it wasn’t easy to get here. I see a lot of graduates on Twitter who are struggling to find work, killing time in jobs they don’t enjoy so that they can make a living, but not getting anywhere on the whole ‘career’ thing. I’ve been there, and you know what? It sucks. For the first three years after I left uni, the only jobs I could get were administration roles where the bulk of my duties were stuffing envelopes, photocopying and typing up notes. Not very exciting.
So I thought I’d do a bit of a career advice post. If it’s popular, I might hit up some friends for their stories, and make it a bit of a series. But for now, here’s How To Make It In Marketing. By me.
If you are 18 and pretty sure you’d like to work in marketing or something similar when you graduate, then for the love of god, do a marketing degree. The sad truth is that most degrees will only guarantee you a job in that area if you want to be a teacher. I did an English degree, because English is ‘my’ subject and I’ve always been really passionate about it, but it seemed pretty useless after I graduated. If a marketing recruiter has two graduate CVs – one has an English degree, one has a Marketing degree, you can predict which candidate they will interview. And I am NOT teacher material. No. God no.
So, you ignored my advice and did that degree for love anyway. But the more you think about it, the more you really want to work in marketing, but no one will even give you an interview. Bums. Here’s what you do: take a job. Any job. Pay the bills, keep busy. And sign up for a part time conversion course.
CIM – the Chartered Institute of Marketing – give out qualifications that are universally recognised by the industry. If you have a degree already, you should be able to go straight on the CIM Professional Diploma. You can do it in evening classes – normally 3 hours, twice a week – and it costs about £1000 for a year’s study, plus exam fees. If you pass all four modules (with an exam each) first time, then you’re done! You have a Diploma. If not, then, er, you don’t. If, say, you failed Marketing Management in Practice twice like a friend of mine who definitely wasn’t me, no sir, then you can take it as many times as you want until you pass (and carefully gloss over that on your CV by listing when you are due to finish, not the start – finish dates) (but you didn’t hear that from me).
That line on your CV can open some doors. It shows that you are serious about a career in marketing, to the extent that you are willing to give up your spare time to pursue it. Just STUDYING it looks good – so don’t think that because you haven’t completed it yet, you can’t apply for marketing jobs. Get out there!
FYI – some companies will sponsor you to do the CIM, so if you’re working somewhere with marketing opportunities - even if you're not in a marketing role at the moment - ask the question. It can’t hurt, after all.
I... have never done an internship. I’ve never worked unpaid. It wasn’t that common when I was a student, not like it is now. But all experience is good experience and if you can, try and get some in during your holidays. Not only does it look good on your CV, it can also give you valuable contacts in the industry. However, don’t get too caught up in them – I think a lot of companies take the mickey now, getting people to work jobs that they should really be paid to do. You can’t work unpaid forever.
When I was looking for a marketing job, I realised that I just needed that ‘Marketing Assistant’ line on my CV and I applied for anything that was vaguely close to it. I went through my sent items and realised I’d sent CVs and covering letters to over 50 people – and that’s in addition to the online applications and calls from agencies.
To put it in context, I left uni and worked for the head office of a building society for nearly a year, stuffing envelopes and slowly losing the will to live. In hindsight, I should have looked into grad schemes straight out of uni, but without a marketing degree, they're not always guaranteed. But you can still get there! Then I managed to land a job in a PR agency which sounded PERFECT... except the promised career progression never came, and I spent my days scanning in articles and photocopying. I lasted 6 months. Then I worked for the council for 9 months, in an easy-but-fun job which I could quite easily do on 5 or 6 hours sleep. Boy, that was a fun year. And then, a week after I was told that my temp contract was ending, I was offered an interview for an admin role which I turned down, as I was only looking for marketing roles. They let me interview for a marketing assistant (on the understanding that it was a very admin focused role). I got the job, worked my arse off to prove myself and within a month and a half, was promoted to marketing executive.
There was a lot of luck in there - no one else was interviewed as far as I know - but I also feel like it was my time, and I know that if I hadn't worked so hard when I got in there, I would have stayed on the bottom rung for a bit longer. I had some bad luck with redundancies and at least one soul destroying, miserable 6 month stint in a marketing exec role, and I got a LOT of practise at interviews, but eventually landed my current job where I've been for nearly three years, and it's kind of ace (sure, it has its moments - it's work, after all - but overall? Ace.).
5) The Reality
If you want to work in marketing, you have to REALLY work in marketing. It's not all about long lunches and glamorous projects. You have to put the effort in, you have to put the hours in, but it's really rewarding. I get to be creative, I get to write and I work with a great supportive team who make me laugh a lot.
6) Don't Judge A Book...
Don't be blinded by the industry. If you, the typical reader of this blog, had to choose between working for a bathroom company, a caravan sales company and a nail polish company, you'd choose the latter, wouldn't you? Me too. Worst. Job. I. Ever. Had. The other two were the best. Just because an industry doesn't SOUND exciting upon first look, doesn't mean it's not interesting. Often those industries are the ones taht take a more quirky approach. Also, secret - they tend to be better paid.
And that's it! All my advice on how to get started in marketing. Sorry it was so long! Was it interesting? Useful? I'd really like your thoughts - again it was a bit of a departure from my usual bloggings, and I'd rather not spam you all with stuff you're not interested in if you're, er, not interested.
But if you DID like it, do you have anything to add? Any other careers you'd like me to look into? Any volunteers for future posts?