As a recent marketing graduate thrust into the job market, I have suddenly become aware of my shortcomings. It turns out that some of those little nuggets of wisdom that professors, advisors, and yes even parents, tried to bestow upon me are in fact quite valuable. So, with a degree in hand, it is now my turn to offer some advice to up and coming marketing students, regardless of whether you really want it.
Here are 5 things I wish I’d done as a marketing student:
1) Learn Basic Web Editing
This one threw me for a loop. It honestly never occurred to me that I should become familiar with WordPress and basic HTML. I had always considered that to be the domain of IT personnel, not the marketing department. If your career focus is on social media or any form of internet marketing, then this is a skill worth having. You’ll find a lot of small companies, and especially nonprofits, are looking for candidates who are multitalented since they are small staffed. You don’t necessarily need to perform search engine optimization or be proficient at cross-platform development, but the ability to make changes to a webpage could put you at the top of the interview list.
2) Network, Network, Network!
While you’re in the college environment it might seem unnatural to think of your professors as peers, but once you graduate and enter the daunting job market, they could be your fellow marketers. Developing professional relationships with your professors now can be an asset later. Your professors are not just a wealth of knowledge, they are important contacts! Many of them may still be working in the industry and may be able to put you in touch with potential employers. Even if they can’t put you in direct contact, they will be able to provide a letter of recommendation should you need one. Professors aren’t your only source of information. Think of your college campus as a giant networking resource. Even your fellow classmates are valuable contacts! As they too join the working world they may be able to offer a good word on your behalf or point you in the direction of a juicy job listing. And don’t forget to check out your university’s clubs and organizations! Which brings me to my next point:
3) Join Marketing Clubs and Organizations
I know, I know. You’ve got a paper due on Friday, midterms are fast approaching, and you seem to be the only member of your group project that actually cares about your group project, and now I want you to join a club? Yes! Organizations like the American Marketing Association (AMA), the American Advertising Federation (AAF) and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) provide educational and networking resources. Both the AMA and PRSSA offer collegiate chapters at many universities. The AMA at my school arranged guest speakers, marketing specific job fairs, community outreach programs, and networking events. This is your opportunity to mingle with fellow students and university as well as potential employers.
4) Job Search NOW
Most students start lining up job interviews in their last semester of school. I strongly suggest doing this much sooner, not necessarily to apply but to get an idea as to what’s out there, the skillset they are looking for, and what direction you might want to take in marketing. Remember all that talk about how tough the job market is? That is not a joke. The problem you’ll find is not in convincing people to hire you, it’s in finding a job to APPLY to. My first job search turned up around five marketing jobs that were not mall kiosk sales positions. Of those five, three required less than two years’ experience. “Slim pickins” is a term you will become familiar with. If you are really lucky, you’ll unearth a new job listing once a week. START SEARCHING NOW! It never hurts to look and applying now will only strengthen your writing skills for those dreaded cover letters.
5) Secure an Internship
This one I cannot stress enough! Once you get into the job market you’ll find a lot of entry-level jobs that “prefer” one to two years of related experience. This is where you find that experience! You’ll want to choose your internship carefully. Your primary goal should be the quality of experience you stand to gain and not just fulfilling school credits.
Meridian Group offers this type of high-quality internship program. This internship provides a chance for on-the-job quality training with a firm holding an impressive portfolio. A program like Meridian’s doesn’t view the intern as free labor for tedious grunt work. Instead, they focus on developing necessary skills and fostering their interns to become successful marketing professionals.
I can’t promise that these five bits of advice will land you your dream job but, hopefully, they will spare you some of the inevitable frustration of finding that first job out of college. So, please just take them into consideration. Lest you find yourself as I often do, forced to admit that I should have listened to my mother.
This post was written by Kate, public relations intern at Meridian Group.