First things first, marketing is a broad field, encompassing everything from digital advertising to branding to public relations to event planning and promotions. So before you dive headlong into searching for a marketing job, you might first spend some time getting acquainted with the different marketing disciplines out there so you can better focus your job search. Maybe you’ve already done that -- maybe you still have no idea. That’s okay! No matter where you enter this field, you’ll have opportunity to get a taste of other functions -- large teams work together, and small teams tend to have more generalists.
So how do you break in when you have no experience?
First, know what qualities an employer is looking for in a marketer.
Good written and verbal communications
Marketers are communicators. Some -- like content creators -- literally get paid to write and/or speak well. But every marketing function requires good communications skills. Demonstrate your savvy by turning in a well-written and typo-free cover letter and resume, and by practicing likely interview questions so you can give crisp responses.
Attention to detail
Because marketing is public-facing, there’s absolutely no room for errors. Moreover, most marketing efforts have several moving parts. So attention to detail in this field is a must. Highlighting any project coordination you’ve done in the past is a good way to show you’re up to the challenge.
Even if you’re the sole marketer in an organization, your job is going to require you to work with others to succeed. Demonstrate that you’re a team player by highlighting experience in your past working with others to achieve better outcomes.
Creativity and agility
There’s a reason that marketers get stereotyped as creative types -- many of them spend their days dreaming up new ways to connect with audiences. Even if you end up in a fairly analytical part of the field, you’ll likely need to be pretty agile to succeed -- being really good at marketing means cutting through all the other noise out there to reach your target customer. So be sure to highlight creative projects and your ability to think outside of the box on your resume and in an interview.
Doesn’t this fly in the face of creativity? Not exactly. Marketing is one of the major revenue drivers at a company, which means you’ll need to be able to quantify your efforts and show the return on investment to know whether you’re meeting your goal. Showcasing comfort with data and analytical problem-solving will give you a leg up.
Resilience and persistence
Marketing is a constant cycle of testing ideas, pitching stakeholders, and refining strategies -- sometimes, you are inevitably going to fail. Good marketers, then, are resilient, open to feedback, and ready to learn from what went wrong. Be ready to show an interviewer that you bounce back from mistakes, and that you’re unafraid to try new things and course-correct.
Next, do some homework.
Learn the lingo
Pop quiz: What do the acronyms SEO, SEM, PR, and KPI mean? Do you know what it means to pay per click? How about what platforms provide analytics? Give yourself a crash course in marketing lingo by picking up a book on marketing basics or taking a spin around the internet, searching for essential marketing skills. You’ll learn how to do these things on the job, but it’ll help you interview if you speak the language. Learning what all of things are might also help you determine which part of the marketing world interests you most -- and you can focus your efforts on finding a job in that space.
Practice your social media savvy
Social media is a critical part of marketing for most businesses these days. If you can show a potential employer that you know how to produce compelling social content and grow an audience on several platforms, you’ll have a leg up on your competition. You could do this with your own account -- or you could ask to manage accounts for a local business, non-profit, or even school club.
Learn InDesign and Adobe Photoshop
Being able to do some basic graphic design is going to be an asset no matter where you land in the marketing world. If you’re not really a designer, that’s okay -- but knowing your way around InDesign and Adobe Photoshop, and noting that on a resume or in an interview where appropriate, will show you’re serious about the field.
Start a blog and practice writing -- or take a writing course
Even if you’re not on the content production side of marketing, you’ll be expected to have good, accurate written communication skills. If you could use some help spiffing up your writing, pick up a book on grammar rules -- we recommend The Elements of Style by Strunk & White -- and practice regularly, either via a blog or a class.
Now, land the job.
Look for entry-level jobs in marketing
There are a lot of them out there! Check out job-listings at agencies, which often bring in entry-level junior marketers and train them in a variety of marketing functions, or search for positions like social media coordinator, junior publicist, junior marketing associate, junior brand consultant, or junior event planner. Search for marketing jobs on localwise.com.
Consider an internship
If you’re in college or just out, an internship can help you get your foot in the door at an organization while you gain valuable experience in the field. Look for internships that are going to give you a real taste of work you might want to do -- that’ll set you up to prove yourself, should a full-time position become available.
Consider contract work
Many marketing and public relations agencies hire freelancers in all kinds of functions -- if you’re an excellent writer, social media whiz, have good design or photography skills, or know the ins and outs of filming or editing, you might be able to pick up a contract, even without experience. Alternatively, know any small business owners who could use some help with marketing? Set up some contract work with them -- plan an event, manage their media outreach, or run their social media. Give discounted rates until you’ve had a few clients and built your skills.
Political campaigns and non-profit organizations basically run on volunteers -- and there’s a good chance they’ll be happy to have you help with marketing and communications work in your free time. Ask if you can help run social, write content, shoot video, or create ads -- it’ll give you practical experience for your resume.
Offer to take on marketing responsibilities at your current job
Maybe you work at a restaurant that could use some help pepping up its social media account. Or a small retailer that deserves some local press. Offer to take on a couple of hours of marketing work each week. You’ll boost your business, and get a taste of what it’d be like working for clients.