When you think about marketing, a few things probably come to mind.
Maybe you picture yourself as part of a creative brainstorming team, sitting around a conference table planning your company’s next spot-on Super Bowl commercial. Perhaps you see yourself spending your days on the phone, convincing potential clients that your company is the best option to handle their marketing needs. Or maybe you don’t quite have a clear picture of what someone in marketing does, but you know you enjoy people and that you’re great at influencing them.
There are several paths you can take to become a marketing professional. But before you do, you’ll need to prepare yourself with college coursework, understand the skills employers are seeking and gain some experience. Luckily, we explain each of these steps in detail.
STEP 1: Understand the types of marketing courses to take
While you can always learn skills from the Internet, there’s nothing that can substitute the quality and care of a live professor who is willing to teach you the ropes. Marketing courses allow you to ask questions, interact with others and learn skills that you might not have been able to grasp without an in-depth explanation.
Here is a list of marketing-related courses that can help give you a great foundation for understanding and prepare you for your future career.
1. Consumer behavior
This course focuses on the tendencies and cultural inclinations of people and will help you get inside the brain of the consumer. By understanding why certain people resolve to buy certain products, you’ll gain the skills needed to understand the psychology of marketing.
2. Strategic sales & sales management
This class is helpful in that it gives you a good foundation for basic skills in sales. As a marketer, you will be promoting a product or brand that, you hope, resonates with the outside world. You’ll be in a position to succeed in a wide variety of marketing positions after understanding how to work well with people inside and outside the office.
3. Internet marketing, public relations & social media
The world is quickly evolving into an Internet and social media society. This class will help you understand how marketing is affected by technology and how you can effectively use our culture’s most prevalent communication tools to tell the story you want people to hear.
4. Statistics for business
Marketing isn’t all people skills and ideas. This course will help you better understand the statistical side of marketing and how you can use data to leverage for better, more effective strategies. By understanding the numbers, you’ll be able to confidently move forward with your decision-making when it comes to planning that next marketing campaign.
5. Marketing & product management
The products people buy in stores or online supply marketing efforts around the world. This course helps you understand the journey of a product and how to create a plan to market it to consumers. By starting at step one and working your way the marketing process, you’ll gain a better understanding for how to plan a campaign and make your marketing abilities shine.
STEP 2: Hone the marketing skills employers are seeking
While taking these courses may make you feel like you’re ready to hit the workforce, it’s important to also develop the skills marketing agencies are seeking. Knowledge is a great and helpful thing, but without practice, it may be hard to feel confident in your abilities.
To that end, we used real-time market intelligence from BurningGlass.com to identify the top 10 skills mentioned in marketing-related jobs postings over the past 12 months.*
Marketers should also possess knowledge of macroeconomics, creative writing and social psychology, says Jeff Kear, owner of Planning Pod. “Marketing is 80 percent communications, and any competent marketer is by default an excellent communicator and writer,” he says. “As a marketer, you will … need to know what makes your target audience tick.”
Kear goes on to explain how coursework in social psychology, for example, helps students understand human motivation and behavior within the context of a larger society.
STEP 3: Get some experience in the marketing world
Marketing coursework is great, but it doesn’t replace real-world experience, says Chris Hoffman, independent consultant and marketer. “Marketing looks much different in the real world than in a college classroom,” he says. “You need to be humble, run some coffee, and work as a project coordinator or in some other non-strategic position for a time to get your feet wet.”
Hoffman also recommends working at a marketing agency for a time to give you a wide breadth of experience that you’ll be able to apply to various corporate settings throughout your career. “You'll learn client relations, project management, branding, integrated marketing, and touch every modern marketing channel all at one job,” he says.
Gaining experience may mean working a job you don’t especially love or volunteering during your college years, but you’ll be glad you did it once you have a portfolio and resume that help you nail that first high-profile job interview.
Map your journey
Taking the courses you need to succeed in the world of marketing, honing the skills needed for the profession and gaining experience for your resume can help put you on the fast track to a rewarding career.
But be sure to take things one step at a time.
*Source: BurningGlass.com (Analysis of 292,958 marketing jobs, Jan. 13, 2013 – Jan. 14, 2014)