So, you’ve finally decided you want to pursue a marketing career. You’re probably wondering if it will pay off, where you’ll end up and if you’ll even like it. Well, you are not alone. These questions always come with new territory, so we spoke to those who have already blazed that trail to ask what they wish they knew beforehand.
While you can’t exactly “try before you buy” when it comes to a career in marketing, you can listen to the experts and learn from their experiences. Here are some insights they wish they would have known their first day on the job in their marketing career.
I wish someone had told me that....
1. You’re going to need to learn analytics
No matter where you end up in marketing, understanding analytics will range from being helpful to absolutely necessary on the job. If you didn’t learn this in school, there are ways to teach yourself.
“You must start to get a foothold on the analytical side of it as soon as possible,” says Nate Barber, digital analyst for prWorks. He recommends getting certified in a few areas like Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Hubspot and Hootsuite.
2. You’ll want to master the art of effective writing
Writing is not just going to help you communicate in the corporate world, but it’s becoming increasingly prominent in marketing itself. You’ll need to be an effective writer in order to be a successful marketer.
“I can't help but be amazed at the dearth of quality writing skills among many marketing professionals,” says Scott Frederick, vice president of marketing at Logistics Plus Inc. He says one the biggest industry buzzwords worth your attention is content marketing. “How can you expect to produce regular, quality content if you cannot write effectively?”
3. There are many ‘big’ personalities in the biz
"There are no classes on how to develop a thick skin and a lot of patience."
You will undoubtedly work with many different personalities in your marketing career. As in any other profession, you need to learn to work successfully with everyone, regardless of background, communication style and personality.
“It’s an industry driven by big personalities,” says Jordan Brannon, director of digital strategy at Coalition, a digital marketing agency. He goes on to explain that CEOs, CMOs, marketing directors and agency owners all tend to have opinionated, Type-A personalities. “There are no classes on how to develop a thick skin and a lot of patience,” he says. “But those are perhaps some of the most invaluable traits to develop.”
4. Starting a blog NOW will give you hands-on experience
If you’re vying for a career in marketing, a personal blog can give you the competitive edge you’ve been seeking in more ways than one. It’s also a tangible way to show employers you are devoted to your profession and have taken the extra time to prove it.
“I wish I would have started a blog earlier,” Barber admits. “Marketing can be quite writing heavy, and getting good practice before you start looking for jobs will give you boost over other job seekers.”
5. You’ll need a broad base of skills...
If you want to make a splash in the marketing industry, you’ll need to enter the ring with a rounded-out set of marketing skills in your arsenal.
“The best advice I can give to recent graduates is to have a practical knowledge on a variety of marketing initiatives,” says Daniel Skaritka, marketing coordinator at ENECON. “If I was able to go back in time, I wish I would have learned more about web design, coding and SEO. I didn't know how important these would be in order to have a career in marketing.”
6. ... but at the same time, you’ll want to focus on a niche
You need to have a broad set of skills for a career in marketing — there’s no getting around that. But once you master that groundwork of the fundamental skillset, build your expertise in a niche area.
“It is best to decide early which marketing discipline you enjoy most,” says Anthony Famularo, marketing database analyst. Being able to hone in and master a certain skillset can make you a more attractive candidate to an employer who’s looking to fill a specific piece of their marketing puzzle.
7. Not everything in marketing is black and white
If you’re the type that likes clear-cut, yes or no answers, a career in marketing may not be your cup of tea. But if you enjoy interpreting data, utilizing your creativity and exploring new concepts, you may find it to be a perfect fit.
"I realized pretty quickly that there is no clear answer or process in marketing."
“I realized pretty quickly that there is no clear answer or process in marketing. There isn't always a right answer,” says Daryl Weber, brand consultant and author. “It is very subjective, even when you're interpreting data. People tend to rely on their instincts, gut feeling and past work experience all too often.”
But Weber emphasizes that the ambiguity of the industry is also what makes it a great field to work in, stating “it's a constantly evolving industry and it always pushes you to be creative.”
8. You need to take chances or you’ll be forgotten
If you want to cut through the noise and stand out from the pack in the marketing industry, the last thing you want to do is play it safe. Push yourself and your brand to be better.
“Before I started my career in marketing, I wish someone had told me to take more chances,” says Jordan Scheltgen, founder of CAVE Marketing. “Playing it safe equals you being forgotten, quickly! Be weird, be fun and of course be on brand — then you'll start to see results.”
9. You need to know how to fail the right way
With taking chances comes the possibility of failure. As with many things in life, you’ll need to know how to make the most out of your mistakes.
“I think the most valuable piece of advice I have to give is to learn how to take punches,” Scheltgen says. “Marketing is hard and your first campaign might fail, and fail badly. It takes a certain blend of intelligence, creativity and blind faith to launch a marketing campaign. If you fail, fail fast and start over.”
10. It may not be as glamorous as you imagined
“The majority of good marketing jobs are not all as glamorous as they may seem,” Frederick says. Companies across all industries have marketing positions, and you may find yourself in one that’s not quite as flashy as you pictured.
Frederick pictured working for a large consumer products company full of fun advertising pitches and cool TV commercials upon graduation. But just because your first impression may not live up to your preconceived notions, doesn’t mean it won’t end up being satisfying.
“It can still be fun and rewarding in a different, non-Mad Men sort of way,” Frederick says.
11. The learning never stops
"No two days will be alike."
In the fast-paced world of marketing, a savvy marketer needs to stay ahead of the curve by constantly keeping up with changes. “The hardest part of about marketing is keeping up with how fast it evolves,” says SuperOffice digital marketer, Steven Macdonald.
He recommends dedicating time every single day to learning about what new techniques and technologies are out there. “It’s all part of the fun,” he says. “No two days will be alike.”
Now you know…
Now that you’ve heard the expert insights from marketing pros, you should be feeling more prepared than ever for your career in marketing. A degree in marketing can help you build the foundational knowledge on which to build your career. But there are several paths you can follow after entering the field.
Learn more about these different niches in our article: 7 Types of Marketing Specializations: The Practical Guide You’ve Been Seeking.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in January 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2016.