How to start your marketing career while studying
If you’re currently studying marketing, or are considering a career in marketing, you might be wondering how you can get a head start whilst studying. While marketing roles are increasing in demand, this doesn’t make the industry landscape less competitive.
Companies and recruiters are always looking for people who show a genuine interest in the industry, as well as personal drive to learn and grow. If you can actively show that you have these attributes, you’re more likely to stand out from the crowd. Here’s how to do it.
1. Work on building your skills
Simply having a degree isn’t always enough. Showing that you have practical experience or exposure to a range of different marketing skills can help to set you apart from other marketing graduates. If you don’t know where to start, have a look at online job listings for marketing roles to see what knowledge and requirements are expected for a graduate role.
For example, you might want to build up competence in writing, your understanding of SEO or have a grasp of basic graphic design. You can easily build these skills by enrolling in free courses online or starting your own blog. Working on your own projects will go a long way in exposing you to different areas of marketing, and it also shows that you’re a self-starter and keen to learn of your own volition. All of these characteristics are attractive to future employers.
2. Join clubs and societies
If you’re currently studying, a great way to get experience is to join a club or society at your university. You don’t have to join a marketing-focused one. In fact, many clubs and societies will have a dedicated person or team that helps with any marketing efforts. You can easily apply for these roles and have the opportunity to get marketing experience while working with like-minded students.
3. Do internships
As a marketing student, you’re bound to have heard of internships before, and there’s a good reason for that. Internships are so often advocated for because they’re still one of the best ways to learn while you’re studying, build up solid experience and kick-start your marketing career. At an internship you’ll be able to learn practical skills, deal with real life scenarios and do work that has an impact on real business outcomes, which is generally very different to what you will learn sitting in class.
In saying this, you need to make sure that the internships you apply for can actually give you real value; that means learning real skills and working on real projects. When you interview or apply for an internship, see the process as being just as much about you finding out if the company is a right fit for you, as you are for them.
There are plenty of unpaid and paid internships floating around, and the former can be lawful; just be sure to have an understanding of what your rights are. Speak to course advisors to see if there are any formal vocational placement programs through your university, look at online job portals, and reach out to UTS Careers or visit CareerHub to find paid internships at leading companies.
4. Embrace the gig economy
Consider yourself a solid writer, editor or social media marketer? There’s a tonne of work online just waiting to be snapped up by capable people just like you. Try Upwork, Freelancer or marketplaces like Airtasker to see what paid work is on offer.
If you have a solid portfolio, you can even reach out to marketing or creative agencies to see if they’re in need of freelance writers. Lastly, there are Facebook groups like LMBDW that are brimming with marketing experts, entrepreneurs, small business owners and contractors. They’re mostly a place to network and ask for advice, but are also popular communities to hunt for freelancers or part-time workers.
5. Build your network
Networks matter, plain and simple. The most important thing that needs to be communicated here, is that while the marketing industry is massive, it can also feel quite small, specifically if you choose to work in a subsection of the industry, such as in start-ups, fashion marketing etc.
The people you’re studying alongside today are your peers now, and could be into the future, so it’s important to build strong relationships with fellow students. It’s the same deal when you’re an intern, too. Build strong connections with the people you work with, because you never know if you’ll need a reference someday, or if they come across a role that you’d be a great fit for. There’s nothing like having someone on your side who is always happy to advocate for you.
You’ll find throughout your career just how powerful networks are. In my career so far, I’ve worked with plenty of the same people across multiple companies, and you probably will too! Former employees tend to follow good managers as they move on, and strong performers will often be recommended or headhunted by people they’ve worked with in the past. So my advice is to never burn a bridge, be respectful, make a good impression, always see working with someone as a learning opportunity, and always make sure you’re adding value.
On top of this, there are plenty of meetups and networking events that you can attend. Interested in a particular kind of marketing? There’s probably a meetup for it. In Sydney alone, there are content strategy meetups, SEO meetups, growth marketing meetups and more. These meetups present the perfect chance for you to rub shoulders with and learn from people who are already working in that field. You’d be surprised at the opportunities that might come from these events, and recruiters are also known to attend meetups to look for talent.
Can’t attend a meetup? Join a Slack community. There’s a Slack community for just about everything, and again, it’s a great opportunity to learn from a range of experts both in Australia and overseas.
6. Get your online brand in order
Let’s face it, it’s 2020. So when you throw your hat in the ring for an internship or a job, one of the first things a hiring manager will do is Google you. You should do this as well and make sure that the search results for your name are representations that you can be proud of. If you’re unsure, make any social networking accounts like Facebook and Instagram private.
Proactively update and work on your LinkedIn profile to ensure it’s the strongest it can be, that includes great headshots, getting great recommendations and endorsements from industry leaders, and strongly communicating your goals and achievements.
And if you have a portfolio of work you want to showcase, why not start a website? Both Squarespace and Wix have free versions that you can use.
So there you have it, a bunch of solid tips for you to jumpstart your marketing career while you’re studying. Not only are these tips helpful for the level you’re at now, they’ll also instil good habits that will help you into the future, because it’s really about lifelong learning at the end of the day.
At OpenAgent, a real tenet of our culture is continual learning and growth, so it’s not uncommon for us to be attending meetups together or sitting around the lunch table chatting about our side projects that might include building a business or freelancing.
The point is that growth isn’t just important when you’re starting out, it’s an ongoing process that should be a key part of your personal development for the rest of your life. And hey, if you’re serious about being the best you can be, learning and getting better at what you do is, and should be, fun. Good luck!
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Marketing Manager at OpenAgent.com
Samantha Thorne is the Marketing Manager at OpenAgent.com.au, an online agent comparison website helping over 330,000 Australians to sell, buy and own property every month.