Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Journey into marketing

Read Jos' journey into how she is trying to carve herself a career in marketing.

Marketing came my way much by accident. Whilst still at school, after a year and a half in a dismal sales assistant position, I hungered for more of a challenge. I ended up securing a role as the Marketing Coordinator for a local Chiropractic business, which involved leading the marketing strategy through various approaches. As time went on, I developed a real passion for the work involved and started to take on more responsibility, even being bold enough, young as I was, to speak out and make changes to the procedure in place.

That job fell into my lap, and it was fortuitous that I was both competent enough to fulfil the role and very much enjoyed it too. However, a typical position for graduates to find themselves in - particularly in today’s competitive job market - is that of being fixated on the idea of your perfect role and knowing that you would be able to excel in it, but being held back by extreme levels of competition from many others like you. Marketing is a hugely popular career for a lot of graduates, and I sometimes wonder whether I might have an easier time in my job hunt if I chased something else.

In spite of this, it is an inescapable fact that I derive the most satisfaction from projects and endeavours that I am enthusiastic about. The interest I developed for marketing in that first job role enabled me to go the extra mile and really deliver, which very much fed into the gratification that the role bestowed on me. So whenever I have felt disheartened at the slow progress of my job hunt, it has been helpful to dwell on the fact that I will most enjoy working in a job I am passionate about, and that it will likely be all the more satisfying if I have to work a bit to get there.

Admittedly, however, it is very easy to quickly become dejected whilst embarking on the graduate job search. For me, realising that I was up against all the graduates who had studied marketing at degree level was an alarming notion. Pair that with my desire to enter the fiercely competitive agency side of marketing, and I’ve often felt like I’m undertaking an extremely daunting and perhaps futile challenge. Outside of graduate schemes run by agencies, the chances of being taken on in an entry level role with little to no agency experience are slim, so at first I focused on chasing short placements in agencies. However, there’s only so far that an overdraft can take you, and so following two of these (unpaid) placements at great agencies, I found myself taking on a role as a Marketing Project Manager for a company whose sector I knew all too well – graduate recruitment. But I missed the agency environment terribly. Whilst I was developing some vital skills and my business acumen, as well as picking up on some nifty tricks like digital marketing, I was conscious that I was not as well placed to keep up with my industry of interest – sitting on Twitter all day stalking agencies and their awe-inspiring campaigns was not really an option. So I decided to make some industry-related work for myself, albeit in my limited free time, by turning to the blogosphere.

I used my blog as a platform for me to spout about all the campaigns I’d read about. Even if no one was reading it (there is an unbelievable number of students, grads and professionals doing the exact same thing) I was enjoying writing it. During my three month stint in my project manager role the blog really did help to keep me motivated to apply to graduate schemes, internships and job roles. It confirmed to me that I really was passionate about the industry, and also meant that I had something concrete by which to demonstrate this passion in interviews. At one interview I attended, the agency Director told me that I had stood out from a lot of the other applicants because of a QR code that I had put on my CV linking to my blog, an extra touch that they had not seen in any other applicants.

Another important lesson I learnt from writing my blog was to stop thinking of every career-relevant activity I engaged in as being an asset to my CV, and to start thinking about them as an asset to myself. To dissect how each work placement I had carried out had helped to make me a better marketer in my own eyes, rather than in the eyes of the employer. A simple alteration to this frame of mind has made me a lot more confident in both my applications and interviews, as it allows me to recognise job descriptions as matching the skills and knowledge I now know I possess, rather than the opposite process of reading a job description and trying to make connections to my own personality and skill set.

Would I have an easier time pursuing a career in a less competitive field? Maybe. But being a graduate is a very empowering stage to be at; teetering on the edge of our careers, we have so many opportunities available to us. It is important to keep in mind that a typical graduate’s journey to the perfect career destination is more often than not a troubled pursuit, particularly in the current economic climate, and we now have to work harder than ever to prove ourselves. But my feeling is, if we don’t want to work hard to get into our sector of interest, are we really all that bothered about actually getting a job in it? However you choose to go about connecting with your industry, even if it doesn’t directly land you a job, at least you will be safe in the knowledge that you are competent, passionate and dedicated enough to excel once you do make it.

Find Jos on Twitter @JosCanavan

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