I do a fair amount of interviewing young people who are interested in a marketing career or need some clarity on their path. Sometimes, they are children of friends and colleagues. Sometimes, they are jobseekers who have learned of an opening here at CI. Sometimes, they are students still trying to determine their next steps in coursework.
For what it’s worth, I was thinking about this today as I prepared for an interview conversation, and came up with a few general suggestions that have been helpful in my conversations with new or intended marketers.
- There is no one size-fits-all approach or formulaic path in marketing. Businesses and organizations vary in size and structure and are vastly different in their marketing needs and approaches.
- It’s OK to not know exactly what you want to do. In a world where we instill our young people with knowledge of the competitive marketplace and the importance of every networking connection, there can be a temptation to present as all-knowing in which segment or area of marketing where you want to specialize. And that’s great, if you really do want to specialize and know it without a shadow of a doubt. But marketing is particularly broad and it can be very helpful to be in a role where you are exposed to different elements. Moreover, many jobs require multi-functional skill sets, and getting in on the ground floor as a specialist may eventually be a hindrance in your career rather than a growth opportunity.
- Corporate marketing is not art. For better or for worse, brand guidelines are legitimate and must be sustained in any corporate work. There is far less flexibility and design freedom than you may expect. Every creative project has goals, parameters, and internal and external approval processes.
- It is absolutely crucial in the changing environment of marketing to maintain flexibility and curiosity. You are in a field where you must be prepared to constantly learn. In this industry more than in many others, adherence to pre-conceived notions can set you up for obsolescence.
- To be successful, you have to leave your ego at the door. You may do and redo a particular assignment many times before your boss/company/stakeholder/client is happy. Their feedback determines the final result, not design prowess. The subjective nature of marketing, whether that is writing or graphic design, requires great marketers to become outstanding listeners and cultivate the ability to ask outstanding questions. A collaborative approach with all strata of leadership, teammates, and client representatives will define ongoing success.
My final encouragement is that professionalism goes a really long way. If your social media accounts feature footage of a younger, less mature version of yourself, you should not include them on your resume. Answer the phone when you have an interview scheduled. Take the process seriously, and you’ll enter the most rewarding field I have known. It is a privilege and an honor to share the stories of individuals, companies, products and initiatives in written and visual manners.