The marketing industry job market is a tough place to crack for students preparing for life after full-time education or training. The competition for starter roles can be fierce.
The days of writing a CV full of adverbs to sell yourself are over. It’s no longer good enough to be passionate or hard-working, MarComms agencies want you to show them your qualities.
Of course, one of the best ways for any student to stand out is experience - but how can someone who hasn't even completed their studies earn any real experience in marketing?
Fear not, there are ways around these challenges. After years replying to requests for advice and student placements, digital marketing agency Omnia have listed the top 5 qualities a student can possess - and how to showcase them well - to make you stand out from the student marketing crowd:
Let’s tackle the big one first - gaining experience in the marketing industry can a feel a bit like the riddle of the chicken and the egg - which comes first? However, if you get creative you might just find some solutions right under your nose, or more specifically, on your local high street.
Most cities and towns (even small ones) will now have at least one street full of local small businesses who usually don’t have the budgets to hire large marketing agencies. Whether it’s a coffee shop, a hair salon, the small vegetable grocer or the corner pub; all of these businesses will require marketing help whether that be in the form of branding, local promotions or help up-skilling for digital and social marketing.
You should also find it easier to make introductions to the top decision-makers at this level, especially if you are a local customer yourself. The small business owners may even have a small budget to pay your for your time, perhaps starting with a small one-off project. Then they may hire you for more work, or recommend you on to their local business contacts. What you will be guaranteed to earn is experience; managing clients and getting real-life examples for your CV. This can be priceless when it comes to setting you apart from other student applications.
Just like small businesses, startups, entrepreneurs and co-working spaces for freelancers are popping up everywhere. This new digital business economy is making it more common and sustainable for people to work for themselves, however they still need to brand and market like a bigger company would. But they will suffer the same budget restraints that the local small businesses do. Again, introductions are easier in co-working space as they all have an open-door policy and a collaborative vibe. So go say hi!
For some people, the thought of giving away their talent and hard work for free to businesses does not sit well with them. Where you can channel this effort for good is in volunteering for charities or good causes. Small not-for-profit organisations and community groups rarely have the financial resources to invest a lot in marketing and yet they are the ones who can benefit so much from marketing communications.
Approaching a cause close to your heart or an event or venue that interests you will ensure you have a personal investment and passion for the voluntary donation of your time. It also shows potential employers that you are a well-rounded individual, committed to the community in which you work (Corporate Social Responsibility is a high priority for many business owners). In fact many marketing agencies now carry out their own annual pieces of CSR work without payment, as a way to give back to good causes. Partaking in this activity shows that you align personally with their ethos and value system, which means you’re more likely to fit into their team.
You are also much more likely in a voluntary organisation to be given some free rein to take responsibility on a higher level piece of work, or a role with more responsibility, such as managing social media channels, which will work wonders for your CV.
A CV with some sound examples that showcase your work and your results is invaluable in a creative industry like marketing. It showcases your creativity and the outcomes you can provide for clients. But to really stand out, you could benefit from publishing your own blog online. It acts as a website portal to your CV. More than that though, it gives you the extra space to really showcase the breadth of your talents and knowledge.
As a student, blog posts don’t have to just centre around what you’re studying or the small projects you find to gain experience on. You can also highlight your inspirations in the marketing world. You could write opinion pieces on issues affecting the industry, award ceremonies, or chart your personal story. The scope really is broad and a blog is the ideal outlet for it, archiving all your thoughts and work for employers to sift through, but also gradually growing your own industry professional profile - making you searchable online, attracting people to you rather than you chasing them. It also improves your experience of elements of digital marketing such as SEO for websites, which is another valuable skill on your CV or application.
This effort to become a thought leader in your field shows a potential employer that you have passion and ambition, but also that you are an industry thinker as well as a doer. Someone who will bring that rounded knowledge and opinions to their team.
Linked to blogging, in a similar vein, is the idea of building your social media profiles. Not in the same way that you in your personal life, but with the very focussed purpose of developing a professional profile in the marketing industry and virtually networking in the field.
You may pick one channel and focus on that or create profiles across many. You can research the industry leaders, follow marketing news sites, other bloggers, post your own blogs or share those which you read yourself.
Not only does this showcase your confidence and knowledge publicly, but it also puts you ahead of other candidates who haven’t bothered or don’t know how. Because managing a professional online presence takes skill to curate content and to understand the technicalities of each channel. Instead of simply saying you can do all these things on your CV, linking your own social profiles where you have been growing a targeted audience with your own content strategy is solid proof to agencies that you can walk the walk.
Selling Your Experience
When it comes to communicating the work examples that you do have, make sure that you’re showcasing them to maximum effect. Yes, this is a creative industry and so some creativity in your CV can go a long way. Use of type font, attention to the copy and words, colour of pages to stand out, even creating infographic CVs if that is in your personal skill set; all of these things showcase attention to branding and communications that will be needed in a marketing job.
But don’t forget about the process of marketing strategy to achieve a client’s aims. Remember that a lot of research, strategy and thought goes into the projects that a full marketing agency will create. So in any examples of work that you do have, try to explain the brief you were given, or the problem you tried to solve and how you approached that. And then measure the outcome, show that you care about analytics and delivering results for clients.
Also mention anyone else you had to work with along the way as a virtual or real team, such as web developers or trade printing companies.
All of these elements will show a prospective marketing agency that even if they don’t personally like your creative ideas or think your experience is exactly right for their clients, they have been given an insight into your process, your personality and your passions, which will show your potential to grow and improve, hopefully as a new member of their team!