I, like many, struggled to get into a career in marketing.
It’s not easy and the recession makes an attractive career in PR or marketing even harder to come by.
If you are not a marketing / PR / business graduate it becomes even harder, and no experience, well….
So what can you do if you feel that you could grow into this type of career? How can you invest your time to build a platform to build a career?
Here are a few tips that I hope will be of some help. They derive from my experience and as you know experience can be described as a collection of mistakes – peppered by a few successes – that helps you learn how to do something proficiently.
Resilience – you are going to get knocked back unless you are very lucky, well-connected or brilliant. It is not easy to get a letter like this if you feel that you are perfect for a job: “Even though you are an excellent candidate we felt your skills were not quite right for our organisation on this occasion….”
You need to have a thick skin and move on, and don’t look back. It’s not easy.
Give yourself a range of options – You might want to work in fashion PR, it is your ambition since you were 17. But be flexible, so if a job in consumer PR comes up consider it carefully. You can always move to other sectors at a later stage (although HR can have a habit of pigeon holing people).
Make a start and do not wait for the perfect job – You have to start somewhere. The first job might be far from perfect but does it get you to the place you want to go?
A note of caution: Sometimes an opportunity comes up but it is not right because it will not develop your skills, you don’t have the right attributes to build on in the first place or the boss or environment is not for you. It takes real courage to turn something down when you are desperate to get a career started. However, it is often the best option, so think carefully before accepting a position that you have a bad feeling about.
Desperation – the enemy of job seekers.
If you are desperate it will come though at interview and you will not get the job or as above it will cloud your judgement. When you are starting out you often don’t have much perspective and little experience – you need to get on NOW! Try and relax, if you are determined you will get there.
Qualifications – These can be more important in securing your first position rather than what you learn. (I cannot remember 90% of my Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma).
Apprenticeships – take them. It shows employers your intent and gives you insight into your profession. It might convince you that it wasn’t for you all along. But remember a bad experience doesn’t mean you won’t thrive elsewhere.
Networking – If you develop good contacts it can help flag opportunities. The least it might do is give you a real insight into the profession. So start to attend CIPR events, ask friends who they know, can your lecturers help make introductions for you? Be proactive, it will also deveolop your business skills and you as a person.
Social networking – It is hard to go to a business event as a wannabe PR and feel confident that you will be taken seriously. You might think, “What can I offer the other attendees?”
These thoughts are understandable, but that doesn’t stop you using Twitter, monitoring blogs or indeed blogging yourself to start to establish a greater insight into your new profession and to initiate contacts. If you are engaged in these pursuits at this moment in time you will probably be admired by the best professionals. In a couple of years perhaps it will be nothing special at all.
Take control of things yourself – I have one client that could not get the summer job he wanted so he found projects for himself and by the time he graduated he had enough work to form his own business.
Not everyone is confident or able enough to do this, most people need to learn the ropes before they can work for themselves. Saying that, if you feel you can offer something, why not do PR for a small charity or organisation? (Caution: you might look back on the mistakes you made here and cringe, but it could be useful for your CV).
Find a mentor – someone who can help and guide you is invaluable. Even getting snippets of advice from professionals can help, so be open and receptive.
Someone, family or friend, that can give you support can be just as crucial when you are feeling down thinking about the ridiculous odds you might encounter going for an entry level position.
If you want it you can get into marketing or PR – be proactive, focused and determined.