I see that you studied marketing at Montclair State University and you are now a marketing manager.
I’m thinking about going into this field. Is this a field where you only need a bachelor’s degree? If so, should someone apply to the business school?
If you can please give some advice, I would greatly appreciate it!
I believe, regardless of the career or field you’ve chosen for yourself, the foundations of marketing and communication need to be known and practiced. Your career success will depend on your ability to position, present, sell, or persuade – especially when seeking a job.
I didn’t start college with marketing in mind
When I was in high school, I wanted to become a corporate bond trader so I applied to the School of Business as an Economics major with a concentration in business. However, after learning about the reality of the American debt-based economic system and the Islamic stance on interest based contracts and business dealings, I didn’t see a future for myself in it.
After my sophomore year in college, I left the business school and spent a couple years exploring careers by either taking classes or doing work on and off campus. I settled on the idea of pursuing a professional career in the area of media, marketing, and communications.
Here’s an interview of, yours truly, where I tell my story of how I came to that career decision.
When it came to finally settling on a major, I saw four options;
- School of Broadcasting
- Mass Communications – Public Relations, Journalism, Organizational Communication
- Business Administration with a concentration in marketing
I decided on the latter since I had already taken a lot of the business school classes and thus, continuing with the School of Business would allow me to graduate the quickest.
Academic counselors are good only if you know where you’re going.
Just a word of caution. Through my experience, I came to the conclusion that academic counselors are useless if you don’t know where you want to go or what you want to be. However, if you know what you want, in terms of major and intended graduation date, and what you want to be, they’ll show you the fastest way to do it.
With that in mind, the sooner you know what major you want to concentrate on, the faster you’ll get into it, and the faster you’ll get out of school.
Befriend professors with real world experience and connections.
Many of my colleagues and I myself can attest to the value that professors with real world experience are a great bridge to the professional world. They’re there to help you and see you succeed. Approach the relationship with humility and leverage the wealth of experience and relationships they bring with them.
Tip #1 – A degree in marketing won’t get you a job in marketing
I’ve studied martial arts since I was in third grade. I earned my black belt when I was in high school. One of my teachers in high school was also a martial artist. When I told him that I finally earned my black belt he told me, “Great! Now you have all the skills you need to begin learning.”
Think of a college degree as a black belt. What it’s really saying is that you’ve now learned the thinking and learning process.
However, having a good thinking process won’t get you a job, technical skills will. Gaining technical skills in a specific area of marketing will really be up to you. Either through self-teaching – project based learning, or through rigorous internships, or simply working for free several months at a time.
Tip #2 – To get a job in marketing, there are three general skills you need to learn
Learn to write, present, and/or produce compelling multimedia. All of these are used to sell, and in the world of business everyone is selling.
As a kid, my family moved almost every year. I had attended nine different schools before high school. To “survive” as a kid I had to not be afraid to meeting new people, thus I learned to make friends quickly. Through this I learned to present and sell.
All my life, since I can remember I grew up with a computer around me. In middle school my dad had me learn HTML and graphic design to make him a website, thus I was never shy of being a geek. I went from websites, to graphic design, to photography, to video. Thus, I learned how to produce multimedia.
I learned the importance of writing in high school, but didn’t really put a conscience effort toward building this skill until I was well into college when I discovered blogging.
I’ve used all three skills heavily throughout my career. When asked about how to get a job, I believe Seth Godin said it best:
Fortune 500 has been responsible for a net loss in jobs over the last twenty years. All the growth, and your best chance to get hired is from companies you’ve probably never heard of.
- Learn to sell.Everyone has sold something, some time, even if it’s just selling your mom on the need for a nap when you were three years old. A lot of people have decided that they don’t want to sell, can’t sell, won’t sell, but those same people need to understand that they’re probably not going to get a job doing anything but selling.Small businesses always need people who can sell, because selling pays for itself. It’s not an expense, it’s a profit center.
- Learn to write. Writing is a form of selling, one step removed. There’s more writing in business today than ever before, and if you can become a persuasive copywriter, you’re practically a salesperson, and even better, your work scales.
- Learn to produce extraordinary video and multimedia. This is just like writing, but for people who don’t like to read. Even better, be sure to mix this skill with significant tech skills. Yes, you can learn to code. The fact that you don’t feel like it is one reason it’s a scarce skill.
All of which take time and guts but no money.
Once you demonstrate that you contribute far more than you cost, now it’s merely a matter of figuring out a payment schedule. This is probably far more uncertainty and personal branding than most job seekers are comfortable with. Which is precisely why it works.
Tip #3 – Decide on the area of marketing you wish to get into to know what technical skills you need to learn
Generally, there are three general areas of marketing;
The focus here is to “build the brand” and “manage reputation.” Some common professions in this area are;
- journalism – traditional and new media
- search engine optimization (SEO) and online reputation management (ORM)
- social analytics (how all the “social stuff” ties back to the bottom line)
The general focus of this role is to sell or maintain a built brand. Today this is heavily digitally focused. Some common roles you’ll find are;
- Media buys – traditional and digital
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Google Adwords and other forms of Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC)
- Direct sales – business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C)
The focus of analytics is to either crunch numbers, and/or make sense of them to facilitate business decision making. If you go this route, don’t be shy of numbers and befriend MS Excel.
You’ll find that this role overlaps with both, PR and advertising. If you’re going to get into SEM, SEO, ORM, SM-Analytics, Analysis, ROI-measurement, etc., you’re going to be analytics focused.
Tip #4 – Decide what role you’re going to play
When it comes to marketing, you’ll probably find yourself gravitating toward one of four roles.
Technical Individual Contributor
This is basically a “one man army.” If you’re proficient with a particular business tool or technical skill, you’ll probably have a lot of job opportunities with big companies. Not so much is small or medium sized businesses.
Business Individual Contributor
To succeed here, you have to be a very very strong business person. Understanding organizational ecosystems and business strategy. It helps if you’re a people person.
Your job here is to understand business within the context of a “bottom line.” You need to be able to analyze numbers and metrics, create dashboards, and/or be in charge of rolling out specific tools across several business sites, despite resistance from the technical individual contributors.
Technical Team Leader
This role requires your ability to leave your “one-man army” mentality and the deep rooted habit of just doing all the technical stuff yourself and simply manage the “one-man army” types. However, it requires that you know the tools like the “one-man army” folks, otherwise they won’t take you seriously.
Business Team Leader
In addition to people skills, this role requires leadership skills. For this role, you need to be able to motivate, inspire confidence, and be inherently selfless. It’s also important for you to be able to charm senior personnel.
In addition to strong people leadership skills, this sort of role requires a strong analytical mind as well. I’ve been told that this combination is hard to find, thus, it’s probably why they’re paid handsomely for it.
Tip #5 – To strongly position yourself, play to your strengths
In any career, personal development is key. What ever skills you learn, keep sharpening your saw. Work toward being in the top 10% of your industry.