How marketing graduates can stand out, as told by industry experts

Career Advice
30 August 2019 | Career Advice | Guest Author

The transitional period between graduating and moving into a full-time job role usually comes with a lot of stress and emotion. You’ve put blood, sweat and tears into your degree and now it’s time to find that all-important first job that will kickstart the career that you have been working towards for so long. Unfortunately, in some cases (like mine), it just doesn’t happen overnight.

Upon completing my master’s degree in 2017, I saw first-hand that the path to kickstarting your career can take shape in many different forms and that everyone takes a unique path. I saw a fellow graduate move to London almost instantaneously to start a new graduate role. Another friend played the long game and waited patiently for several months before finding their first marketing role. Meanwhile, facing the prospect of having no income, I applied for any role that I felt would help build my experience, which led me to a job in banking. The role itself had limited relevance to my degree or my desired career but it taught me the fundamentals of work-life and allowed me to be more selective with the marketing roles that I went on to apply for. 

After several unsuccessful job interviews, I finally secured the marketing role that would kickstart my career. The fourteen months between graduating and starting my current role felt like an eternity and on several occasions, I wondered if I was ever going to get the break that I was working so hard for. Thankfully, my big opportunity came last December, and I was so excited to take it. My new role quickly exposed me to new marketing tasks that I had no experience in whatsoever. I started working on things such as pay-per-click ads, website content, search engine marketing and much more. As I grew into the role, I quickly realised that the wait was worth it and whilst fourteen months may seem like a long time, in the grand scheme it’s not.

A big perk in my current role is that I am given the freedom to think outside of the box and implement new creative ideas. One of the new projects that we developed was the launch of a new podcast. The world of podcasting has grown rapidly in popularity over the last few years and it’s pretty hard to find a celebrity or influencer that doesn’t host or regularly feature on podcast episodes. The podcast that we launched is titled “20 Minute Marketing” and it allows me to interview industry experts on key marketing topics such as SEO, PPC, branding, social media for example. The podcast is a win-win because it exposes these experts to a new audience whilst allowing both myself and listeners to learn something new.

One of the big reasons why I wanted to start the podcast was to try and help recent and future graduates. So, I included a part that is entirely dedicated to just that. During the last five minutes of every episode, I chat with industry experts about graduates. Although each episode is different, I typically ask the expert to provide suggestions on how graduates can stand out and what they would be looking for should they decide to hire someone tomorrow. I feel strongly that if I had implemented some of the things that they suggested, I’d be in a much better position when I had left university. Additionally, their insights are relevant to all graduates and not just those in marketing or a similar field. So, enough about me, let me tell you what they had to say.

The graduate advice that my guests most commonly give is that you need to get active in the industry that you wish to work in. How you get involved will depend upon your studies but for marketing graduates, writing is the best place to start. Almost all of my guests have told me that they look for strong writing skills when they are recruiting, and some have even mentioned that finding a good writer is a big challenge. You may be wondering why writing is so important in marketing? Well, it’s used for almost everything - blogging, social media captions, writing adverts, press releases, website content and more.

I imagine that you’re probably sick of writing. I know that I certainly was when I was at university. Every single module contained some form of written assessment that had thousands of words as a minimum requirement. However, writing outside of university is beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, it provides you with an opportunity to talk freely without speaking in university jargon. This will help your transition into work-related blogging much easier. Plus, you can be yourself without having to back every single point up with a historically credible source to support your argument (although this sometimes helps).

Writing will also show recruiters that you are passionate about something. It shows that you are willing to express your opinion and highlights that you can transfer your thoughts into words. On top of that, by using Wix, WordPress or any other free alternative, you’ll become familiar with the process of writing content and then publishing it. Additionally, my feedback from industry experts is that the content of your writing does not matter. You don’t have to talk about marketing trends. Instead, you can talk about your favourite sports team, tv shows and movies, travelling or anything else that you are passionate about. 

The second insight that I took from the industry experts that I interviewed is that creating a digital portfolio on social media will help you stand out. By doing so, you’ll learn how to gain followers without relying on posting personal photos for your friends and family to see. Instead, you’ll have to earn your followers by building a brand and using carefully selected hashtags. The easiest way to get started, in my opinion, would be to use Instagram. It’s as easy as picking a theme that you are interested in, for example, nature, obscure objects, colour themes or food and then posting interesting pictures. By doing so, it shows recruiters that you have a creative flair and that you are prepared to put in the effort. Additionally, it will ensure that your application stands out and gives you something to talk about if you get an interview.

Finally, a common response by the industry experts that I interviewed was that graduates should try and keep up to date with modern trends. This is important because the subjects that you learn in university often have limited crossover to real-life daily marketing tasks. A great way to do this is by signing up to a weekly newsletter or reading blogs. Some great websites to stay updated include Marketing Week, HubSpot & Social Media Today. By keeping up with trends, you’ll be able to impress recruiters and build a solid foundation of knowledge about the tasks that you’ll be assigned to. And, don’t worry if you don’t know the technical ins and outs. Recruiters aren’t expecting you to be able to set up a Google Ad account in your first week, for example. However, knowing what the benefits of a tool like Google Ads offers will allow you to stand out from other interviewees.  

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