How to develop your career in marketing

Five tips to becoming a more knowledgeable and connected marketer

First finding and then navigating a career in marketing can be tough but it’s also very rewarding. With the advancement of digital, the rise of AI and so much new technology, there are many different opportunities to take advantage of. Things seem to be changing all the time and for anyone interested in people, data and creative marketing are a brilliant career to pursue.

I’ve been a marketer now for nearly 15 years and throughout my career, I’ve experienced many different ups and downs. Whatever your field of expertise, no career journey is ever straightforward and there are always twists and turns. However, there are things we can do as marketers to stand out, make an impression and make our luck.

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I’ve taken a step back and chosen give tips I would give to any aspiring marketer looking to make their way in the world:

1. Create a winning CV

As marketers, we’re very aware of the value of good salesmanship. It’s the lifeblood of any business and the foundation of great marketing. But what we don’t always consider is the value of being able to sell ourselves. The curriculum vitae (or ‘resume’ for our American friends) is the ultimate sales document.

There are hundreds of websites, blogs and podcasts advising marketers on how to write a great CV. All will provide you with good advice. However, here are some of the key points I would recommend prioritizing:

  • Layout – Whilst some may advise creating something different, like an infographic or slideshow to stand out amongst all the other CVs, I would recommend keeping things simple. Where possible stick to two pages and break your CV into the following punchy sections:
    • Personal statement
    • Professional experience
    • Education
    • Extracurricular interests (optional)
  • Focus on results – Hiring managers are looking for marketers that can deliver results. For each of your roles, focus on what you did and the results you delivered. You should ideally quantify these results (e.g. “increased organic web traffic by X% in 12 months”) but if this isn’t possible, a more qualitative explanation will suffice.
  • Tailor your CV for your target audience – Every great marketer understands the importance of knowing your audience and applying for jobs is no different. Whilst there is no need to create a new CV from scratch for every role, you must highlight key areas of experience and wording throughout that aligns with the company and role for which you are applying.

2. Master your interview technique

If your CV is up-to-date, on-message and makes a good impression, you may be called to an interview. A good CV will get you in the door, but it is you and you alone that will ‘close the sale’ and land a new marketing position.

Every company will conduct interviews in different ways but I’ve found through experience that the STAR story technique is one of the most effective ways of articulating your skills and experiences.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, and is a great way to structure your answers to different interview questions.

STAR interview technique

Some companies (corporates/enterprises in my experience) may run competency-based interviews where they might expect you to structure your answers explicitly in a STAR story format. However, for smaller companies or agencies with a less formal interview process, a STAR story format will still enable you to answer in a way that clearly outlines how you tackled a problem and delivered results in your previous roles.

3. Become a T-shaped marketer

To be a truly effective marketer in today’s modern marketing landscape, it’s important to develop a strong range of skills and experience across different disciples. The ability to work with different teams and specialists enables marketers to collaborate effectively, empathize and take advantage of new opportunities.

Over the last ten years at least I’ve been using the T-shaped marketer approach to guide my professional development, a concept Rand Fishkin outlined in detail back in 2013. As Rand himself explains:

“T-Shaped basically refers to having a light level of knowledge in a broad array of skills, and deep knowledge/ability in a single one (or a few).”

T-shaped web marketer

The key takeaway for marketers is that breadth breeds respect and overlapping knowledge yields creativity. There are great benefits for digital marketers who, whilst specializing in a single area or discipline (e.g. SEO, UX, analytics, media planning), develop a lighter level of knowledge across a broad spectrum of inter-related skills.

Here are five good reasons to consider becoming a T-shaped marketer:

  1. Develop organizational integration
  2. Know your audience
  3. Integrate technical and general marketing skills
  4. Expand digital knowledge
  5. Think and act like a start-up

4. Develop your network

It may be a cliché but the marketing world is small. I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve bumped into people I’ve worked with at one point or another at different events, conferences and gatherings. The age-old advice of never burning your bridges is especially important in this respect as you never know when you might be working with someone again or require a good word or reference or LinkedIn endorsement.

For some people, the term ‘networking’ brings up images of schmoozing and self-promotion. But effective networking doesn’t have to be a transactional activity. Instead, think of networking as an opportunity to cultivate your career and develop your T-shaped skill-set:

  • Identify key individuals within the business who you believe match your interests – These people may work across various levels (from interns to executives) but as long as you show genuine interest and willingness to learn there’s nothing wrong with reaching out and making a connection.
  • Look for opportunities to help – The reciprocity principle suggests that humans tend to return good deeds. When people help us out, we feel an instinct to return the favor. Although on the surface this may seem calculated if done in the right way and for the right reasons (e.g. you’re looking to learn a new skill) this is a great way to build your network of contacts and raise your profile.
  • Attend conferences and meet-ups – Marketers should have an appetite for knowledge. Conferences, meet-ups and other marketing gatherings are great for learning new skills. However, they are also great for meeting fellow marketers who are working in a variety of different companies and sectors.

5. ABL (Always Be Learning)

Every day in the world of marketing is another opportunity to learn something new. Throughout my career, I’ve learned something new in every single one of my roles and benefited from all my different experiences. Great marketers keep an open mind and treat every situation as a learning opportunity.

Although the days are busy, with so much to do, to develop your career in marketing look at ways to build your knowledge and understanding:

  • Start a blog.
  • Become a member of a professional body (such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing or IDM).
  • Subscribe to quality publications (e.g. Marketing Week, Wired, HBR, The Economist).
  • Mentor others.

Conclusion

Establishing a career in marketing requires focus, dedication and determination. As with many other disciplines, marketing is a competitive field and to stay ahead of the competition you have to be clear on what you want to achieve and put the work in to achieve your goals.

Creating a winning CV and a refined interview technique will help you stand out in the job market. But once you’ve landed a new role, great marketers find a way to create a strong skill-set by developing a thirst for knowledge and cultivating a diverse network of contacts both inside and outside of their immediate companies and industries.



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