Jan. 13, 2020
The job outlook for college students interested in marketing careers looks bright, but before you can snag an opportunity, you need to get the relevant skills, knowledge and experience to make yourself marketable. One way to do so is to complete internships; these, however, are more often than not unpaid, and with college tuition and student loan debt rising each year, an unpaid position, while valuable, may not be ideal for you.
The good news is that working while attending college doesn't mean missing out on gaining relevant skills, building a network and boosting your resume; in fact, it may help you earn more in the long run. That said, working while in college is challenging, so be intentional about the hourly jobs you seek. Choose positions that complement what you are learning in school, so that you have what employers need when you enter the professional world post-graduation.
I suggest you first review the skills, knowledge and experience needed for success in your chosen field and then seek paid opportunities that help you gain those. When it comes to marketing, regardless of setting (public, private or non-profit), at its core, the profession exists to connect people to products, services and experiences, and to ensure that the value of those products, services and experiences are properly highlighted. What makes marketing professionals successful are both technical skills (data analytics, user experience design and search engine optimization) and interpersonal and communication (oral and written) skills.
If you know what marketing activities appeal to you, you could pursue jobs to gain experience in those areas. If you haven't yet committed to a specific role, doing a variety of hourly jobs can help you explore the options and clarify what appeals to you, so you can start designing a career you love. Although no one job can fully prepare you for a specific career, here are seven you may want to consider as you prepare for a career in marketing.
Paid opportunities on campus are often available to all college students, including international students, and if you think these require simply sitting at a desk, printing and filing, think again. Whether it's admissions, career services, athletics or student affairs, any student-facing office needs help engaging with and attracting prospective students. Recent research shows that teens rely on online resources such as an institution's website and social media to determine which college to attend. What influences their decision even more is interacting with current students. That's what I did when selecting my graduate program: I reached out to a student who'd written for the university admission's blog.
On-campus offices also need to promote their services to current students, and you can show your creativity by helping them do that. Students my colleagues and I work with in the career development office have helped us design promotional materials, advertise events by holding table hours during breaks, plan and execute events, create videos to highlight a past event, write for the student blog, and analyze event data to determine what worked and what didn't. These students had on-campus jobs that helped them secure not only a paycheck, but also stories to share with employers and highlight the value they could bring.
In a world of big data, analytical skills are in demand in any field, and marketing is no exception. If working with data is of interest to you, you may want to consider part-time positions that expose you to both quantitative and qualitative research. Reach out to instructors whose courses you enjoyed and inquire about becoming their research assistant. Ideally, choose an instructor who teaches and conducts research in the marketing field. Another way to build your analytical skill set is by becoming a market research analyst for a local startup or business. Often, these roles can be done remotely, which is a plus for your already busy schedule.
In 2020, digital marketing offers more opportunities than traditional marketing, and as someone aspiring to a career in the field, you may want to put your social media skills to the test. The role of a social media content creator allows you to do that. You can increase your understanding of social media, stretch your ability to create meaningful content and practice interacting with customers online. To find an hourly opportunity, consider your geographical location and interests. Do you have a favorite product or place you wish people knew about? Start there.
Being able to communicate information about a brand effectively is vital for anyone interested in calling themselves a marketer. To do so, you need both an understanding of and genuine excitement for a product, service or experience. You can be a brand ambassador in a variety of contexts, including on your own campus. Other possible locations include local startups, non-profits or businesses, all of which often strive to increase customers and attention.
Retail jobs can help you develop a number of skills needed for success in any field, but if you are specifically interested in marketing, you may want to consider becoming a sales associate. Depending on your interests, geographical location and position availability, you can choose a large or small store in a variety of industries: food, clothing, accessories, cosmetics, electronics and so on. Any such role that requires you to pitch and sell products will get you out of your comfort zone, test your communication skills and prepare you for your future career.
A few years ago, I worked with a student curious about a career in marketing who had outstanding design skills and seemingly unlimited creativity, but who needed stronger communication skills. Using her design skills on her resume, she secured a job as a barista at her favorite coffee shop, a role that helped her understand and empathize with customers, a critical skill for anyone interested in marketing. If you want to learn how to communicate with different people and gain insight into what moves, excites and troubles them, becoming a barista like my student is a great option. Being good at this job means turning customers into regulars and earning higher tips, which helps with what originally brought you to the job (financial need).
If you love writing and editing and you're passionate about a topic or an issue, you may want to consider getting paid for it as a blogger or a writer. Through such an opportunity, you can gain knowledge about different platforms and how to navigate them. You can also polish your technical skills by gaining an understanding of search engine optimization, your social media skills by learning to share and promote content online, and your communication skills by engaging with readers.
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