Should you consider a career in marketing?

Published by Ruth Cornish on 10 March 2014.
Last updated on 10 March 2014

Marketing is a popular career choice and no wonder. In the digital age, marketing and technology are often described as the engine room of a business. It offers an exciting and often highly paid job for those who desire a dynamic business career. Some talented marketeers end up being as famous as the brands they work for and are highly sought after.

Marketing is often seen as a career that you need to get into straight after university - preferably with a relevant degree - however businesses are increasingly recognising the value that those who have followed other career paths can bring. There will be plenty of potentially great marketeers reading this who don't know it themselves yet.

Key skills

To be a good marketeer, it helps if you are creative in the way you think, plan and solve problems. Most marketing roles come with a need to analyse business statistics and an accountability to deliver sales and or revenue results, so an analytical mind is also critical.

But being able to judge creative direction and create content and messaging that's relevant for consumers is also important, as is the ability to sell your ideas to colleagues as well as your bosses.

When I recruit for senior marketing roles, candidates with a compelling vision and an obvious connection with the brand, together with an infectious and sincere way of communicating that enthusiasm really stand out. Marketing is all about selling ideas and being able to convince the company that your plan will work because you understand the business and its customers so well.

Barnaby Dawe, a marketing consultant with many years' experience as a chief marketing officer in the media industry, says: "A big surprise for me was that convincing people internally to trust my judgement and take a leap was often more nerve-wracking than seeing if consumers responded to a multi-million-pound campaign."

Marketing can be a high-pressure career as you will only ever be as good as your last campaign and the work can be relentless. Barnaby adds: "It's really hard work. As soon as you have finished one project you will already be starting five more, so being able to plate-spin is essential."

I have recruited people successfully into broader marketing roles who have worked in finance, operations, as well as related disciplines such as communications and PR.

At entry level, new graduates who already know (through work experience – ideally in an advertising agency or client-side – and networking) that it is the only thing they want to do, really shine and many progress rapidly, often making marketing director before they are 30.

How to interview well

Be very clear about what you want to do and why. Businesses know that that energy and focus will quickly translate into rapid results.

Prepare by following brands and watching what they do to build up a repertoire of case studies that you can talk about at interview. Often brands that have been in difficulty but are turning around demonstrate marketing at its best.

Marketing is a highly competitive field, so is not for the fainthearted. You only have to search for jobs on LinkedIn, Brand Republic or Marketing Week to see the range of roles together with very impressive salaries and benefits.

Recruitment agencies will be more cautious of you as a candidate if you haven't got marketing experience and/or a marketing qualification but that doesn't have to be a deal breaker. You just have to work harder to make that connection and use your network.

Jenny Rogers, executive coach and author, recommends doing 'research interviews': "It's very powerful. You track down, say, 10 people already successful in the field and you ask if you can have 30 minutes of their time, ideally face to face, stressing that you are not asking them for a job.

"You get invaluable information and you end each interview asking for a recommendation for another contact. You can follow up with a CV (properly tailored for that reader) if it looks promising or you're asked for it."

Ultimately, the high you get when you see consumers responding to your campaigns and the impact that has on the company's fortunes will quickly hook you in. I rarely see people moving out of marketing into other disciplines. It seems to be an all-consuming career choice that is highly fulfilling and ever so slightly addictive.

Ruth Cornish is an HR consultant with more than 25 years experience. Visit for more info.

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