When looking to make your first career move into the marketing industry, agency or client-side, most people tend to follow the same path; see an ad, send a CV, and keep ‘em crossed, but this can lead to a lot of frustration. Or, aim for the big players, and ignore the hundreds of SMEs. Sometimes it can work, but there are alternative ways to search for a job.
A few years ago, researchers Chabris & Simons at Harvard University asked a group of people to watch six people playing basketball. In the video, three of the players were dressed in white and three in black. Participants were asked to count the number of times the basketball was thrown between people in the team wearing the white shirts. If you’ve ever seen this famous clip, you may have well come to the end of the video and noticed 15 passes, which appears pretty simple. Maybe it wasn’t as straightforward as you would imagine. Although it’s impossible to believe, almost half the people watching the video failed to see a person dressed as a big hairy gorilla stroll right into the centre of the video, drum his chest, and walk off again.
It’s a bit like looking for a role in the in the marketing industry. This is particularly prevalent for graduates seeking their first career move in this sector. It’s sometimes difficult to know where to start, but it’s worth noting that a lot of opportunities aren’t advertised online, or, in fact, on an employer’s website. Some companies may not even be in the market until a well-crafted and innovative CV lands on their desk. My point is that there are alternative ways to search for a job in a marketing department or with an agency, and to follow, here are some tips.
Don’t follow the crowd
We’d all love to work for a brand such as Nike or Apple. There is nothing wrong with this, but do bear in mind, these companies get plenty of applications every day. Also, some have long and drawn out application processes which can be emotionally draining. There are masses of other companies out there, in diverse and interesting sectors, and all will need marketers. Too many people are drawn to the bigger brands, whereas you can have just as good a career with a less high profile company.
Do some research
Employer and brand information is everywhere. Your immediate goal is starting to think of companies you’d like to work for, start to target the right contacts, and build from there. Read respected online material and if you see companies growing and winning business, in particular agencies, there’s a good chance they’ll need people. You may be a solution to a problem before they know it.
Hunt appropriate companies
It may sound obvious, but look for companies that regularly hire in your field. Don’t solely rely on job ads. Just because a company isn’t advertising a job, doesn’t mean they are not looking to hire. A well-crafted and clever approach to an owner of a digital, PR or integrated agency can reap rewards.
People think it is a selling exercise – it isn’t. Talk to as many people as you can. Go to job fairs, careers days at universities, professional networking events, talks, or associations related to your profession. You’ll be amazed at what this could lead to.
Work with a niche & experienced recruiter
Their livelihood is based on what they know and who they know. Experienced recruiters will have in-depth knowledge of the market, numerous contacts, as well as insight into the ethics of the recruitment process, all of which can be put to work on your behalf. Do remember it is a two-way street. Arrive at a point that you both have clear expectations of each other, that you can both live with, and stick with them.
Be prepared to pick up the phone
Get into the habit of talking to people, a lot! It takes guts, but picking up the phone can move mountains. Before you do though, be clear about what you want to do, and why, and most of all be personable and honest. If you have worked – be prepared to talk logically about your career to date, and highlight the relevance of your skills. Don’t be vague – a call to a B2B digital agency to ask about consumer openings won’t sit well.
Don’t mass mail your CV
Choose carefully and bear in mind that the best recruiters are far more interested in long-term relationships, and they can add value to your career. The same applies if you are applying directly to companies – choose one primary contact and not several, and politely follow it up.
Attend a relevant trade show
Most senior marketing professionals will be present and these can be brilliant places to mine the hidden job market. I know one person who got her first marketing role by taking her CV to a relevant trade show and gave one to each senior marketer she met. It led to 3 or 4 interviews, one of which became her new employer.
It will take time, energy and commitment, but if you approach it in the right way, you will get somewhere. The goal is to communicate as much as possible alongside your direct applications. You will experience knockbacks, no responses, and failed interviews, but if you keep going, something always gives.
Work very hard at it
Today’s jobs market is a different place and demands a different approach. Your career will not take care of itself – you have to go out and grab opportunities. Do work hard at your job search. As tough as it can be, the more contacts you make, the more follow-up calls you make, and interviews you attend, will accelerate your chances. Obtaining interviews is key, because the more you attend, the better you will become.
Most of all, never take a rejection of your CV, interview, or phone call, as a rejection of you. Just as a job is not right for you, do remember you aren’t right for them either, and something better may be around the corner.