Finding a career job after graduating can often be quite daunting. You’ve spent the last three (or more) years on your degree and now it’s time for the equally hard task of securing employment. For some people, this can be a relatively straightforward process. However, for others, it can take months or even years to find a job that is relevant to your degree.
My personal experience was the latter. After completing my master’s degree in International Management & Marketing, it took fourteen months before I landed a career job in the industry. I was eager to start earning, so I took a customer service job in banking after graduating. While in that job, I began to look for marketing related roles that matched my career aspirations and working style. I applied for at least a hundred jobs and I can count the number of responses that I received on one hand. Despite having a strong educational background, my CV was lacking in other areas that would have been so easy to improve.
In December 2018, I finally landed my first career job as a Marketing Executive. I was urged to increase the digital presence of my company and the idea of starting a podcast was brought forward. This led me to start the 20 Minute Marketing podcast. During each episode, I speak to industry leaders about current marketing trends while also having a dedicated section for graduates. In this section, I ask my guests to provide insights on their hiring process and ways that marketing graduates can stand out when applying for jobs.
I have been fortunate that my podcast guests come from varying educational backgrounds and are currently employed across numerous sectors. Some of my guests are currently working in digital agencies while others are working in-house or self-employed. Meanwhile, I have interviewed CEO’s as well as fellow Marketing Executives that are just starting in their career. Thus, allowing me to collect a wide range of answers from people at both the start and pinnacle of their careers. Here’s what they said…
1 – Create a digital portfolio
The first way that graduates can stand out, according to my guests, is by creating a digital portfolio. This will help your application stand out because images and video play a huge role in digital marketing and are heavily used across social media, blog posts, email marketing and more. Having a digital portfolio will also show that you understand the art of branding and that you have a creative mindset, which is essential in the role. Finally, you’ll be able to show recruiters that you are passionate about something, while also giving them something to talk about during the interview process.
Creating a digital portfolio is relatively straightforward and does not require a large time commitment. The easiest way to get started would be to create an Instagram account. Or, you could go for an alternative such as Pinterest, Trover or YouPic. Then, you’ll need to carefully select a theme that you are going to dedicate your account to. Some popular examples include nature and outdoors, food, travel or local landmarks. Afterwards, it’s time to get started and start posting. Be sure to use hashtags to grow your follower base!
2 – Start writing
Starting a blog or contributing to an existing website is the second way that you can strengthen your CV. One of the biggest factors that marketing managers take into consideration when hiring is the ability of candidates to write great content. And, it’s not that surprising. Writing is required in almost all marketing related activities. You’ll need writing for blogs, social media captions, paid-ad copy, website content, search engine optimisation and more. Being able to captivate your audience through engaging content truly separates the best marketers and companies from the rest.
You may be thinking, why do I need to develop my writing skills when I have to submit dozens of essays at university? Well, writing an assignment and writing for business purposes are two completely different things. At university, the person reading your work is doing so for the sole purpose of grading it. Whereas, in business, your readers have zero commitment whatsoever. They’ll just stop reading your work if it is not engaging. Therefore, getting a head start and creating a blog is only going to help you develop your skills and while also helping you stand out when applying for jobs.
It’s worth noting that the content and length of your blog posts are not that important. Hiring managers aren’t expecting you to be writing about “the best practices in search engine optimisation” or “five ways to improve your content strategy”.
Instead, write about one of your hobbies such as a favourite sports team, movie reviews, travel tips or music releases. Your blog will provide you with a unique talking point during your interview and it will help make it memorable for the person on the other side of the desk. Plus, you’ll be able to learn how to use a hosting site like WordPress or Wix (which are both free).
3 – Follow current trends
One of the questions that I have regularly asked my guests is “besides technical knowledge, what do you look for in a graduate?”. The reason why I ask this question is that, honestly, I didn’t quite know what I was doing when I started. I was qualified to a high educational level, but I had never seen the inside of a Google Ads account, for example.
The unanimous response from my guests was that they aren’t expecting graduates to be experts. They understand that you’ll be learning a lot of new things. However, you should be keeping up with current trends. If you are successful in securing an interview, then hiring managers might be asking you things like “why is search engine optimisation important?” or “what keywords do you think our company should be bidding on in our Google Ads account?”.
You can keep up with current trends in several different ways. The easiest place to start is by checking out some of the many marketing related websites. Sites such as Marketing Week, Social Media Today and HubSpot will publish great content daily and you’ll find a good mix of company news, marketing tips and technical insights. Plus, subscribing to email newsletters will allow you to quickly keep tabs on daily news updates without having to scroll through their websites.
There are also some great e-guides and resources that you can take advantage of. A lot of websites will offer you free guides that will provide you with the basics of many marketing related activities. Two great places to start are ‘The Beginners Guide to SEO’ by Moz or Marketing Land’s ‘How To Guides’. Or, you could check out a podcast like Marketing School or Call To Action while you are out and about. Then, when your next interview comes along, you’ll be able to impress the hiring manager by talking in-depth about topics that other candidates will probably have limited knowledge on.
4 – Interview prep
The final way that you can improve your chances of landing a job is by thoroughly preparing for every interview. The feedback that I have received from my podcast guests is that, at a minimum, you should complete a review of the company. Instead of looking at things like head office location, number of employees or annual revenue, you should be focusing on their marketing efforts. Check out the company website and develop an understanding of their brand. Sign up for their email or SMS notifications. Read their latest blog posts. View their social media platforms. See if they are using paid ads of Google by searching for phrases related to their product or service. You’ll then be able to provide the company with both positive feedback and some suggestions on improving their marketing efforts during your interview.
5 – Willingness to learn
To finish off, my podcast guests always mention that having a willingness to learn and a positive attitude plays a big part in their selection process. Make sure that you go to interviews with a smile on your face and show passion for the role that you applied for. And, if you aren’t sure of an answer, then be honest. It’s much better to say that you’d be excited to learn a new skill rather than claim to be an expert when you’ve got no experience.
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