It's probably the most frequently asked question that people looking for work ask.
The ultimate truth to winning a job is not about resume, experience or how you did in the interview sessions (sorry). The true answer is that it is a very subjective process, which is why it is extremely frustrating to so many. What one recruiter sees as a star, another sees as a dud. Scoring that elusive entry level marketing position has much more to do with the chemistry in the room and how you present your facts on an 8x10 sheet of white paper - all of which can also be very subjective from one person to another. That all being said, there are a ton of ways to put yourself in the best position possible to win the gig.
8 Ways to score that elusive entry level marketing position:
- Understand the process. Too many people think that gaining an entry level position is about jumping through the right hoops: sending in a resume will jump forward to an interview, which will jump forward to a second interview, which will jump you through to an offer, which will jump you through to the job. This is the wrong process to take. The process is that you have to win the job from the second your name comes across the desk of the recruiter. Every other phase is also about one line of focus: getting the job. Don't let it go to a scorecard and don't try to just check-box your way to the next stage. You have to reframe your thinking and ask yourself, how do I win that job from the second they see my name (I never said it was an easy process).
- Present better. Learn how to present better. Selling yourself is never easy. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. There is a fine line between having an education and presenting it as experience. Learning how to present will not only be your most valuable asset when looking for a job, it is a skill set that will, literally, propel you to the c-suite. The individuals we regard as the best of the best in the marketing industry all have one trait in common: they know how to present well... and with grace. Do everything you can to improve your presentation skills.
- Be ready before you submit a resume. Social Media is king here. Be it Twitter, a Blog, a Podcast or even a Facebook page, you have the ability to publish your thoughts (who you are and how you think) in text, images, audio and video, instantly and for free to the world. If you really want to be working in this industry and you have a passion for it, you have the ability to express it. Even if it's just by sharing links you find interesting, this three-dimensional perspective will provide recruiters with a better idea about your personality and your thinking. And yes, this includes who you are connected to and how you interact with them. Whether or not it's "fair play" for a recruiter to be looking at Social Media is not the point, this information is in the public domain, so shine the best light possible on yourself. And trust me, they're googling you.
- Don't lie. I've heard some scary stories from recruiters. I've heard upwards of seventy percent of all resumes have either lies or large embellishments in them. Don't lie. It's not worth it. Tell the truth and let that truth come out in your resume, online presence and in that first interview (should it be granted).
- Know the industry. There's no excuse to not know everything from the company, to the clients, to the management, to the competitors, to the marketplace, to the industry as a whole. It used to be that you had to subscribe (and pay big money) to get that kind of information via the industry trade publications. Now, thanks to the the Internet and Social Media the majority of this information is online and free for you to access. It's incumbent on you to know the industry inside out. It's also important to express your constant education of the industry in everything from your initial note of contact down to the interview. You are not expected to be an expert (how could you be one?), but it's a shame when people come in to meet our agency and they really don't know the landscape of the work that we do. It's even worse when they say things like, "but I'm eager to learn!" If you're eager to learn, why haven't you been learning already?
- Read and write. Look, I didn't do well in school at all, but I didn't let my schooling get in the way of my education. If you don't have a passion for reading and writing, get one. Your success in life (forget the interview) is dependant on it. There are no excuses. You need to know how to construct a letter without basic spelling and grammar mistakes. Sad that I have to write that, isn't it? But it's true. You would be shocked at some of the emails and letters for work that we receive that are littered with basic mistakes. A job in marketing is all about communications, so you need to be great at that skill. Reading is also important. You may not have that much experience, but there's no reason to not be knowledgeable. Business books, self-help books and more are a great place to start. Turn off the TV, put down the video games and read. If you're not sure where to start, this may help you: Lessons I Learned Reading Over 200 Books.
- Be you. For years, I spent my life trying to be the person that I thought everyone expected me to be in this industry. If anything was holding me back... it was that. This doesn't mean to be a freak (unless that's the type of position you're applying for). It does mean that you really need to spend some serious time figuring out who you are and what you represent (I'm getting a little sour on the term "personal brand," but this is what you need to be thinking about). Oscar Wilde said it best: "be you, because others are already taken."
- Networking. Get out there. Go to both free and paid events. Connect to online events. Don't be slimy on LinkedIn because it's a great place to network (when done right). Don't be desperate. Go there to learn, connect and share. Don't go there looking for a job. I know it's very difficult when you're just out of school or transitioning into a new career, but network for the sake of networking. If you're not sure how to network, pick up a copy of Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. There is no better business book on how to create real, tangible and valuable relationships.
In case you missed it, my agency, Twist Image, is hiring (all of the details are right here: Digital Leaders Seeking Digital Leaders). This Blog post was inspired by a comment that was left on that post by Devin Jeffrey (thanks for the inspiration!). If you think you have what it takes (or know someone who does), please share and share alike.
What other skills do you think are important to scoring that elusive entry level marketing position?