10 Pieces of Advice for a Young Marketing Grad

Earlier this year I took some time off to travel Japan in search of the world famous powder snow. During this time, I spent multiple hours on trains reflecting on life as a young adult. In particular, I spent some time thinking about my professional life and what I might say to a future business graduate who is planning a career in marketing. 

I’m one of the lucky ones who found an outstanding employer right out of the gate which has given me the opportunity to work with some very smart and fascinating people over the past two years. This experience is the foundation for the advice below - which I think is worth sharing. 

1) You know nothing; well actually you know something, but not everything

What you bring to the table is fresh ideas, work ethic and the ability to think. What you don’t bring to the table is experience, and experience is the most valuable asset in business. The people across the table from you have experience and can teach you something.
The way you carry yourself in a business setting is critical. Your attitude and demeanor will dictate how people receive you. It’s okay to come out of school hungry, but keep in mind the real world is not what’s portrayed in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” People like doing business with genuine and trustworthy people; anyone can wear a suit but not everyone can achieve or drive results.

2) Talk is cheap… unless it’s word-of-mouth from your referrals

It’s easy to talk about yourself, but keep in mind the business community “buzz” is what validates everything and what will dictate your future success. The community will talk, so it’s up to you to give them something positive to talk about. 
High quality, results-driven work will attract more business. Schmoozing will only get you so far. Focus on your existing business relationships and make sure these connections have something awesome to say about you in a personal and business context. 

3) It’s not “just business”

The “it’s just business” adage is trash. Severing relationships to “get ahead” will only come back to bite you. The “greybeards” will tell you that, fortunately or unfortunately, you will inevitably do business with your friends and in some cases your family. Bringing business into a relationship will generate stress and complexity. It’s imperative to hold the relationship in high esteem as you conduct business.

4) Empathy is everything

Know the interests and concerns of your clients, boss and coworkers. Multiple times a day you will have to adopt the perspective of another party to ensure that you’re meeting their unique needs. Once you have this understanding, you’re then able to manage a project appropriately. 
For example, imagine passing off work to your design team expecting it to be done urgently without appropriate notice. Put yourself in the shoes of the designer. Their day as they planned is now thrown off kilter - which hurts their own deadlines and consequently their reputation.
Similarly, imagine not delivering as promised to the marketing coordinator of an organization you’re working with. Not only do you look bad for not delivering, but the coordinator looks bad as they have to report the bad news to their higher-up.
Being empathetic will enable to you to understand others so you can meet and exceed their expectations.
TIP: “Under promise and over deliver”.

5 ) Don’t sweat it. Perspective, perspective, perspective!

Marketing work is very fast-paced and can be highly stressful, especially in the agency world where you’re responsible for managing a variety of different clients and their associated projects. That being said, it’s important to understand that at the end of the day it’s just marketing. It’s not life or death. You will be OKAY. 
Being lost in the backcountry skiing or hanging upside down in a tree well is stressful. Submitting an RFP (Request for Proposal) on time shouldn’t be.  

6) You’re only as strong as your team

You’re nothing without your team. Everyone plays an important role and offers unique expertise. The credit should be shared amongst your team. Treat your team members with respect and collaborate with them as much as possible. Only then can you make the most important person – the client, look great.

7) Find your passion, find success

Ask yourself what aspects of marketing interest you. Is there a particular industry (ex: non-profit, financial services, retail etc.) that you’re interested in? Are there specific marketing tactics (ex: social media marketing, search engine optimization, website development etc.) of interest to you? If you find and identify your areas of interest and pursue projects in that field you will naturally find success. 

8) Goal-setting

Ensure that you’re constantly practicing goal-setting. Goals should be a part of everything you do whether it’s project goals, career development goals, personal goals etc. Circle back to your goals regularly and make sure that you’re on track.

9) Being “Busy” 

I’ve come to realize that everyone’s “busy” and that being “busy” is the worst excuse for why an aspect of your life or job is being neglected. As a young-blood you’re expected to work hard and put in the hours. That being said, you’re responsible for prioritizing what’s important to you and owning this. It’s on you to manage expectations and to invest your time appropriately.

 

10) Have fun!

Marketing should be fun. There aren’t too many other positions where you get to work with so many different types of people and together get to see a shared vision come alive. Enjoy it, and most importantly, don’t drink too much at the staff party!

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