Silvia Li, young hustler and marketer extraordinaire, contributed this one of a kind article.
When college students majoring in marketing graduate, they expect to land a job in which they can apply all the skills they learned during their four years in school.
When I was a freshman, that’s what I thought. Looking back, I was naive to think that way.
Marketing strategies are changing every day. Consumers are behaving differently every day. Generations are shifting. And textbooks, unfortunately, haven’t changed in years.
Simultaneously, competition for marketing jobs is insane.
You have to stand out among many other graduates to land a job where you can make enough to pay your bills and loans, while having enough to travel and enjoy personal life post-graduation.
So what should you know before diving into a career in marketing?
What does it take to get a job in marketing?
What do you actually need to know to enter the real world of marketing?
Without real marketing experience or projects, there’s a lot you can learn ahead of time to maximize your chance of landing a marketing job.
In my career working with the world’s top entrepreneurs on marketing, I have learned a number of lessons that I wished I knew on my first day as a marketer.
To all of you starting a career in marketing, here’s a list of lessons and things you can do to prepare before starting your first job.
The list is a collection of advice from all the lessons I’ve learned – including my experience launching the largest startup publication on Medium to trending globally on top storytelling sites to working on digital campaigns that have trended internationally and creating global movements.
It takes more than a resume to work with the best talent in marketing
When I set my sights on becoming the best marketer in the world, I knew I had to surround myself with the best.
I started by providing value.
I reached out to one of the best entrepreneurs in Los Angeles who ran an education technology nonprofit called Yang Camp. And I sent her a list of ideas that I thought would help her grow her organization.
I didn’t know if the ideas were any good, but they certainly got her attention. I didn’t need a resume to get the job.
Don’t get me wrong. My resume was helpful but at the time, but other people might have looked more qualified in paper.
I had told myself and told others that I would find the best ways to provide value and that my resume didn’t completely reflect who I was.
I created partnerships all across Los Angeles with schools and nonprofits to ensure our curriculum was being taught in different schools and afterschool programs across the city.
We worked with Microsoft and Girls in Tech Inc. to bring together over 100 young students to learn about STEAM.
I created campaigns that everyone in the Los Angeles area saw.
Little did I know at the time that in order to work with the best, it wasn’t about my resume. It was about being resourceful, strategic, and resilient.
Since then, I’ve signed up for a lifetime of tackling complex problems and working with the best talent in the United States.
Most of you have had a summer internship somewhere, perhaps a startup or famous marketing agency or well-known organization or nonprofit.
Guess what? So do hundreds of people in your school. The fact that you had an internship helps, but it doesn’t necessarily help you stand out and show that you’re the best candidate.
It might get you an interview but it’s still not enough to show who you really are and what you can accomplish.
Companies are seeking folks who can come up with new things so extracurriculars or projects that show you were a key asset are always a plus.
To show real impact in marketing, you need to show that you’re up-to-date with the latest trends.
As mentioned earlier, marketing is changing every day. Own your resume – show your uniqueness, your value, and your impact.
Find a team that will empower you to learn – Teamwork makes the dream work
To maximize your satisfaction at work, find a marketing gig where collaboration is part of the culture.
Trust me, this will reduce misunderstanding. It’ll establish a well-connected community with ample opportunities for you to grow and learn from executives and other managers.
While companies that let you do your own thing will be fun and allow you to tackle new challenges, working directly with a team will provide you a lot more mentorship and guide you in the early phases of your marketing career.
During the interview process, make sure that they have open communication channels and continuously boost employee engagement.
During your interview, ask your interviewer if the organization encourages everyone to regularly report their likes and dislikes.
Do they help employees feel like an integral part of the company’s grand vision? If their answer doesn’t make you happy, make sure to ask more questions to understand where they are coming from. If you completely disagree, maybe it’s not worth working for that organization.
Corporations with pre-set hierarchies make it tough for employees to give feedback or learn new skills. That’s why you need to find the best fit and balance. Read the job descriptions well and find a place where you feel comfortable.
When I worked at Startup Grind powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, the largest independent startup publication in the world inspiring and connecting 1,000,000 entrepreneurs, I immediately knew that my boss was a leader.
Since day one, he encouraged me to own projects and try new things. I could sense it during the first interview call that he was someone to trust and who would empower me to dream more.
Throughout my time at Startup Grind, I learned all things about marketing including public relations, content marketing, SEO, social media, and influencer marketing.
Crazy thing is that I learned by example and by doing my own research.
Because my team trusted me and worked with me, I was able to grow and launch the largest startup publication on Medium.
Early in anyone’s career, you’ll have multiple ideas to make your organization grow. Write them out on a list and share them with your supervisor. She’ll have feedback.
If my boss, hadn’t given me an opportunity to try this new project, I wouldn’t have grown this publication, which at this point, has been read by millions of people.
The content of the publication has now been syndicated to large media outlets including BBC, The New York Times, and more. It has even surpassed the White House’s Medium publication, which is pretty incredible.
As a marketer, I’ve been lucky to work with the smartest people on Earth. I’ve been able to work with serial entrepreneurs and New York Times Best Sellers.
But none of these collaborations would have happened if I didn’t work with a team that trust me and empower me to grow.
Make sure you find that early in your career.
Marketing isn’t all about brand awareness and viral campaigns. It’s about business impact.
Marketing innovation has made huge leaps and shifts in the last few decades but there’s something that hasn’t changed.
Marketing strategies need to be tied to creating revenue or reaching a goal in the short-term and long-term.
When you launch a new strategy, you need to ensure that you have an overall vision on how each thing you create leads to a greater impact in the organization. Your video went viral! Great!
But did the right audience see it? Did they share it with other people that are interested in buying your product? Make sure it does!
During my time as Head of Marketing at Hostfully, a venture-backed startup focused on the vacation rental space based in San Francisco, I built a marketing infrastructure that ensured that every single marketing stream would lead to possible sales.
To do so, we needed to figure out where our users were and where they spent the most time.
I spent days researching and building the different personas of vacation rentals. I created a content strategy that would promote our brand without mentioning our name.
Instead, our main goal was to provide value to customers, which would ultimately lead to more people referring others to our blog. Our blog became a large percentage of our traffic and led to more active and paid users. In a few months, we brought tens of thousands of users.
Business impact needs both quantitative data and qualitative data. They will both show you what’s effective, what’s not effective, and whether your hypotheses made sense.
Effective marketing campaigns focus on creating content that users get value from and eventually will convert to paid users. Then when these users join your email list, you can sell with no shame because you’ve already provided massive value.
You need to be ready to think critically and understand who your users truly are. How can your company serve them to be better?
Make sure you know this in every organization you work at.
Mentorship and freelancing – Learning outside of work
Early in my career, I learned the importance of mentors. From day one, I found people who I looked up to and wanted to learn things from them.
I found Twitter to be one of the best tools to network. Twitter, in fact, changed the face of my career as a marketer. I met the best talent in Silicon Valley through this social platform.
I followed their conversations and engaged with them on a daily basis. Little did I know that I would get to know them in person. Because of these initial Twitter conversations, I had the privilege of working with them to launch the first Startup Weekend focused in the Latinx community.
This event held in Oakland brought together entrepreneurs in the Bay Area who were eager to build products.
Do you know what else has helped me to become a marketer? Freelancing. As you see, I’ve worked with all sorts of organizations throughout my career.
How did I find these? By building a brand online.
People have read my blog for years and have seen my thought process and experience. This has led to getting cold emails from founders and venture capitalists reaching out to work with them.
Last year, I worked as a content marketer with devAcademy, a tech company in Peru where I developed the company’s first content marketing strategy that led to ten thousands of unique views in just a few weeks.
I also revamped their website content to improve their user experience and conversion rates.
This job was very fulfilling because I got to work with an entrepreneur who is a hustler. Not only did I learn about the tech ecosystem in Peru, but I also learned more technical skills and what it takes to become an entrepreneur.
If you’re a marketer, you need to learn multiple skills. Go learn outside of work – network, read a book, freelance, and volunteer on projects that you’re passionate about.
These are all of the things I wished I had known before I started my marketing career. If I could go back in time, I’d try to accomplish all these things earlier in life.
I hope you found this list beneficial in planning a successful marketing career.
Make us proud!