Career in Marketing: What I Wish I Had Been Told Before Starting

No offense to Nike, but marketing is more than just saying, just do it. In fact, it can be a really fun career to explore. What’s going on guys? Welcome back to the channel. In today’s article, we’re going to dig into five things I wish I had known before starting my marketing career.

For quick reference, I am not solely a marketer. In my past, I’ve largely been a founder of a few different companies, as well as the go-to-market strategist for some startups. That said, though, a lot of the marketing functions have fallen under my job responsibilities. I feel like I have a unique perspective to share with you versus some of the other videos on YouTube, where it’s a sole individual contributor or somebody working in a marketing agency.

Thing 1: Your degree is not neccessary.

The first thing I wish I had been told before starting a career in marketing is that your degree is largely not necessary. I don’t have a degree in marketing and people that I’ve hired in the past for marketing teams have had degrees in engineering, psychology, and chemistry.

You honestly don’t need to have studied marketing in college in order to land a marketing job. In fact, in my opinion if you find a company that really feels that way, that they need to hire marketing majors only, then that’s probably a problem in how they think about marketing. A company that thinks about marketing this way likely isn’t dynamic enough for somebody like you.

While I didn’t study marketing per se in college, I did take one or two marketing classes. That being said, though, I wouldn’t say that anything I learned in those marketing classes actually translated to my real-world marketing experiences for startups.

If you’re a marketing student reading this and you feel a little shammed watching this, I’m really sorry, but at least you can say that you’ve been studying marketing for longer than most other people. That said for others, that haven’t necessarily been studying marketing in school. I hope you’ll take this as a signal that you can still make it in terms of having a meaningful career in marketing without the degree.

Thing 2: Past projects are necessary.

The second thing I wish I had known before starting a career in marketing is that past projects are absolutely necessary. If you’re a want to jump the line in terms of launching your career in marketing, getting a full-time job, or even just a summer internship, then having some relevant past projects is really helpful for getting you in the door.

You want to look for experiences that allow you to demonstrate the marketing impact that you’ve left behind. For example, maybe you’re a part of a student group that hosts regular events, and you created some flyers that essentially led to a 50% bump in the attendance of those events. That would be something that you would want to share on your marketing resume.

In the case where you don’t have any marketing projects to share yet, you can always find some for yourself. All you need to do is hit up some local businesses that might be needing some help do some pro bono work for them, and then measure the results of your work. Back in college, I was part of this student group that would partner with local businesses and providing them with some business strategy and consulting work to help them turbocharge their business.

For example, I once helped this Mexican restaurant get the word out in the local neighborhood. And aside from giving me free guac in the process of doing so, I was able to also increase their foot traffic on a weekly basis. These sorts of projects are great because they become the clear answers that you can provide interviewers with whenever they ask you about your past marketing experiences.

As somebody that’s hired marketing teams in the past, I can tell you that projects are the number one thing that I look for from a candidate when I’m asking about their past experiences. You’ll find it incredibly difficult to find a company that’s willing to invest in your marketing career if you have no real clear indication that you actually like marketing. So get those projects onto your resume and start working on that today.

Thing 3: Human psychology doesn’t change quickly.

The third thing I wish I had known before starting a career in marketing is that human psychology doesn’t change all that frequently. Here’s the thing. There’s always going to be a new trend in marketing. Some years, people are super into case studies and customer stories, other years people want a lot of data statistics, and they want you to summarize those trends in their industry. But whatever the case may be, people are ultimately people. What I mean by this is that what moves people to take action often doesn’t change all that much.

So knowing this something I wish I had been told when I was starting my career in marketing is to study up on human psychology. You want to know things like what actually motivates people to change their behavior, or what biases do we typically often make the mistake of having. By understanding these sorts of things, you can craft more unique marketing efforts.

For example, if you read my other articles around cold email prospecting, you would know how important it’s been for me to understand that just personalizing the first line in a cold email, drastically increased the results of my cold email strategy. This is because I understood that if a person sees that I took the time to research them and actually craft a more personalized email, then they would be much more likely to respond to that email, because I took the time out of my day to prepare a meaningful email, as opposed to just sending them a bulk email.

To learn more on these sorts of things, I would recommend you read at least two books. The first one is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. And then the second one is Influenced by Robert Cialdini. These two books are great primers in terms of understanding some basic things as to what humans like and how to motivate certain behaviors.

Thing 4: Specialization is great, but full-stack is better.

The fourth thing I wish I had been told before starting my marketing career is that specialization is great, but being full stack is even better. I’ve seen some YouTube marketer advice that essentially goes along the lines of it’s better for you to specialize in one thing early on your marketing career. That way you have more opportunities down the road for that particular area of marketing.

And while I think there’s value in this sort of approach, I also think that it’s way more valuable for somebody to actually aim to be full stack as quickly as possible. To be a full stack marketer means that you can pretty much do it all. Whether it’s launching some sort of performance marketing campaign, doing some organic efforts, or partnership efforts. You can pretty much do anything that is being asked of you within a company context.

In my personal experience, I largely had to learn all these different marketing skills myself, because I was a co-founder of a company and there was nobody else to teach me these marketing skills. But I hope that what you can take away from that is that I was able to learn these things without actually needing to specialize in just one area as opposed to all of these different areas.

Furthermore, I hope that you’ll take me as an example of realizing that you don’t need to pay for resources in order to learn these sorts of things. There are a ton of free resources out there that we’ll go over anything that you really need to learn about digital marketing. Even in the case where your full-time job is a content marketing job, what I want you to do is in your spare time, be picking up some other side of marketing and then aiming to become an intermediate at that particular side of marketing.

The reason why is because eventually you’ll become a Jack- of- all- trades, which makes you even more valuable to different companies, whether that’s your current company or a future company, that’s going to compensate you even better.

The problem with pure specialization is that you actually don’t end up being able to take on a higher level executive role because of the fact that you don’t understand the full spectrum of what it takes to be an effective marketer for more than just one particular area of focus.

Thing 5: Measure your impact from Day 1.

The fifth thing I wish I had known before starting my marketing career is to make sure that you’re measuring your impact from day one. The reality is that marketing teams are actually often the first teams to be cut in the case where a company needs to lay off its employees.

And the reason why is because it’s a lot more difficult to measure the impact of a marketing team. For example, if you look at a sales team, you can clearly tell how much new business a sales rep has brought into the business. On the other hand, on a marketing team, it can be a little bit tougher to measure the impact that a marketing person has.

This means it’s important for you to be measuring your impact and regularly surfacing it for your direct supervisor as well as for your executive team. The main way to make yourself invaluable for your company is to show a clear ROI for you as an employee.

For example, if your company is getting 20 quality leads every single month from your content marketing efforts and 25% of those guys are converting into 5K deals each, then that means that you’re bringing your company 300K in new revenue every single year. Assuming that you’re working off a typical marketing salary of give or take 60K, that’s a 5X return on your salary, which is a great ROI for your company.

Make sure you flaunt that and get your bread at your 12 month review. I think a lot of times people younger in their marketing career don’t advocate for themselves enough because they aren’t able to clearly measure the outcomes that they have on the businesses that they are part of.

Big takeaways

There are two things that I want you to remember from today’s article:

  1. The first one is stay flexible in your marketing career.
  2. The second one is to stack skills on skills as you develop further in your career. Your goal should be to become a full stack marketer as quickly as possible.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out my YouTube channel to get new videos every single week. I’ll help take you from zero to self-starter as you grow your business, get more customers, and hone your business acumen. Also, feel free to share this with anybody that you think might benefit from learning the things I wish I knew about building my career in marketing.