Jim (not his real name) is a client who's having trouble with his job search. He graduated with a degree in Marketing in 1998 and worked in marketing positions for two large firms over the next ten years. In 2008, he was laid off with tens of thousands of other Americans. His job search did not go well. His mother had a contact that got Jim a job in customer service, a position he held for the next seven years. Now, he wants to look for work in marketing, not customer service. He has taken a part-time job in retail that will let him take his time and be selective in finding a position in the field he loves. The problem is his mom. She worked in customer service for 30 year and has broad industry contacts. She is pressuring Jim to take another call in a field he has no passion for. She says he needs to get a job as soon as possible. That advice is terrible. Jim's strengths are in marketing, and he enjoyed great success over his first 10 years in the field. I recommended that Jim does what he wants to do. The easiest job to get is often the worst one to take.
Several of my clients work in marketing. Once upon a time, not that long ago, marketing jobs were easy to understand. A person worked for a company or an agency. Specialty forms of marketing were public relations, advertising, event marketing, or internal communications. Writers and graphic designers often worked on marketing teams as specialty players. (Think kickers and punters in football.) More recently, new terms have entered the field: branding, digital/mobile, and social media.
Anyone entering a career in marketing needs to think about what aspects of the field they want to focus on. While there are a few “generalist” jobs that ask for a Swiss army knife, most employers want a specific skill set. Some of my clients have moved from one area or specialty to another, but it’s often difficult. Employers recruit the employee who knows branding or social media. The challenge for senior managers and directors is to know how to manage special skills they do not know. This is one reason why it is important to work on teams and learn other skills through collaboration.
When someone says they are in marketing, probe a little. In most cases, you’ll see that they are specialists. And in an ever more complex world of communication, that is a good and necessary development.
I’ve found a great blog that you should be following: Matt Chong’s Pinstriped Suit. Matt covers a range of topics, including career strategies and job market trends. One recent post listed 10 jobs in marketing that did not exist 10 years ago. If you want to enjoy some great perspectives on managing your career (and some interesting thoughts on marketing), check out the Pinstriped Suit.
Clients frequently express concern about having their resumes scanned by applicant tracking software. They worry about having the right key words that will let their resumes filter to a human reader. My advice is to base your resume (and interview presentations) on market research. Build a market profile by collecting 5-10 job posts for positions you would apply to. As you review all of the posts, the key words will be the ones you see repeated from post to post or repeated within a single posting. Find ways to repeat key words in your resume without making it sound clumsy or artificial. One way I do this is to list 6-9 key words as part of the profile at the top of each resume. If a specific job posting emphasizes different words, you can adapt your resume for that application.
While it’s important to have key words on your resume, remember that you still need to demonstrate your ability to perform duties. I also recommend that every resume highlight achievements and success stories. All of these elements are needed to create a resume that will make prospective employers call you to schedule interviews.
Why should I care?
Every element of a good resume should put itself under the microscope of this question. If you’re including information that the employer doesn’t care about, you’re wasting that person’s time, which means your resume will quickly end up in the recycling bin.
How can you know what an employer is looking for? Start with some good old fashioned research. Put together a market profile by collecting 5-10 job posts for positions that interest you (I recommend 10 if possible). Note what elements are repeated from post to post. Those are your keywords. Pay attention to aspects like skills, certification, and education. Taking a little time up front will let you know what the employer wants, which should be the first step in writing a resume that gets you noticed.