Last week, students, young pros and seasoned marketing professionals gathered at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank with one topic on their minds: breaking into the marketing business, and getting the job.
Panelists Karen Pozna (@CleveFoodbank), Rick Shimko (@toatech), and Sarah Bass (@CreativeGroup) were asked a series of questions to help students and young professionals navigate the job search and jumpstart their careers.
An event sponsored by PR 20/20, Cleveland’s HubSpot User Group (HUG), and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, attendees left with much food for thought. Below, we recap the evening’s discussion, moderated by PR 20/20’s Dia Dalsky (@DiaDalsky).
1. How can students utilize networking to learn about opportunities in the marketing field?
Here, advice centered on starting the conversation. The Creative Group’s Sarah Bass stressed the importance of word-of-mouth opportunities and reminded attendees to never dismiss any one individual as unimportant—random happenings can lead to unexpected career moves.
Begin by talking to everyone you know, not just those in the marketing profession. Speak with parents, friends, relatives, peers and colleges professors, and see if they would be willing to make some introductions. You’ll realize that many people will be happy to help you in your search, if you simply ask.
2. How do you pitch yourself for an internship when you lack industry experience?
For those concerned that their lack of industry-specific experience will hurt their ability to land a job, you are in luck! Panelists and crowd members alike highlighted a variety of options to help you make your big break:
- Leverage clubs or classes that demonstrate value-add skills—think on your roles and get creative!
- Attend events hosted by professional organizations (Cleveland has American Marketing Association, Social Media Club, Public Relations Society of America, and American Advertising Federation chapters, to name just a few) and network. Many have special student rates for those still attending school.
- Volunteer. This shows initiative and work ethic!
- Conduct informational interviews to learn more about the professional possibilities.
- Take advantage of the variety of course offerings available to you in school and keep an eye out for online training and certification options, such as HubSpot Academy’s Inbound Marketing Certification or analytics courses from Google.
- Create a blog. This can showcase personality, writing style, and task management if maintain a regular publishing schedule.
Additional Pro Tip: TOA Technologies’ Rick Shimko suggested taking a look at job descriptions for positions of interest. Many will list skills required for the position, including technology used daily in that role. If the ability to demo any of these technologies exists—do it. This will help you establish a base knowledge in the product, will show interviewees just how serious you are about the position, and will put you miles ahead of other applicants.
3. What’s the best way to get an internship in marketing?
The best way to get your foot in the door is to be proactive, and think outside of the box a bit. Look beyond recruiting departments and to your position of choice. Who is the chief decision maker in that department? Who could be your boss? Network with these people too.
Attend career fairs, conduct informational interviews, and speak to as many people as you can. Talk with professionals from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds and vary your own experiences to help you narrow down your search and find your niche in the field.
4. How can students get the most out of an internship?
You will get out of internships what you put into them, Shimko said. If you simply wait for superiors to hand you assignments and to be told what to do, you may not be seen as a person that truly brings value to the organization.
So, be prepared to be proactive. Come with ideas, and ask for more work, even if this means assisting other departments or individuals in the company. This not only shows initiative, but it shows an interest in the job and a stronger dedication to the success of the company as a whole.
5. What can I do if the entry-level position I need does not exist where I want to apply?
Request informational interviews to learn more, and begin to build a connection now—keep in touch! You never know where this professional relationship could lead.
They may not have the position you need right now, but you may become a consideration months or years later for another role.
6. How can you stand out in the resume pool?
When asked this question, all three panelists agreed that it’s not the resume, but rather the cover letter that really sets candidates apart.
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s Karen Pozna admits that a resume without a cover letter can mean immediate placement in the “no” pile, because it leaves a disconnect between a candidate’s experience and how it applies to the position in question.
Standard considerations apply when drafting—proofread, and communicate to employers the unique value that you will bring to their organization. Be specific and demonstrate a passion for working for that company—not just anywhere.
7. How strict are employers with job descriptions versus who they will actually hire? When is it ok to still apply?
Don’t get intimidated by descriptions and not apply. It is always ok to apply, even if your skillset doesn’t match 100%. Often position descriptions are crafted with the dream candidate in mind, when that needle in the haystack may not exist.
Many employers would consider a candidate that matches 60% - 70% of the criteria and has translatable skills that can bridge gaps in weaker areas.
8. What are top dos and don’ts of the interview process?
Much of the conversation on the panel came down to dress code. Dress appropriately for the interview to make your best first impression. You don’t want to be remembered for how you were dressed instead of what you said.
Additional “dos” included:
- Establish a good handshake.
- Be attentive.
- Know basic information about the company.
- Walk the fine line between being lively and happy about the opportunity, and being so excited you can hardly contain yourself, which can set an awkward tone for the interview.
9. What’s one big thing that really sets someone apart in an entry-level job interview?
Be able to anticipate questions and have great answers. If you’re going for a specific position, be proactive and think about what you can bring to the role—come with ideas to present.
Make note of suggested skillsets and bring specific examples of proven capability to match.
10. If you’re applying for jobs and getting no response, is it ok to ask for feedback on your search tactics?
If you’ve heard nothing after sending out a few resumes, wait a few weeks and follow up. Hiring departments are often filling many positions at once, statuses can change, and recruiters can just be too busy at a given moment to respond right away.
In this case, a friendly reminder can be welcomed, and make it an opportunity to reiterate your interest level in obtaining a position with that company specifically.
It doesn’t hurt to ask for feedback after the interview. In fact, it can help to make a strong and lasting impression about your character and willingness to improve. At the very least you’ll get information, which can help set you up for better success next time.
Did you attend Cleveland HubSpot User Group’s Cleveland Pro Panel? What insights would you add to the job search and application process discussion? Share with us in the comment section below.
Photo Credit: Allie Gottlieb, PR 20/20