Mentor Network: 6 Things Every Student Should Know Before Pursuing a Career in Marketing – Stuart Bartley

The world of marketing is exciting, challenging and in my opinion, requires significant dedication.

According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is the “activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

In many ways, a career in marketing is just like becoming a doctor, engineer or lawyer. You get your initial qualification, and then you decide which area you want to specialise in.

Marketing should not be seen as the general area of business study for those who don’t know what to do. Marketing is a fundamental part of helping consumers get what they want or need, and to have a successful career in marketing, you need to be great at it.

Below I have listed 6 things you should know before pursuing a career in marketing.

6 things to know for a career in marketing

Marketing is broad; experience a bit of each, and work towards your chosen specialisation.

These can range from Traditional Marketing, Outbound Marketing, Digital Marketing, Content Marketing to Social Media Marketing, Brand Marketing and so much more.

When starting a career in marketing, you should try to experience as many of these as possible to see where your strengths and passions lie.

Equally important is ensuring you stay up to date on the latest developments in marketing. The famous Kodak business case is a great example of why you need to stay relevant. You can read about this here.

Don’t be pushed to be a marketing ‘unicorn’

They simply don’t exist, no matter what anyone tells you. The term marketing unicorn loosely refers to marketing professionals who try to do everything their employers want them to do. I.e Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Social Media marketing and more.

In trying to become a marketing unicorn, you deprive yourself of valuable specialisation time and becoming really good at what you are passionate about. Ironically, this can result in your skills being less refined and focused, which may result in fewer prospective employers showing interest in you.

Proving ROI on marketing is critical

At the end of the day, one of your main objectives as a marketer is ensuring your effort increases sales within a specified time period.

Every industry has different metrics which it measures, with each one taking more or less time to achieve. On the balance sheet, however, all your boss will want to see, is if your marketing effort moved the revenue needle.

Make sure you pay attention to the numbers and always be able to attribute your marketing effort back to conversions/sales. Some specialisations make it harder than others, but you should always be able to in one way or another.

Consumer behaviour is important

Consumer behaviour is the one subject I wish I paid more attention to in university.

As with any specialisation, you are ultimately trying to communicate and build a relationship with consumers of your product or service. The more effectively you can do this (in the correct way, see point 5 below), the better you will be able to move that revenue needle.

Understanding consumer behaviour can easily be a specialisation on its own, but make sure you understand how your consumers think.

If you enjoy psychology, consumer behaviour could be an area of specialisation for you

You need to be ethical and moral

A brilliant marketer does not rely on the subversive quick win tactics of persuasion which borders on being unethical or immoral.

In your career, you will experience numerous occasions where you are asked to market a product or service in a way which extends beyond the truth. If you need to extend the truth, the product or service will never succeed in the long term.

Consumers are not stupid, they will eventually see between the lines and you will lose their trust, which is everything!

Find your marketing passion

There are so many areas of specialisation within marketing. Experience as much as possible early on in your career as you can.

When you feel that excitement, connection and drive with a particular specialisation, follow that path.

With a career in marketing, you can choose to be brilliant in your chosen field. By keeping the above six points in mind, you can help yourself become more employable. Find the drive that pushes you through the hard times (as with any career) and produce work that helps you progress.

Stuart Bartley obtained a BCom at University of Stellenbosch, majoring in Marketing and Logistics. He is currently the Head of Marketing Automation Professional Services at Grapevine Interactive. 


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  1. This was an amazing read. As a future marketer this definitely reminded me why I Love this field and what I need to focus on. Thank you.

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