5 Things I Wish I Knew When Looking for My First Marketing Job

Jeroen Kuppens March 2, 2017

Your thesis. Your first marketing job. Maybe moving out of your student flat. As a (soon-to-be) graduate with marketing ambitions, there are a lot of matters that require your attention. And we’re about to give you a few more. But don’t worry: these questions are a lot easier to deal with than your thesis – and they will help you build a marketing career that plays to your strengths.

A little over two years ago, I was in the same position as you: a recent graduate looking for the perfect first step in my marketing career. I had learned about marketing theories, but there are a lot of practical matters that I wish I’d known more about.

I was lucky enough to find a marketing position at an organization that turned out to be the ideal fit for me. Now, two years later, it’s clear to me that marketing at Sana aligns flawlessly with my own passions and interests as a marketer. But things could have turned out differently, and I don’t want that for you. That’s why I’m sharing my experiences and the knowledge that I wish I’d had when I was a graduate looking for my first marketing job.

Here are the five questions I believe every graduate should ask themselves before starting their marketing career. No two marketers are the same, so there’s no right or wrong answer – just the answers that are true for you.

Cut & Paste Strategic

Cut-and-Paste or Strategic Frontrunner?

One of the main things that can make or break your first marketing job is the role marketing plays within an organization. Does the CEO see marketing as the key to success, or a necessary evil? And, of course, how does the marketing department position itself within the company?

Leading marketing departments are instrumental in determining the organization’s course, both in the near future and in the long term. On the contrary, more cut-and-paste marketing departments focus on optimizing and maximizing production.

Make sure to do your research: check their other marketing vacancies, scroll through their social channels. If it isn’t immediately clear which of the two types you’re dealing with during a job interview, just ask. What is marketing’s position within the organization, and what’s the hiring manager’s vision on this?

Start-Up, Scale-Up or Corporate?

Of course it’s not just the kind of marketing department that matters when you look for your first marketing job: it’s important that the kind of organization is a good fit for you, too.

A corporate organization with an established brand has mature processes and name recognition. But you won’t be able to really make an impact when you start working there.

If you don’t care about established processes and really want to make your mark, you’re better suited to a start-up. You can be the one to build the brand from scratch. But this opportunity to make a difference does come with a lack of structure.

Then there are scale-ups – these companies are outgrowing the dynamic start-up phase and looking to introduce rhythms and systems that can help them become a more like corporations.

Marketing positions at scale-ups let you be entrepreneurial and pragmatic, and they provide the opportunity to innovate by implementing scalable strategic solutions that let the organization grow in a sustainable way. It’s more structured than a start-up, but provides more room for creativity than a typical corporate environment.

Startup Company

B2B or B2C?

This is a critical difference that can make or break a marketing position for you, but it’s one that’s woefully underexposed.

Like B2C, B2B marketers sell to individuals, not entire organizations. But there’s a huge difference between how you market a product to a consumer and a member of a decision-making unit. B2C is more about emotion, B2B about information. B2B is bigger, but more in the background. To use an example from my own industry: B2B e-commerce sales are projected to be double that of B2C by 2020.

Because it’s more visible, a B2C marketing career is the obvious choice for your first marketing job– though it might not be the right choice for you. Make sure to look into the differences and think about what kind of marketing best suits your style.

Traineeship or Creating Your Own Destiny?

You’re learning a lot in your university courses, but you’ll learn even more during your first few years as a marketing professional. That’s why it’s essential that your first marketing job offers the right learning environment for you – and provides you with the path toward your ideal short-term career goal.

An entry-level marketing job is great for people who want to learn by doing, and who want to dive deeper into one or two aspects of marketing. You’re thrown into the thick of it and get a lot of hands-on experience in your chosen area of expertise. If your goal is to become an SEO specialist or versatile field marketer, then this is the right choice for you.

However, if you’re more interested in taking the fast track to a demanding management position, a traineeship is a better fit. These intensive predetermined programs aren’t for the faint of heart, but they provide extensive training to prepare you for a more general strategic role within a marketing department. One that would otherwise be out of reach for recent graduates.


And Finally: Do You Care About the Product?

I believe that this is the single most important question you should ask yourself before accepting your first marketing job – or any marketing position, for that matter. Even if an opportunity ticks all the other boxes, if you don’t believe in the intrinsic value of the product or service you’re advertising, don’t do it.

Personally, I’m really interested in the ongoing digitization trend, and e-commerce is a part of that. I think digital order processing systems are a logical step forward for B2B companies.

So I wouldn’t want to sell those companies fax machines.

Having an affinity with your product is more important than your job title or salary. While those aren’t unimportant, it’s real engagement that provides the best motivation. And if you’re passionate about your job, success and recognition will automatically follow.