Is Marketing The Right Career For You?

Often, I hear from acquaintances or friends who are bored in their current jobs, consider themselves creative, and wonder if they should try to build a career in marketing. Here is what I wrote in reply to one such email.
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I don’t quite know where to start. I understand your problem: it’s difficult to know whether you’ll like something different until you try it out. But the best way to find out is to try it out. And I’m glad you’re willing to take the risk.

I’d advise you to do these three things.

Spend some more time figuring out what you do and do not like. You don’t seem to be enjoying your job much: first, I’d give some time to trying to figure out exactly what it is you don’t like. Is it the work hours, the colleagues, working with data, the tediousness, your boss? Dig deeper: you need a list of things you don’t want in a job.

Next, think about what you do like in your current role. There must be something. Maybe you enjoy interacting with clients, working in a team, having flexible hours? Make a list.

Explore career options. Now you’ve got a list of what you want and what you don’t want from a job. Keep that in mind and start looking at careers: read up, look in the job sites, talk to everyone you know. I especially recommend the last bit: find people who have jobs that are different from yours and talk to them. See if they do anything that interests you, that you might like to try out. Make another list of jobs that seem interesting: hopefully, this will be a short list.

Learn more about your preferred options. This is where you mitigate the risk of doing something totally new. And where you equip yourself to get a job in that field. There is so much available online: most of what I learned in marketing in the last few years has been by reading blogs (and then trying out some of the advice).

You were probably hoping for more specific advice, so here’s a short list of books and blogs that helped me learn more and may help you too.

  • Positioning by Ries and Trout
  • Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
  • The Outspoken Media blog: they are an SEO company so there’s a lot of stuff for SEO experts in there, but I’ve also learned more from Lisa Barone about online marketing than from anywhere else.
  • If you’re interested in advertising, check out Agency FAQs.
  • I also read MediaPost, Marketing Profs, and the HubSpot blog.

There’s a lot more you could read, but you’re just starting out. I’d suggest going through these and see if they grab you. At the least, this will tell you whether you like marketing enough to take the risk.

Once you’ve learned a bit, you might want to spend time figuring out which area of marketing you want to get into. There is a whole range of things you can specialize in: even within online marketing, there’s social media, content marketing, advertising, SEO, email marketing. Then there’s traditional print and event management and PR. More importantly, according to me, and putting it very simply, are you interested in the process or the tools? Are you a writer or a techie? Those are the two fundamental roles in marketing, I think: writing and editing and managing content on the one hand and on the other, using tools to manage and report and optimize. The same person isn’t always interested in or good at both (I’m interested in the content, but I have to do some of the rest too.)

That’s a lot of information to process! Take your time, try out some of these suggestions, and I’d be happy to hear from you if you have more questions.

Best of luck.

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