Getting your first job is difficult, especially if you want to work in a competitive industry like marketing. But the hard work isn’t done when you sign that offer letter. A career in marketing is filled with many challenges and changes, especially during your first year. You may have no idea what you want your marketing career to look like, or you may come into that first job with a 10-year plan — only to realize a year later that your career goals have completely changed and you need to start from scratch. Either way, the first year is your chance to learn and prove yourself at your new job.
It’s been more than a year since I started my first job here at Right Source, and I’ve grown as a professional in more ways that I anticipated when I signed my offer letter. My advice? Get as much as you can out of your first year. Here are five important things you should strive to learn during your inaugural year on the job:
Figure out which marketing careers intrigue you most.
There are many different career paths in marketing, from creative to account service to marketing technology. Each field can be broken down even further. For example, the creative department often includes art directors, copywriters, graphic designers, photographers and videographers, and more. Very likely, you’ll be more interested in certain departments and positions than others, but you may not be able to pinpoint that at the very beginning of your career in marketing. Take note of what marketing work makes you feel energized and inspired — and just as importantly, what doesn’t.
Determine what industries you like most.
If you’re at an agency, chances are your work will span a variety of clients and projects across many different industries. If you work on the client side, make an effort to talk to people in other departments, or quiz your vendors about what it is they do or like about their areas. Learning more about what kinds of positions are out there can help you specialize your career going forward.
Learn that there is no such thing as a perfect marketing job.
If your LinkedIn feed is anything like mine, it’s often full of peers from similar colleges posting about how they just accepted their “dream job.” But here’s one thing I’ve learned from talking with my peers off the social media record: No job is perfect. There are always going to be ups and downs. You’ll suddenly gain or lose clients, staff, or projects, and have to take on duties that were not part of the hiring discussions (or your career plans). This industry is full of curveballs, and learning to be flexible and handle them with grace is a key part of career success, whether it’s year one or year nine. Figure out what you can learn from each unexpected assignment rather than focusing on the fact that it might not really be part of your job. This year is about experiencing as much as you can.
Gain light-years of marketing experience.
As I said, curveballs are often opportunities in disguise. When crunch time comes, companies care less about job titles and hierarchies than who can do the work, and do it well. Often, sudden changes give young employees the chance to step up to the plate and take on projects that they may not have otherwise been exposed to so early in their careers. Don’t get me wrong, taking on new and unfamiliar responsibilities can definitely be stressful, but it can also help you gain invaluable experience — and sometimes, it can even help clarify your future career path.
Determine if you want to (or need to) go back to school.
Many marketing professionals graduate from college and craft successful, satisfying careers without ever going back to school. But for some, pursuing an advanced degree can significantly further their careers — and working for a few years can help you figure out if this is the right choice. Pursuing a specialized master degree can help you make a major jump between industries, accelerate promotions into management roles, or break into industries that are difficult to enter. But getting that degree right after college isn’t always the ideal route, and a secondary degree isn’t always necessary for career success either. Your first marketing job can give you some major insight into how you want to shape you career, and whether or not another degree should be part of the equation.
Your first year in marketing is exciting but also full of twists and turns. Thinking critically about your first job and what you like and dislike about it — and being intentional about your next steps — can help you leapfrog ahead in your career. If you play your cards right, you can come out of your first year on the job with experience that you wouldn’t ordinarily get for two or three (or more) years.
Ready to start your career in marketing (or looking to go a step beyond your current position)? Check out our current openings.