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Do I need to go get a Marketing degree?
August 10, 2011 9:42 PM   Subscribe

Applying for jobs that fall broadly into the Marketing, PR & Communications field, and need a quick reality check on the issue of qualifications and experience.

I have read elsewhere on AskMe that employers will usually have higher regard for a broad liberal arts education than a specific Marketing degree. Is this the case in Australia too? If so, it doesn't seem to be reflected in job advertisements.

I'm finding nearly every role in this area that I've been looking at has criteria such as 'Tertiary qualification in marketing or communications or similar' PLUS 'Solid experience in a communications role' or something along those lines.

I have a liberal arts honours degree with an English major. Would this be the kind of 'similar degree' they're referring to, or am I being naive? It seems so common for the specific Marketing degree to be mentioned that I'm starting to wonder if I'm wasting my time by applying.

I also have a few years' experience in roles that have included lots of PR/comms sorts of activities (writing, editing, events management, design, producing web content, public speaking, promoting my organisation in various ways). So I know that I have all the necessary transferable skills, but as marketing was not the central function of the job, it was not really expressed in the position title. It would be misleading to describe these roles as a 'Marketing job' - rather they are 'Jobs that include marketing'.

In your opinion, Hive Mind, am I wasting my time applying for these non-entry-level jobs when the first two criteria seem to specifically exclude me? I am just mostly applying and trying my luck anyway (which I have been doing) but I my motivation is fading and I would welcome a little reality check - should I consider getting a Grad Dip or something to get my foot in the door?

In case it's relevant - my dream job would be marketing a nonprofit organisation of some sort, by doing a diverse range of duties from writing to designing newsletters to public speaking to event management etc.
posted by Weng to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hi there, Australian Communications professional with PR, and internal comms experience who graduated with an Honours Degree in film studies (my thesis was on pictorial representations of Beauty and The Beast and their interplay with the Disney version. Yeah!) here, so I think I'm basically the best person in the entire world to answer your questions!

1) Would this be the kind of 'similar degree' they're referring to, or am I being naive?

Broadly, that is a fine degree. There will obviously be exceptions (often from people with a comms degree themselves; they are rare but growing more common every day). I may have lost jobs because of the lack of degree, but nonetheless I have had no trouble finding them; experience trumps degree unless you're a Doctor or something.

2. It would be misleading to describe these roles as a 'Marketing job' - rather they are 'Jobs that include marketing'..

This is a problem. You need to portray to these employers that - sans formal experience - you have much informal experience to call on. I do hope you're rewriting your resume to address each job you're applying for, at least a little. Part of this process means rewriting job titles to align to the role you want and ensuring your references will back you up. I mean, what kind of percentage was the marketing? If it was like 10% you may be shit out of luck, if it's >25% change the title, and be sure you have concrete examples relating to the work when they ask you about it in interviews.

3.should I consider getting a Grad Dip or something to get my foot in the door?

No! In my current role at a large multinational this would be regarded as little more than an indication of your interest, vocational experience will trump this every time. Very small organisations with little experience in the Communications field may give some more weight to this (I have also worked for very small orgs), but vocational experience is where it's at if you're over 25. A grad dip generally won't be considered a foot in the door - hands-on experience - even if it's volunteering - is far more a foot in the door.

Appendix: 4. In case it's relevant - my dream job would be marketing a nonprofit organisation of some sort, by doing a diverse range of duties from writing to designing newsletters to public speaking to event management etc..

That's a great - and definitely achievable - goal to have in mind. Going forward with your career, do remember that Communications is different from Marketing, is different from PR, think of them as overlapping circles, and in small organisation those circles may all rest with one person. Indeed, small organisations (I'm talking less than 20 'strategy'/non-labour employees) may be the only places where you get these kind of responsibilities in one role.

Non-profit/charity sector is very hard to break into without solid experience + history of volunteering. I would - if you can - focus on smaller NGOs that aren't necessarily non-profit or charity, or industry/peak bodies. You could also try City Councils and the like but be aware with government jobs choice of degree may carry more weight because they tend to have stricter guidelines around selection criteria and less autonomy in choosing candidates. There is also a lot of contract communications roles out there, but - just reading in between the lines of your question - I think they may be just one or two tiers out of your league at the moment. Still, it never hurts to try, approach some recruitment agencies.

More generally, remember that your cv is like a preview, and the interview is the movie. No one excepts a preview to contain everything a movie does, but it should whet the appetite and make you want more. Ensure when you're in interview situations that you can give real, detailed examples of times when you've executed the specific duties of roles you're applying for, and times when there were challenges in those duties and how you overcame those. Rehearse many times with housemate/partner until you can tell these stories down pat. Communications has a huge focus in general on this kind of interview. Example: "Weng, can you tell me about a time you managed an external event with members of the press in attendance?" (or whatever). You need to give a detailed reply to these questions, starting right from the beginning and going through right to the end, and how you measured success and how it was a success.

Hope this all helps. If you told us your age, and some of your experience it might help tailor the responses a little. But broadly, those degrees aren't necessary (I am thirty, have had a totally sweet job for several years now, and in just a couple of weeks I'm heading off to UTS to lecture Communications students [irony! ha!] about how to do communications for the second guest lecture. It is no barrier to a career in comms.
posted by smoke at 10:22 PM on August 10, 2011


Hi there. I currently work for an online marketing company as a copywriter, content strategist and account manager, and I've worked off an on in communication and pr for the past 7 years.

I would say that if you are applying for jobs on a website (and it sounds like you are), you don't have a hope in hell of landing an interview. The resume software and the hr departments use degree and educational qualifications as a filter.

The best thing to do is to find the job before it is posted. This means identifying places where you would like to work, and seeing if they are interested in hiring anyone like you. It'll take some time, but ultimately this style of job hunting is more rewarding and more fun than replying to job ads.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:50 PM on August 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would - if you can - focus on smaller NGOs that aren't necessarily non-profit or charity, or industry/peak bodies.

I realise I may have been unclear here. If smaller NGOs are too hard, try peak bodies/industry bodies instead.

PS

I cannot speak to KokuRyu's Canadian experience, however all of my jobs in the Communications roles - bar one - came through advertised roles, and even the one exception was in fact advertised; I just didn't come across it that way. For people in Australia, especially at the start of their comms careers, seek.com.au, and ads on LinkedIn are perfectly acceptable places to start a job search, and contrary to his advice you can indeed get interviews and jobs from them with more than a hope in hell regardless of your degree.

Both in my multinational experience as part of a comms team of +30 (in an org with +15000 employees in a/nz), and my experience at NGOs with total employee pool of 10 people, and at agencies, educational qualifications are/were not filtered and are in no way a definite barrier to employment.

It may be different in the US/Canada, but it's just not broadly true here, either in comms sector or more generally; my partner is a recruiter, and I have been on hiring panels myself, so I feel quite confident in stating this.
posted by smoke at 11:57 PM on August 10, 2011


Thanks guys great answers.

More info - I am 28 years old with a CV listing fairly generic sorts of job titles: Executive Assistant, Research Officer, Project Officer etc. I can see that they would easily be filtered out by whoever's screening the applications. But in the past 2 years I've easily spent 50% of my time on marketing, promotional and comms activities.

Smoke: would you really suggest rewriting a job title? do you mean eg incorporating 'and communications'.... eg 'Project and Communications Officer'? And I assume you mean I should get the relevant manager's OK first. Makes sense, although I will feel slightly dodgy asking! I will have to think how to sell him on it... any ideas??
posted by Weng at 3:41 AM on August 11, 2011


I have a very similar educational background to you. I arrived in this country (in Europe) shortly after finishing my degree, with experience only in customer service/retail. I managed to swing a long-term internship in communications, which landed me my current job, which is communications/PR for an internet start-up. It's a great position - I have a lot of responsibility, and a wide variety of tasks, including yes, writing, designing, event management and public speaking.

So don't lose heart, it can be done! Take advantage of the Working Holiday visa and grab some internships or temp work in Europe to get some life experience and make yourself more attractive to employers in Australia. There are start-ups operating out of many European capitals who need English speaking staff for their smaller English-language platforms. Look for 'Community Management' positions - these often include a mixture of customer service and communications-related tasks, and you get a lot more experience than you would at a more established company, which make for a great foot in the door.
posted by guessthis at 3:46 AM on August 11, 2011


I work in PR and have hired a lot of people in the last few years. I know a lot of people with PR degrees who I respect, but I know an equal number of great PR people with English, history, and language degrees.

Speaking only for me personally, I prefer people with non-PR/marketing degrees. So I think you're fine, OP.
posted by CRM114 at 8:07 AM on August 11, 2011


Smoke: would you really suggest rewriting a job title? do you mean eg incorporating 'and communications'.... eg 'Project and Communications Officer'? And I assume you mean I should get the relevant manager's OK first. Makes sense, although I will feel slightly dodgy asking! I will have to think how to sell him on it... any ideas??

The better way to do it is to organize your resume according to skills first, then a section for projects, and finally a (very very short) section at the end for the relevant jobs you've had.

If you start cold-calling and developing relationships with hiring managers, you won't need to worry about job titles, as they hire based on past performance and future potential, not a job title.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:17 AM on August 11, 2011


Smoke: would you really suggest rewriting a job title?

Well, let me put it this way. If I'm looking in a pile of applicants for a comms or marketing job, and I see your cv, and you don't have a degree, and you don't have marketing/comms jobs, and then I look at the other applicants, and they all have a comms/marketing degree or marketing/comms jobs - some have both - who am I going to want to interview?

Job titles in the fuzzy corners of the corporate world the likes of us inhabit tend to be made up - I've had a dozen silly job titles that generally only serve to obfuscate my true role. For example, I am currently "Workforce Enablement Specialist". Piffle; I'm internal and corporate comms. If I was applying for jobs, you can be damned sure I wouldn't put "Workforce Enablement" on my cv; no one knows what that means - and those that think they do think it's some kind of training job.

I'm not saying my advice in this regard is the be-all and end-all, but a cv isn't a documentary record per se. If you need to change your title to better reflect what you actually did and future roles you want, I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep over it.
posted by smoke at 4:13 PM on August 11, 2011


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