Help me work toward a job I have no experience in
August 13, 2018 7:53 AM   Subscribe

I want to work in marketing at my company one day but I have no experience in marketing. What can I do in my own time to change that and eventually be a more desirable candidate?

I currently work in HR at an outdoors company that has stores all over the US. I work in our corporate office in a rural area, with around 200 other employees.
My company is fantastic and this is the place I want to be for the long haul. I have only been here for 6 months and as much as I like the position I'm in well enough, I have ambitions to do something more 'fulfilling' and something I can earn better money doing. I'm leaning much more toward something I find more fulfilling and something that has more upward mobility.

I have had jobs mostly centered around admin, reception and now HR. I have always felt like I wanted to do something else but a combination of insecurity and circumstances has left me with no specialized skills/experience.
My company is very into promoting from within and most people within the company have moved around at some point. We have departments ranging from marketing to product development to merchandising to IT to creative to HR etc. My department is kind of isolated so despite having acquaintances in other departments I don't really get exposure to their work. Being fairly new I'm not sure how to expand my horizons here without it being obvious I want to move, especially after being here for such a short time. Being in HR makes it extra awkward because our recruiter is one of my coworkers. Our handbook states that new hires can't apply for internal positions until they've been here for 6 months so I'm coming up to that now. I am not expecting to take the next step for a while yet. Every now and then an entry level position will become available and when that happens one day in the marketing department I want to be ready. For example there is currently a merchandising coordinator position and it's entry level and doesn't require merchandising experience.

I have access to but what specifically would be useful for me to become familiar with/learn/expose myself to? Any programs I should get into? Any blogs/websites I should be ready? Skills I should be learning? Any info/suggestions are welcome!

Also if anyone has any experience moving internally within a company I'm very curious as to your experience/journey.

Thanks as always for your help!
posted by emotionalmotionsickness to Work & Money (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Not in marketing, but my best work friend is; the preferred skills will depend on your company, but: writing skills will be key and HUGE. Be a great writer. Read your company's blog, press releases, mailings. Read those of your competitors. Know your company's products and campaigns.

Being good at social media can serve you very well, too. What social media presence does your company have? Are there any platforms you're active on? Be deliberate (and not unprofessional) in your personal social media.

I'd suggest finding someone in marketing with whom you could have an informational interview, find out about what kinds of software they use (Marketo? Salesforce?). Ask them what they're looking for in an applicant. Expressing your interest and being a familiar face to the people in that department will work in your favor, especially as you continue doing a good job in your current department.

Good luck!
posted by gideonfrog at 8:05 AM on August 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hey, I got into marketing with no experience in it. (I hated it, but that's not really the point.) I'm trying to think what helped most for me...

One thing is to know people in marketing at your company, if that's possible, because I really think that's the #1 factor in getting one's resume pulled off the stack.

Get familiar with all social media, and if you get an interview, try and have some kind of spiel about how to attract attention on those media.

Most likely you won't be responsible for design in a large company that will have its own designer, but it doesn't hurt to have some competency in things like PhotoShop and InDesign, because you'll probably work with design people and if you can say "I know InDesign," it'll sound plausibly like you'll be a better collaborator. (In practice I think this is probably like my old temp jobs where I'd say "sure, I'm great with Excel" despite not really knowing Excel and then they'd never ask me to use Excel.)

Similarly, you may want to know a little about video editing in case your company wants to put video on social media.

Sadly, Salesforce is probably good to know.

Check out the online presence of a company similar to yours, and be able to talk about it, and have some ideas of what's good and bad about it.

As above, writing is important, but I want to offer a word of caution about this. The kind of writing that is important is very, very narrow. You need to be able to understand the tone your company thinks of as on-brand and be able to crank it out. A good ear is much more important than your own voice.

Good luck!
posted by Smearcase at 8:35 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

My Marketing colleagues love videos from HubSpot, which is a popular inbound marketing software platform. They also have a good blog, and they do meetups and events, including a big annual conference called Inbound (it's in Boston this year). Marketo is also a great product to learn, although I've been told that its extensive customizability means you'll always face a learning curve when it comes to the way your particular company has it set up.

Strong writing skills and high attention to detail are invaluable in Marketing. I can imagine you already have attention to detail covered, but anything you can do to strengthen your writing will be helpful.

If Product Marketing is a specialization that interests you, I highly recommend Pragmatic Marketing training. It's expensive, and some modules are really more about Product Management, but it's hands-down the best professional development I've ever done.
posted by neushoorn at 8:36 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Know your product.
Know your product.
Know your product.

Know your suppliers. Know the customer. Show your passion. Keep checking for opportunities. Network your way in.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:55 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

"Marketing" means a lot of things to different people. For some people it's very Old Skool, creating print materials and banners and posters and so on for conference.

For others it's a highly integrated process, from lead gen to customer purchase to customer re-engagement.

This second domain is much more interesting, and also is much more future-proof. To educate yourself, learn about pragmatic marketing.

For general intro, Marketing Land is an interesting. As is the MOZ blog.

I also have to say that Hubspot is not nearly as good as it used to be.
posted by JamesBay at 9:35 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not in marketing, but my best work friend is; the preferred skills will depend on your company, but: writing skills will be key and HUGE. Be a great writer.

I am in marketing and I would say this is the biggest thing. But not just writing, writing for different media/channels and different purposes. Look at your company's (and other similar company's) marketing materials with a critical eye: emails, social media posts, website content, print content. What are the conventions? How long is a Facebook post vs. a tweet? How are blog posts written vs how both the facebook post and the tweet? What's the difference in tone between a post promoting a product and a post geared towards engagement?

I'm now an independent consultant, but when I was a hiring manager, this ability to write to the best practices for different channels was the biggest thing I looked for.

Also, there are a lot of different kinds of skills needed in marketing these days. Think about what you're good at and lean into that. Numbers? Learn more about analytics. Organizing people/projects? Project/product management/coordination. Writing? Content strategy. Visual intelligence? Graphic design/video production (OK, some of these things are entire fields with degrees and stuff, but you can often at least get started in these areas without the degree).

Also, basic graphic design skills are always good to have - if for nothing else, so that you understand what works and what doesn't when evaluating design work. Canva is a great free-for-individuals tool for design, and they have a series of tutorials that other people I know swear by.

Crowdtangle is another interesting tool - you give it topics, or a list of Facebook pages to follow, and it tells you the best-performing posts in those categories. This helps you learn what's performing well. It's free because Facebook bought it!

Being fairly new I'm not sure how to expand my horizons here without it being obvious I want to move, especially after being here for such a short time.

How is your boss? If they are open and supportive, I'd let them know you're interested in marketing long-term and that you're interested in seeing if there are ways you can learn more about it as a career field through your company. Most decent bosses will understand no team member is going to work with them forever and will want to help you out as they are able, especially if it means keeping you in the company. Maybe ask if they can introduce you to a mid-level manager in the marketing department, and then you can have an informational interview with that person.

Or if you have acquaintances in the department already, ask one of them to get coffee or a drink and chat about the field. This way you're getting information but also building relationships.

I would also say, start applying for jobs you feel reasonably qualified as soon as you can. For instance, that merchandising coordinator position: I bet your admin skills would come in very handy there. Anyway, every marketing person I know has learned on the job. I know exactly zero successful marketing people who studied marketing in college, for instance (not that they don't exist, they just don't tend to go into my niche of marketing). If you don't get the first job you apply for, that's at least a great chance to get your foot in the door and start building relationships.
posted by lunasol at 9:49 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

One more thing: one thing that's great (and sometimes terrible) about marketing is that you can publicly show your chops without having a job in marketing. One of the best candidates I ever interviewed for a social media strategist position had no professional experience creating social content or managing a brand on social media, but she tweeted about the issue my org worked on and created her own social media memes (ie, text on images). I was really impressed that she'd taken that kind of initiative, and hired her.

So in your case, you could start tweeting/mediuming/whatevering what you're learning and your thoughts about it, or even just sharing the coolest marketing stuff you find as you're doing your self-education.

Also, JamesBay is totally right: the field changes a lot and people who understand marketing in a holistic way, rather than just their one piece, will do a lot better.
posted by lunasol at 9:58 AM on August 13, 2018

Look at the job postings for the job you want and 9 others like it. What commonalities do they all require? What are the preferred qualifications that can get you a leg up despite your lack of experience in the field?
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2018

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