how can I get in marketing at the age of 38?
July 6, 2008 6:16 AM   Subscribe

I am 38, living in Scotland, and after 3 years out of the workforce due to bipolar disorder will be soon able to work again. I would love to work in marketing since I find the subject fascinating, especially marketing communications, and in fact I got a B.A. in marketing way back in 1991. How credible is a 38 year old candidate will little directly relevant experience, putting aside the long gap from the workplace? I worry that companies with entry-level positions will automatically want to fill them with shiny new graduates, but my positive side thinks "its only too late if I don't start now" and if I got a start I could progress quite quickly. If you have any experience in marketing, or even if you don't, any ideas about how to get a start would be very useful.

I have had depression since my twenties and then developed bipolar disorder when I was 32, necessitating several hospital stays and eventually me giving up my job at 35 to properly recover. I have been faithfully compliant to my meds regime since then and have had no manic episodes since getting out of hospital in November 2005. Now my depression is treated as well and much improving, and in general things are looking up for me (I recently got engaged too), so I feel ready to resume my place in the workforce.

My career was limited by shyness and depression for a long time, in my twenties I worked for 3 years processing orders and enquiries in a steel foundry, then I did a couple of years with a tiny technology startup where I did get a very small amount of marketing experience, just things like writing press releases and doing a website, but mostly I did office admin work. Finally I got a better job, junior consultant in an company that worked on government contracts. Here I really blossomed. I developed public speaking skills through regularly delivering a presentation promoting the use of the Internet to small business audiences across the UK. I also did some very basic web page updating and writing e-newsletters about Internet marketing aimed at small businesses. It felt good to know what I was talking about, to feel I was earning my salary (both part of the jobs were government contracts and I was getting charged out at £500 per day at the end).

So now I would like to work in marketing, preferably services, ideally something using my writing skills (I realise I am being a bit long-winded here but in work I am more succinct!) and perhaps something relating to PR too. So my questions are:-

* Can anyone suggest what sort of services companies hire someone at an entry-level and then train them? I have seen a few jobs advertised for people who already have experience e.g. with architects or legal firms but I imagine these are places with just one marketing person, so I have no idea how people get that experience to get the first job. Are there larger service companies which might have a marketing manager and then a marketing assistant (a job I could do) thereby giving me the chance to learn on the job and be mentored.

* Any tips for breaking into marketing without experience? I am willing to work for a salary less than the one I left my old company at (£20,000) but don't want to just be stuck doing admin support at a low salary since that wouldn't give me the chance to show I can develop strategic thinking skills. After an inheritance I have enough to live on a low salary for a couple of years while I break into the business.

* Can anyone suggest a good practical marketing book as a refresher? I hate to say it but it was so long since I did my degree I have forgotten most of it, so being able to "talk the talk" and grasp the marketing issues would be helpful.

* Can anyone suggest sectors/ types of firm I could research further? I am at the stage where I want to stay in the one field for several years, and am prepared to spend my time immersing myself and studying in my own time to gain industry knowledge. I was thinking financial services as an example but have heard that is cutting back on people rather than hiring new ones.

I realise maybe only a few people out there will feel able to give any feedback but if you do know something that would help me get my life and career back on track, please do share as it would be much appreciated.
posted by AuroraSky to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I speak to you as someone with great success and experience in marketing communications, and as someone who has known several individuals who have entered the field with no prior experience at roughly your age: Go to work at a big company. The biggest damned company you can find. Try to get a job in marketing. Any job. But if you can't get a job in marketing, try in get at job in some other department, doing something else. The point is to get in the company "family." Once you've got a job in the company, work your butt off at whatever you were hired for. Do a great job. Even if it's sweeping the floor. Get known as a hard-worker and a good guy. You will get to know people. People will get to know you. You will learn the business, and learn where in the company people need things written. Not just marketing things. Any things. Post-it notes, memos, speeches, letters, notices. Whenever any thing that needs to be written by anybody in any department comes into your ken, volunteer to write it. Nearly everybody hates to write, and are insanely grateful to anyone who will take the job off their hands. Write for anything for anybody at any level. You will come to be known as the guy who writes things. All this time, you will be making friends and buildng up a kind of "portfolio" of things you've written. Keep your eye on marketing. Eventually, a job will open up there. It probably won't be in marketing communications. But it might be something else. Whatever it is, try and get it. You've got friends and exprience in the company by now. You know the business. The question for marketing will not be "Why should we hire this guy?" It will be, "Why shouldn't we hire this guy?" Once you're in the marketing department, continue to be the guy that writes things. Eventually, you will come to the attention of marketing communications. When a job opens up there, you'll be able to present yourself as a natural candidate. They'll already know you, and presumably like you. And you'll be in.

As I say, this strategy works best in a big company, with lots of points of entry, and many activities. It could take you three to five years. Your biggest challenge will be getting "inside" -- that is, getting that initial job doing whatever it is you can get a job doing there. A hard-working intellegent person with a good personality and a halfway decent radar for corporate politics can move fast in a big company.

Of course, I'm assuming you're a good writer, and a hard worker. The best thing about this strategy is, that because big companies are so diverse and have so many opportunities, you may discover that you exel and some other skill or in some other field you never expected, and ultimately rise farther that you ever dreamed you would, back when you only wanted to be a marketing writer. I've seen all these things happen.
posted by Faze at 7:40 AM on July 6, 2008 [13 favorites]

I don't work in marketing, but I work for a really big company that shuffles people through marketing as they advance. I wanted to help narrow the industry idea here, by suggesting you look for a really big company that specializes in business-to-business products, especially of technical things. This is not sexy; you can't point at the neon backgrounds with the black silhouettes wearing the white mp3 player and say that was your idea, BUT, what it comes with includes
* opportunity to learn hard about some specific industry and their products and how to market them
* higher salaries because of said specialized knowledge, which can later be moved to others in the same or related industries
* but, less competition from the young things that want the sexy projects
* chance to really show off good writing skills, by translating technical goop into stuff that your sales people and other firms' buyers can understand

These companies, especially the really big ones, definitely hire people for their first jobs (I know some of them!) even if their online job postings say "experience required." Even if you don't have a steady prior job to show for it, at least show things you've been doing free-lance, or for pet projects, whatever, to show what you can do.
posted by whatzit at 7:56 AM on July 6, 2008

I spent some time working in a marketing department at a large Scottish company. The world of marketing people within Scotland is not that large so it would be possible to make a shortlist of people who you would potentially want to work for and who would be in a position to offer you a job. I notice that the Scottish branch of the Marketing Society has a website up about their 2008 Marketing Excellence awards - so have a look at who won and who sponsored the event. On this site you have all the high profile marketing departments and representatives from all the agencies and media owners that they work with.

People who work in senior positions in marketing get calls from people who would like to work with them all the time - several a day is not unusual. They are called by people with advertising opportunities, by the sort of enthusiastic inventors that appear on "The Dragons Den", by agencies of every hue and by prospective employees. So you need to have a good "pitch" about why they should employ you. I would recommend that you try to arrange a short meeting with your target people. A tool like LinkedIn might be a good way of doing this these days - a know that many of the people who could potentially offer you a job are on it.

As Faze says many people take the alternative route of working their way into a marketing department from somewhere else. Personally, in your position, I would take the more direct route.

You should probably give some consideration as to whether you would wish to work on the Client or Agency side of the fence. Agency life can be more glamorous and better paid - but the hours are often long and there is a high chance of you being laid off you don't perform well - or are just unlucky. Life at a client is often a little more dull and a little more safe.

Many of the marketing people I worked with had backgrounds other than straight qualifications in Marketing. There were large numbers of people who had moved there from Sales, Administration, IT, Finance and from academic backgrounds as diverse as Engineering and History.
posted by rongorongo at 8:18 AM on July 6, 2008

Good luck! You sound determined and self-aware and ought to make it.
posted by A189Nut at 10:04 AM on July 6, 2008

Response by poster: Whatever did I do before Metafilter? It's so encouraging to post something and get some useful responses so quickly, thanks everyone. I feel really encouraged by this. In addition to the writing I am also going to take my Powerpoint skills a notch by taking a course at my local college, since I feel I could have something to offer in working with people to effectively in developing presentations for important occasions or even in-house training. And being the "go-to" person for any writing sounds like a good way to go. In my last job I got lots of brownie points for doing the monthly progress reports to the client, a job everyone hated yet was important so that the client could appreciate the value of the work we were doing (and justify our fees). Thanks again everyone.
posted by AuroraSky at 12:01 PM on July 6, 2008

« Older D1am0ndz r 4ever   |   I'm building a computer -- what do I need to know? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.