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How do I get into marketing?

This is a question I am regularly asked and the answer to which depends on a number of key criteria. Which area of marketing do you want to get into? Do you have any marketing experience? How many years have you been working for? What are your transferable skills? What are your qualifications?

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Marketing is an extremely competitive industry and getting practical experience is the key. If you don't have any experience don't be put off -- it is possible to break into the industry, just make sure you have a very clear understanding of what you are looking to do and be as knowledgeable and passionate as you can be.

Initially detailed research is important because there are a number of questions to consider. Do you want to work client or agency-side? Which area of marketing do you want to work in -- brand management, brand consultancy, advertising, sponsorship, PR, promotional marketing, direct marketing etc? Even if you have little knowledge of the industry, do some initial research and focus on one area to begin with -- you can always expand your search later on.

The marketing press is a great starting point to develop your knowledge and understanding and to see what is happening in the market place. A number of the bigger titles also have jobs advertised in the back plus the contact details of the main marketing recruitment consultants. The two main publishers of marketing trade titles are Haymarket, which publishes Campaign, Marketing and Media Week as well as Brand Republic, and Centaur Publishing, which publishes Marketing Week.

The main trade press titles are Marketing, Marketing Week and Campaign -- these are often available at big high street bookshops such as WH Smiths or direct from the publishers. There are also a number of specialist titles including sales promotion and direct marketing magazines.

Once you have decided on the area of marketing you want to work in you then need to develop a comprehensive job search strategy. You need to consider all possible options and I will highlight below some of the main considerations:

Governing godies are a great source of information. The main governing bodies are listed below and they are usually extremely helpful.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising - www.ipa.co.uk
Marketing Consultants Association - www.mcca.org.uk
The Institute of Sales Promotion - www.isp.org.uk
The Direct Marketing Association - www.the-dma.org
The Institute of Direct Marketing - www.theidm.com
The Marketing Society - www.marketing-society.org.uk 
The Advertising Association - www.adassoc.org.uk
The Chartered Institute of Marketing - www.cim.co.uk
NABS - www.nabs.org.uk
Chartered Institute of Public Relations - www.ipr.org.uk

Building up your network of contacts in the industry is important and visiting marketing conferences, events and awards can be a great way of networking. The governing bodies and trade press will give you a good indication of what is happening and when.

The internet is also a good place for looking for marketing jobs with www.brandrepublic.co.uk offering a broad range of jobs advertised.

Some people decide to study while looking for a job to help increase their chances. There are a number of qualifications available from the more general Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma to more specific diploma's such as the Institute of Sales Promotion Diploma.

These can be helpful but often marketing organisations (particularly agencies) are looking for practical experience, so please don't rely on the qualification to get you the break you are looking for.

As I mentioned earlier, hands-on experience is key to getting into marketing. So how do you get the experience? If you are looking to get into marketing early on then applying direct to companies to get work experience when you are at school or university is a great idea.

If you are looking to get into marketing later on it can be more of a challenge. You could consider using your existing experience to get you a similar role in a marketing organisation with the long-term goal of switching to a marketing role later on.

You need to consider all options to help you get that all important first bit of experience -- freelancing, work experience, moonlighting, weekend work etc. The key to helping you get this initial experience is through networking. John Lees in his book 'How to Get a Job You'll Love' and Richard Bolles in his book 'What Colour is Your Parachute' both help with the art of building up your network and opening up the hidden job market -- all the unadvertised jobs that are out there.

Once you have that first bit of experience you will find that more and more doors will open up to you.

Good luck.

Jon Mitchell is a career coach who specialises in career and job change coaching for marketers. For more information please visit www.jonmitchell.co.uk or email him at jon@jonmitchell.co.uk.

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