For the past 10 years, I’ve been asked and honored to give college seniors and recent graduates advice on careers in marketing. Up until a year or so ago, my general advice was as follows:
Aspiring Marketer: What are my career options?
Deb: You can choose the agency/consulting route, or you can work internally for a company.
Aspiring Marketer: Can you give me the pros and cons of each?
Deb: Sure, Inhouse/Corporate Marketers have a higher starting salary; benefits; slower pace; a limited variety of projects; and rarer overtime. Agency/Marketing Consultants have lower starting salaries; faster pace; a wide variety of projects; and probable overtime.
Most of the time, the young up-and-comers would be drawn to corporate marketing. I surmised that it was because of higher pay “out of the gate” and more amenable work / life balance.
Don’t Go Corporate! New Graduate Marketing Career Advice for 2017 and Beyond
I strongly believe that almost all people entering the marketing profession with long-term career aspirations should work in an agency or marketing consulting environment for at least five years.
Why throw shade on the corporate career track for new marketing grads? With marketing changing at the pace of technology, corporate marketers don’t typically experience enough early in their careers to keep pace with marketing. According to Adobe's recent research, Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night?, a strong majority (76%) of respondents think marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the past 50.
Companies – especially middle market B2B businesses – are typically slow to embrace modern, digital marketing. Most company leaders are marketing traditionalists (who think in newsletters, email blasts, or one-off ads) that keep their departments in silos and operate without a strategy or a marketing plan.
Marketing professionals in the corporate setting can get easily frustrated by cultures that don’t welcome change and a lack of marketing leadership. Their fresh ideas are often left to stagnate, and their overall growth and development becomes stunted. And this lack of experience ultimately makes them less marketable than their consulting peers as they look to find more dynamic opportunities. Once an aspiring marketer chooses to start in the corporate world, it’s very difficult to move into consulting without taking a big pay cut and accepting an entry-level position.
By nature, marketing consulting firms, especially those that are strategic marketers like Marketri, must keep on top of modern marketing approaches and technologies to be able to offer the best advice and remain relevant. It’s not a choice – it’s do or die. And since clients are paying for proactive advice and exceptional service, marketing consulting firms need to choose professionals wisely and develop “A” teams. They know full well that their marketing employees will make or break their businesses.
Choosing a Career in Marketing Consulting: What You Can Expect
Aspiring marketers will need to pull the bar down tight across their laps, keep their hands down, and get ready to experience a gamut of emotions. Working in a marketing consulting firm is like taking a roller coaster ride - it's fast, scary, and fun. At the same time, it can be downright exhausting as no day is the same, and professionals are constantly challenged to learn, grow, and improve. Career-minded go-getters will likely find this work environment to be perfect, while more laid-back professionals seeking routine and a 9-to-5 schedule will be overwhelmed and reach for the cord to stop the ride.
In accepting an offer to work for a consulting firm, marketing neophytes can expect:
To Work Hard
This reality sometimes comes as a shock because marketing is often viewed as the creative and fun discipline. However, marketing isn’t unicorns and rainbows anymore. The work of strategic marketing consulting firms helps to make or break their clients’ businesses. While recent graduates won’t be tasked with creating or even overseeing entire marketing programs, they will be responsible for effortless multi-tasking, flawless tactical execution, and exceptional communication. They will likely be asked to track all their time as time is money in consulting. The stakes are high, and the atmosphere can be intense. Responding to client needs is the name of the game, and workdays can turn into worknights to meet deadlines and after-hours questions and requests.
To Learn and Grow Every Day
More than likely, recent marketing graduates will work on client accounts, which in theory, should never be the same as each business has unique challenges, opportunities, goals, marketing infrastructures, and marketing aptitudes. For example, one client may focus on building deep relationships with a targeted number of big industry players and therefore embrace an Account-Based Marketing approach. Another client may deploy Inbound Marketing to reach its growth through casting a wide digital net. New grads will be quickly introduced to various marketing approaches, technologies, and measurements as they assist on client accounts. They’ll need to read articles, blogs, and take webinars to stay abreast of the latest happenings in the field, which is usually done before or after hours. That “fire in the belly” to be the best is essential to survival in a marketing consulting position.
After consulting for 5+ years, marketers could then make the switch to corporate marketing with experience and confidence. They’ll have a big picture perspective and be able to bring measurable value to the table especially to firms looking to grow through modern marketing. Their varied and extensive backgrounds will earn them the ears and respect of executives and the very handsome paychecks they’ve worked hard and waited patiently for!
This blog is dedicated to my niece, Rachel Collins, who is a marketing major starting her last semester at Rollins College next week. I’m super proud of you!
Then check out our whitepaper on the marketing landscape. It offers a lot of insight on what types of agencies are out there, and what you can expect from collaborating with them.
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Thanks for reading!