Make your mark in marketing

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The Independent Online

Marketing is about promoting a product, company or concept. That could involve, say, printing T-shirts featuring a company's slogan or ordering pens in corporate colours. But there's so much more besides. "Marketing is crucial for business success," says a spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). "Without paying attention to what it sells, what prices it charges, how it promotes its products, and where it sells them, no company can survive. These are the issues that marketers grapple with every day and it is what marketing is all about."

As a career, marketing is great fun, he says. "You get involved in launches, exhibitions and shows. You're not stuck at your desk every day."

What's more, marketing is the ultimate in cool. You're working at the cutting edge of business, and a big part of your job is finding exciting, unusual and often quirky ways to win more customers.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes need people to help them understand their customers, so if it's fashion you're into, you could work in marketing for Oasis or go upmarket to somewhere such as Giorgio Armani. If, on the other hand, it's chemistry that floats your boat, then you could apply to work in the marketing department for a pharmaceutical company. For politics fanatics, you could get involved in marketing for a political party, whilst those with green consciences could work for a charity like Greenpeace.

"You also have the option of working for a small or big company," adds the CIM spokesman. "If you work for a big one, there tend to be great perks and opportunities to climb the career ladder because there'll be a team of marketers. But then again, if you work for a small company, you get to see your individual efforts making a huge difference to that organisation."

Alternatively, you could work for a marketing agency that helps a range of different companies with their marketing. Dawn Andrews, 22, works for JJ, a marketing agency employing 80 people. Like many young people, she had no idea what marketing was when she was 14. "But when I did a GCSE in business studies, there was a marketing module and I learned all about it and really enjoyed it. It keeps you on your toes because you're always up against exciting challenges. So I decided to do a marketing degree and now I'm an account executive in charge of the business side of our client, British Gas, which means I help them with a variety of aspects of their marketing. One day, I might be asked to help them create a mailshot and on another occasion, I might be asked to set up an e-mail template for them."

Marketing is fantastically varied. Aspects include research, public relations, branding and advertising - just to name a few. Katie Perkin, 24, who works as a marketing executive for Nigel Wright recruitment consultancy, says it's the variation that gets her out of bed in the morning. "You get a lot of satisfaction from marketing because it's so broad," she says. "Since I've been here, I've been involved in creating a new website, a new corporate look, new corporate brochures and we've just launched into some new markets too."

Like many people in marketing, Katie doesn't have a degree in the subject. "I studied English for my degree and didn't really know what I wanted to do as a career. Then, as part of some work I did for my university, I got involved in marketing events, as well as doing some direct mailing, and I got to really enjoy it."

In fact, you don't necessarily need a degree at all to go into marketing. There is a range of relevant HNCs and HNDs - and some motivated and driven people don't even bother with those. Fiona Hamilton, 29, is a senior account manager at marketing agency TDA. "I left school after my GCSEs," she says. "Having then studied business administration at college, I fell into admin work. When I was working as a receptionist at a marketing agency, I was given an opportunity to have a stint in account handling. I loved how fast-paced and exciting it was. They gave me a job. I've moved up from there."

If you want to get a marketing qualification once you're in employment, many employers are willing to sponsor employees through CIM qualifications.

But be aware that if you decide not to do a degree, you'll need to work extra hard at demonstrating to employers that you have the right attributes for a career in marketing. "Top of the list is being dedicated," reckons Fiona. "It's not a 9-to-5 environment. You also need to be willing to learn new skills and industry knowledge and you should work well in a team, as you have to fit in not just in your own department but with all the others too. You need to have a really positive attitude too."

Fiona's boss, Heather Westgate, agrees. "What's important is attitude - you need to be enthusiastic, proactive, eager and self-motivated."

Many people join her organisation in their teens. "We arrange a lot of two-week work placements for 14- to16-year-olds to help them understand how all the areas of marketing work and how they interact with each other - everything from account handling to the creative studio. For a lot of people, it's an eye-opener for how hard marketers work, but also what fun it is. Generally, they come out saying marketing is the career for them. A lot of them join the industry - perhaps even our organisation - quite quickly."

Wendy Duprey, team leader at recruitment consultancy Angela Mortimer - which places people in marketing jobs - says work experience is always worthwhile, if only to see if you actually like marketing. "As entry level jobs in marketing are very competitive, work experience can also enable you to demonstrate a real interest in the industry," she adds.

Industry knowledge can help you stand out too, she says, so get reading Marketing Week or Marketing to be up-to-date on some of the key issues.

Nick Williams, 24, who works for the integrated marketing agency Base One, believes you'd be hard pushed to find a more lively, rewarding job than marketing. "You get to meet new people all the time, you get some really exciting challenges and you're always learning new stuff," he says. "To top it all, you can progress quickly. I'm already project manager on the web team here."