October 19, 2020 5 min read

Starting out in your marketing career is much like entering a destination in Google maps: there’s more than one way to get there. It’s good to have a general sense of where you’re headed on your career path, especially if you have a dream role or industry in mind, but it’s a fine balancing act between expectations and reality. It may seem like many professionals fall into their marketing niche. How do you stumble upon that magic? Is there a way to jumpstart a key move in your career? We explore some methods to get to the bottom of this, so you feel less lost and more found.


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Begin as a Marketing Generalist: Lead with Your Strengths

It’s a given you can’t be perfect at everything. What is important is knowing what you’re great at which will lead you forward. It may seem like the obvious thing to do but checking in with yourself to confirm that yes, you are amazing at A, B and C is like taking inventory of all your favourite things. Leave your modesty cape off for a second and really call it. This not only helps boost the ego but will also get you thinking of how to take the next step.

“I combined the only two skills I really had at the time, which was being able to code and being able to write.”, Jon Kane, Director of Client Services at Brainrider shares. By pursuing jobs that featured those key skills, Jon got his start in marketing even if it was in a roundabout way. Although he didn’t have a marketing background so to speak, he showcased those skills to enter into marketing. They gave him direction at which type of marketing jobs to look at and when he landed one, he built on those skills. No skill is left behind! By becoming a marketing generalist, he didn’t pigeonhole himself into one area by just focusing on one specialty. His skills created a platform to keep pushing forward and learning.

Two young professionals eating different lunches in front of laptop.

So, what happens if you’re a little good at everything? Will too many toppings on the pizza ruin the overall flavour? Not at all! (You can never not have enough toppings!). Being a marketing generalist allows you to try different roles and specialties to truly discover what you enjoy. By trying this or that, you’ll find many possibilities to put your skills at work and see what fits. Are you one of those people that love pineapple as a pizza topping, or not a fan? You’ll never really know until you try it! This approach also makes you a more versatile employee — a great asset on any team. Regardless, both approaches, combining your strengths and embracing the marketing generalist role, will move you forward.

That's really what's going to help drive your career forward is by exposing yourself to different things. — Jon Kane

Something Out of Nothing: A Portfolio

Imagine meeting a star athlete who didn’t play the sport they’re apparently gifted at. You’d have a hard time believing they were the real deal. The same goes for your strengths. If you don’t have a body of work to point to, how will anyone really see your potential? Knowing your strengths and using them are two very different things. That’s why it’s important to have something to reference to. Jon calls this a body of work and the beauty of it is that it’s something you can work on now, whether you have a job lined up or not.

Young professional creating design on tablet in front of laptop.

Creating your portfolio of work can include several things thanks to the digital world. If you are inclined to move toward more digital marketing jobs, then exploring things you can create independently is a great way to start. Seek career advice from others who are in your dream job to ask what their portfolios look like and any other tips they can share.

Some ideas to get you started:

  • Get a website up and running.There are many easy to use website hosting platforms. Be creative in how you want this piece to work for you. Is it a resume touchpoint? Is it a blog where you show off your writing? The sky is the limit!
  • Create and manage professional social accounts. We love the pics of your dog, but it’s time for business! This is a great way to showcase your upcoming projects, successes, and experiences. Plus, you’ll stay on top of all those social media trends!
  • All experience is good experience. Whether you helped a family friend with some marketing or collaborated with someone else, including this in your portfolio piece shows your resourcefulness.
  • Career Counselling & Networking

    More often than not, professionals are willing to share their nuggets of wisdom. But no one is just going to call you up. You have to put in the effort, much like any chat. When you want to ask a friend for their opinion on the latest Netflix show, you make time for them. The same is true when networking and remember, it’s just a conversation. There’s no expectation to sign on the dotted line. Be your authentic self and remember the power of social reciprocity. Not sure what we mean? We’ve got you covered in this blog  where Shelly Elsliger explains how that works on LinkedIn, but it’s a principle that should be applied offline too. It may seem intimidating to reach out to someone you may not necessarily know but once you start, those nerves will melt away.

    There’s also professional career counselling that could be an option. Your post-secondary institution might offer it, or you could turn to independent companies that offer this. It’s really up to you to figure out which works best. It’s all about finding new perspectives of different industries, roles, and career paths. You could be a chat away from clicking with something someone said in passing. Think of these more as motivational chats rather than job hunting. Speaking of which, our Roles in Marketing feature some incredible marketing professionals who share their insights and journeys. Get to know more about Jon Kane and his role or explore the series now!

    Marketing Your Career Path

    Remember that at the end of the day, it’s all about how you market yourself. You are your biggest advocate so even if things don’t go the way you want them to in your job search, knowing your value and expressing that, is an accomplishment. Each time you try something new, talk to a fellow professional, focus on your skills, and keep moving forward.

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