New College Grads: Hard Work and Doing the Right Things Can Land You a Job in Marketing

I just closed my third year as a member of the Professional Advisory Board for the College of Media and Communications for Texas Tech University (*take a breath*). (There’s an acronym in there somewhere, but I’m too focused on this article to figure it out. ).


The Board was created about 30 years ago to help the College (Department at the time) mold the curriculum from both an academic and professional perspective. It also set up an automatic resource for students to network with Texas Tech alumni in their chosen field.


The day before our Board meeting, I had the opportunity to sit down with about six students, one at a time. They were juniors and seniors mostly, and what I found was surprisingly not surprising. Most of them would have the hours to graduate, but honestly had no idea on what to do next. And none of them expected to join a company in the corner office.


I’ve heard so many stories of my colleagues conducting interviews with 20-somethings talking about how they shoot the moon on salaries and immediately begin to search out their executive suite. I think I’ve experienced that once in an interview, but that was about four or five years ago. And it was only once.


With this group was full of some really hard-working kids. Whether it was overwhelming extracurricular activities in a dozen or so organizations or working 30+ hours a week bartending or waiting tables. None of them expected anything to be handed to them.


They just weren’t sure what to do next.


And that’s where our Board was able to make the most impact. From resume review and portfolio assessment, three things stood out as “Eureka!” moments for the bright kids attempting their first foray into the workforce:


1. Business Cards: One young pro-to-be told me that a professional career counselor (not with the University) told her that business cards were antiquated. Everything is electronic now. That’s bullshit. I told her that. She needed business cards because most professionals still carry them. And if you want one, you have to give one. It needed to have everything that you’d put on the header of your resume, plus a link to your portfolio and custom LInkedin url. Which brings me to my next tip…


2. Linkedin Profile: I’ve heard from a number of recruiters that this is where the searches are being conducted now. Monster and CareerBuilder are hemorrhaging recruits as companies turn to Linkedin to find and research candidates. I advised every student to make sure his or her Linkedin account was up to date and tight. And to be sure to grab the custom URL with their name on the end. Here’s mine: Feel free to connect.


3. Resume: You still need it. For now anyway. But Linkedin will take its place within the next few years. That’s both good and bad news because Linkedin is a template. If you’re a creative type, the quality of your first impression will be based upon the strength of your content, to the layout. I used to love seeing how designers approach their resume. I think we hired one because she had such a great resume. Make sure your content on your LInkedin matches your resume. In other words, the work dates on your resume match the dates on your Linkedin profile.


4. Portfolio: Every student (and professional for that matter) should have one. Both online and hard copy. Whether marketing, creative, media, account service or account planning, the online portfolio allows you to show the work you said you did on your resume, Linkedin profile or business card. It allows you to tell your story and show that you’ve at least tried to do SOMETHING. For marketing, account service and planners, case studies on class projects or outside work are great ways to show that you can write a case study and show that you understand situation, objectives, strategy, tactics and results. For creatives, well, every creative from writer, designer, art director or interactive should have portfolio. If you don’t have one, you should get started on it now.


5. Blog: I chatted with a young lady who said she wanted to be a writer. I asked, “What are you writing now?” She said, “Nothing. Only class work.” I told her that she really didn’t want to be a writer. Writers write and you have to love it to be it. She was a public relations major graduating in a year. I suggested that, after a lot of soul-searching, she could start blogging–that is, if she still wanted to REALLY be a writer. She may do it. She may not. It doesn’t matter because there are thousands of other students who want to be writers and They Are Writing. I did meet a student who wanted to be in account service and she WAS blogging. I wanted to hug her. Then introduce her to the “writer” I had met earlier.


I’m not a recruiter, but I’ve hired some really good talent in my career. I think I can spot it and I’d put my success/failure rate up against any HR department. The key is, if you want hard-working people, you have to hire the people who work hard.


And there are plenty of them out there coming into the workforce.