The skills that will get you a graduate job in marketing

Marketing is one of the most popular graduate jobs you’ll come across. For this reason, you'll need to impress graduate recruiters. If you’ve got a good mix of soft skills, academic ability and determination, you are well on the way to securing a marketing graduate job.

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You need a blend of creative and business skills to launch a marketing career. We outline the skills recruiters will be looking for on your CV and how to build them.

Marketing is about communicating strategically, usually to promote a brand, product or organisation. Campaigns are planned carefully to ensure that costs are managed and goals are met – which means that, if you want to get a graduate marketing job, you’ll need a blend of creative and commercial skills to be successful. You’ll also need to provide evidence of your skills on your CV.

We analysed the marketing roles advertised on targetjobs to reveal the top skills that recruiters want. Significantly, most of the jobs we looked at didn’t call for a marketing degree and instead focus on skills, many of which you can develop at university. So, if you’re not studying marketing, the good news is you can still get into this field.

Our analysis also showed that if you’re interested in specialist areas such as PR, digital marketing and advertising , more technical skills will help your applications. We’ve drilled down into what these skills are and how to build then.

Five skills you need to get a graduate job in marketing

1. Interpersonal skills

Most recruiters advertising graduate marketing roles on targetjobs asked for candidates with excellent interpersonal skills. This means they’re looking for people who can work as part of a team, form strong professional relationships and communicate with people at all levels, from leaders to other graduates.

It’s not hard to see why. Marketing is a collaborative field: you could be working with managers, clients, external contractors and peers, and you’ll need to work together to harness the best of everyone’s expertise.

2. Creativity

If you enjoy writing, design or video editing, you may have considered marketing as a career. There are many opportunities to contribute your creative skills in this field, particularly in digital marketing, where a steady stream of new and engaging content is needed.

Beyond this, you’ll also need to be able to come up with ideas for new campaigns and ‘think outside the box’ to make sure marketing campaigns are fresh.

3. Flexibility

Marketing is a fast-paced industry, so it’s no surprise that recruiters need graduates who can adapt easily. That doesn’t simply mean that you’re happy to go with the flow: a constantly changing environment needs people who can recognise the impact of change and keep track of what’s happening.

4. Customer focus

As a marketer, you’ll ultimately be working for a client – either your own organisation if you work in-house or external firms if you work for an agency. Either way, you need to be able to understand clients’ needs and goals, and to build your work around them.

5. Commercial awareness

You also need to understand the marketing industry itself. This includes knowing who your competitors are and what factors make marketing campaigns successful. For example, during the pandemic many people had less disposable income. How might this have affected different brands?

Discover how to get a job in marketing and the different types of roles available .

Specialist skills for a marketing career

Beyond these general skills, there are some specialist ones that will stand you in good stead if you want to focus on particular aspects of marketing.

What specialist skills do I need for a job in digital marketing?

1. Data analysis skills

In digital marketing, you have huge amounts of data at your fingertips. When you analyse it, you can learn about customers’ behaviour and review whether campaigns are going as planned. You can also make decisions based on data. For example, if customers are sharing social media posts on one topic more than others, you’ll know to focus on that topic in future.

2. Search optimisation skills

Search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are tactics used to help a website appear in search engine results pages so that it gets more traffic.

SEO is about knowing how search engine algorithms work and using this, plus an understanding of customers’ needs, to design online content that search engines will display.

Search engine marketing involves placing paid adverts on search engine results pages. You can choose which users you want to target with your ads to ensure your content reaches the right people. As with SEO, you must know your customers to ensure you’re choosing the right audience.

3. Social media skills

When you work in social media marketing, you use data to find ways to boost your content’s visibility. For example, you can use data to explore what times of day your followers tend to engage with your posts or what kinds of content they prefer. Once you know this, you can schedule popular content at popular times.

Read our article on data-driven marketing to learn about the skills and qualifications graduates need for this line of work.

What specialist skills do I need for a graduate PR job?

1. Editing and proofreading skills

PR can involve writing about specialist topics in which accuracy is essential, so you need to be able to spot errors and ambiguity.

For example, imagine you’re editing a media release for a bathroom retailer. It mentions a ‘deep green bath’ – but should that be a deep-green bath? You’ll need to know the difference to ensure messages are accurate.

2. Relationship management skills

In PR, you’ll work with media professionals. You’ll need to maintain strong relationships with them – for example, by networking with them at events.

3. Journalism skills

Journalists don’t just write articles; they seek them out and find the right angle for each story. You need to do the same as a PR professional, by keeping an eye on the industries in which your clients work, researching customers’ needs and behaviours, and looking for opportunities to generate news coverage.

Read this article for more information about how to get a graduate job in public relations .

What specialist skills do I need to work for an advertising agency?

1. Project management skills

Advertising campaigns often involve many people working together towards a deadline, so you’ll need to be organised. This could involve keeping track of campaign progress, writing briefs that outline clients’ expectations and checking these requirements are met.

2. Writing skills

Whether you commission copy from freelancers or write it yourself, you’ll need to be able to write persuasively to convey your ideas. It’s important to be able to write for different audiences too: a progress report for your client will need to read very differently from copy for a website for teenagers.

Find out how to get a graduate job in advertising and the different entry routes available.

10 ways to build specialist skills

You’re less likely to encounter the chance to build these technical skills through your studies, but it’s still possible to gain experience.

  1. Sign up for free online courses (such as LinkedIn Learning) covering practical skills such as search engine optimisation.
  2. Register for free trials of project and social media management tools. Some offer training as part of the trial.
  3. Search online for citizen science projects: they sometimes involve opportunities to analyse data and to see its impact.
  4. Consider asking to shadow a marketing team or set up informational interviews during work experience placements and holiday work, even if marketing isn’t the main focus of your role.
  5. Explore voluntary work as an alternative to work experience. In a small organisation, you could take on a lot of responsibility, such as managing all social media. In a larger organisation you could build interpersonal skills as part of a team.
  6. Create a LinkedIn profile and follow marketing professionals. This will give you insights into their work and help you keep up with industry news.
  7. Look for opportunities within university marketing. For example, some universities call for students to contribute blog posts about their studies.
  8. Use extra-curricular activities to build on your creative strengths – for example, designing social media posters or videos for a club you’re involved in.
  9. Seek ways to build creative skills in your studies. For example, are there options to submit assessments as videos or infographics?
  10. As we mentioned, you don’t need a marketing degree for many graduate marketing jobs. However, if you’re interested in marketing theory and want to apply it in practice, consider a postgraduate qualification. It’ll also help you network marketing professionals and open up work experience opportunities.

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