CIM: Pursuing a career in marketing - How to get that competitive edge

The assumption that marketing is simply there to design materials is a thing of the past. Marketing is one of the most diverse careers and often the core of most businesses. There is a misconception that marketing is exclusively associated with artistic creativity and producing eye-catching visuals. Although these elements are important, there is a great deal more involved within the roles and responsibilities of the marketing professional. Marketing is more complex than simply bringing a product to market. Marketers must develop an understanding of markets, as well as customer expectations and behaviours. This involves analysing and understanding the environment inside and outside of their organisation, in order to formulate innovative strategies to take advantage of market opportunities and mitigate potential threats, as well as improving or maintaining customer perceptions.

Marketing is important for companies who want to be market drivers within their industry. It forces innovation within business, whether it is through strategy, product or service development; it enables a business to develop and maintain a competitive advantage (Ilić et al., 2014).

The current climate has highlighted marketing’s significance within business. With the threat of the Coronavirus still lingering, marketers must look into their business’s current strategies, operational shifts, communications and much more, to assess the impact this macro factor has had on the company, using this to strategise and adapt to the market-led changes.

Choosing an area in marketing that is right for you

There are a range of career options for a budding marketer to pursue. These include brand management, communications, digital marketing, strategic marketing and product development, to name a few. Each marketing role will be different from another. Some will include events management, whilst others will allow you to express your creative flair with graphic design – so it is important to consider where your strengths and interests lie.

Marketing is one of the most popular career paths for newly qualified graduates wanting to be involved in the next “every little helps” campaigns they can be proud of. The boom of digital technology saw the birth of new sub-departments within marketing, generating interest from the millennial generation.

Whether you are looking for your first job or wanting to change vocation (especially if this is in an area of business you have little experience in), this can be incredibly daunting. It is important to research and understand which area of marketing is best suited to you and which offers the career prospects that are of genuine interest.

Aspiring marketers can expect roles in marketing to offer them the chance to be part of teams full of enthusiasm and creativity. Expect each day to be different, with new challenges being presented regularly. This often involves blending creativity with analytical insights. Between 2011 and 2019, marketing and other related jobs were up by nearly 19% (Clark, 2020). This demonstrates that marketing is a popular career choice, but also that companies are aware of the importance and value marketing can add to a company.

Traditionally a marketing professional will include aspects of all of the niches below, which is why it is important for a marketer to develop an understanding across all areas:

Digital marketing is a rapidly changing industry that has become the foundation of the modern enterprise. The age of social media has allowed businesses to grow a brand and customer base at a phenomenal rate. Companies no longer need to operate out of a tangible location. eCommerce platforms have eliminated the upfront cost of premises, which has created a boom in small business start-ups online.

Branding is an important aspect of marketing and is more than creating a logo and choosing pantones. It is about the overall ethos of a company, what values a company holds and the image it portrays to its customer base.

Public relations is an area of marketing that essentially involves managing communications the business releases out to the public, to portray a particular image. This type of role also often involves working with a variety of media outlets.

Events management is essentially project managing the execution for planning and running events, from small social gatherings and corporate events to weddings and festivals.

What to expect from a marketing role:

Variety and dynamicity
Analytical and strategic creativity, not just colouring in.
Good career progression opportunities
Marketing is diverse and is not limited to traditional “marketing” roles.

Steps you can take to getting your dream job in marketing

Express your interest with the company you are working for. Experience is key, and where possible, see if you can assist in any of the marketing activities. No matter how small or menial the task, whether it is laborious admin or inputting data. Use this to gain knowledge and an understanding of why and how the data is used. Showing an interest and being involved in marketing will work to both yours and the company’s advantage. If a role becomes available in the marketing team, having already been involved will be a huge advantage if you decided to apply for the position.

Choose your recruitment agency carefully. Often the stricter the application process to register with an agency means they are more likely to find a career that suits you best, so don’t be put off by a lengthy registration process. Work closely with agencies and be honest.

Gain experience outside of work in the area of marketing you are interested in. This will not only help you develop the necessary skills to acquire a career in marketing, but it will also show employers your initiative and drive. Depending on the career you are interested in, might mean you develop skills using Adobe creative packages or popular CMS and CRM systems. You could even start by setting up a business project, that will demonstrate your skills in using social media (and grow a following and community) and in building a website using one of the popular web builders. This will demonstrate ambition, a good level of creativity and a solid technical understanding of key digital areas.

Get qualified by looking into a marketing course. Marketing has become a very popular career choice, which means you need to stand out from the crowd. Even if you are newly qualified at degree level, there is always more you can learn. CIM has a range of qualifications from entry-level, to postgraduate qualifications with a variety of modules. If a full course isn’t of interest, you can also opt for a single module. You can find out more about CIM courses here. There are also many free online courses such as Google Analytics Academy that gives an insight into digital marketing. Click here for more information on Google Analytics Academy courses.

Having an interest in the market of the job you apply for will help but it’s not essential. A proportion of marketing is being able to put yourself in your customers' shoes. This is much easier to do if you are a potential customer or have an interest in the product or service.

Networking is an important aspect of marketing. Speaking with people who have progressed and are successful in their careers will be able to provide you with useful advice. CIM hold networking events that you can learn more about in your own time here.

Ensure all your profiles on recruitment websites are up to date, especially Linkedin. Social media is often a tool recruitment agencies and employers will use to paint a picture of potential candidates.

To find out more on how you could accelerate your budding marketing career, take a look at 5 ways to fast track your marketing career for further advice.

First-hand marketing experience from marketers and recruiters

Maddie Stewart, International Marketing and Communications Manager, University of Sheffield: “When I graduated from my undergrad degree in Linguistics, I was at a bit of a loss for what to do career-wise. Traditional grad scheme roles can be very competitive and I wanted to stay in the north. Most degrees help you develop research and analytical skills and I was able to translate these skills into a role in market intelligence and analysis at a local university. It’s not a role you typically think about when you think of marketing, but it taught me about the importance of using data and insight when developing marketing strategies and measuring impact and it’s something I’ve drawn upon in all my other roles since. Though it’s not essential for many roles, studying a CIM qualification gave me the confidence to apply for more senior positions.

“I still love the delivery of a new print project, though we try to pursue a digital-first approach to reduce the environmental impact where possible. Working on projects from initial inception right through to delivery is really rewarding and I even enjoy doing the post-project analysis to check we hit our objectives.

“One of the great things about working in marketing is the variety of activities that you get involved in and lead on. Being able to manage multiple projects and stakeholders is essential to my current role [as International Marketing and Communications Manager] and I’m always juggling different priorities and requests, alongside (hopefully) being a supportive leader and manager to my team.”

Sarah-Lee Neesam, Business Services Director, Elevation Recruitment Group: “Marketing has changed a lot in the last 5 years and the industry is continuing to develop, with more focus on digital skill sets. These changes have meant a lot of graduates have chosen to specialise in a specific area of marketing i.e. SEO, PPC, E-Commerce etc. Although these are key functions and there is a demand for these skills in the current market, my concern as a marketing recruiter is what the future of senior marketer’s will look like. We currently have an excellent source of Marketing Directors – however in 10 years’ time, if everyone has become a specialist – who will lead these teams?

“A key area that recruiters look for in marketing professionals is experience and commercial numbers. CVs need to demonstrate that a candidate can show what they have spent their budget on and what return this has provided for their organisation. For graduates, although having a degree is often a crucial part of our search, it is also important that candidates have gained some life experience either in the form of a placement year or part-time work or even volunteering within a marketing discipline. This will allow you to stand out from other graduates and also show that you can marry what you have learned with practical hands-on experience. Whatever part of marketing you decide to focus on, being able to understand all channels and the impact each channel has on each other I feel will be beneficial to both you as a marketer but also to the company you join.”


Hayden Francis is the Communications Ambassador for the CIM Yorkshire Region and Marketing Executive for ITM Power - a manufacturer of hydrogen energy systems. He is based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

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