You’ve been thinking about a career in marketing or public relations, but do you really know what those jobs entail? Perhaps you see yourself in a creative role and love the idea of developing concepts to help sell products or promote an idea. These careers have a seductive quality that tends to suck people in; they seem glamorous and cutting edge, but all is not what it seems. This image belies the reality of long hours, menial duties and sometimes having to behave enthusiastically about subjects or products that bore you to tears. That’s not to say that the job isn’t fun and rewarding too, presuming you have the right skills and personality traits, but it requires total self-honesty to understand whether this job is right for you. This article will outline the qualifications, skills and personality traits necessary for a career in marketing and public relations.
To make it in PR and marketing, you’ll soon discover that talent and experience trump academic and professional qualifications. The ability to learn quickly is absolutely vital, and you’ll be expected to have good literacy and numeracy skills. It also helps if you have a degree or diploma in marketing or business, although a degree in other subjects can’t hurt your chances. Knowledge of business procedures, experience working in an office and good contacts make all the difference. The best contacts are those who can act as a reference for you, or help with networking opportunities. It also goes without saying that you will need to be computer literate and internet savvy. Depending on your exact job description, knowing your way around social media and content management systems can be a vital part of the job.
All the qualifications in the world won’t make a difference if you don’t have the skills for marketing and PR. It might seem obvious that if you work in a creative job, you’ll need a good imagination, the ability to understand complex or abstract concepts and the ability to communicate your ideas to a wider audience. However, depending on your job within the company, you will need many different skills such as public speaking, analytical ability and the capacity to rapidly process information. Some skills are important in all areas of marketing, namely: communication skills, organizational ability and team-working skills.
Communication is vital at every level and some candidates might think they have great communication skills because they are confident and chatty. Very few people know how to communicate effectively; they tend to talk a lot but fail to listen and adequately interpret what is being said to them. Listening to clients is extremely important as sometimes they are not sure what they need so it is the employee’s job to read through the lines in order to best serve them. Likewise, the employee needs to understand non-verbal communication (body language) and respond accordingly. The marketing employee should be able to speak clearly and persuasively to both their clients and colleagues, and the same applies to their written skills.
Organizational skills are a vital component of the job because you will be meeting people, researching, planning schedules and working with tight deadlines. It’s very likely that you will be working on a number of accounts at the same time and have different departments within the organization making demands on your time, so deftly switching between tasks without getting stressed will help a lot. It also pays to be financially aware, as most of your activities have to be performed within a strict budgetary constraint, and the ability to negotiate will be valued by your employer. In PR, you’ll be expected to organize events and coordinate all aspects of the occasion from caterers and invitations to venues and transportation, so it’s imperative to remain calm and in control. This is where teamwork comes into play, because everyone needs to pull together to ensure a project or event goes smoothly.
It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of a certain career without properly researching it. This is particularly true of marketing and public relations where people are misled by the image of high excitement and perceived glamour. If people analyzed themselves more before applying for jobs, they could probably avoid the misery of being in a career that’s a bad fit. The psychological profile of someone who suits this line of work is usually someone creative and outgoing. Of course, it depends what role you have within the company, but someone in sales or event planning should obviously be confident and comfortable enough to talk to people and negotiate. Naturally reticent people may have a job behind the scenes but they will still be expected to attend meetings and teamwork skills are a must.
Conversely, if you get into marketing and PR expecting the job to be one long party, you will also be in for a shock; it’s tough. You will be paid to attend parties, but you’ll have to ensure the smooth running of the event and be on your best behavior, never letting your attention wander – which can be highly draining. Stamina and enthusiasm are vital to the job, hours are irregular and a flexible mindset is required. The ability to adapt to a variety of tasks will serve you well. Sometimes the work will be very mundane, such as stuffing envelopes and taking minutes in a meeting, but the ability to work well with colleagues is highly valued. Contrary to popular belief, a competitive personality is not helpful in marketing, and sometimes for very driven and ambitious people (which is a beneficial trait) reining that side of themselves in can be a challenge. Most of all, you should love what you do in order to withstand all the other demands.
As you can see, in order to thrive in marketing and PR, certain skills and characteristics are required. That’s not to say, a candidate needs to give up their individuality, but it’s certainly not a career for wallflowers and loners. It’s equally not an industry for extroverted hedonists, as the job entails quite a lot responsibility and a calm head for solving problems. Proven talent and work experience are more important than qualifications, but the ability to communicate at all levels and the knack for diplomacy and quick-thinking are highly prized skills. It’s vital to honestly analyze your interests and personality to determine if you are psychologically suited to a career in marketing or PR. The market is extremely competitive and you will be up against countless talented applicants. Therefore, it is necessary to have the passion, knowledge and persistence to convince employers that you have what it takes to succeed and go the extra mile.
Not sure if this is the career path for you? Engage with one of our Career Coaches to identify how your passion and experience align to determine what types of roles would best for you!