How to Help Young Marketers Gain Career Experience

Last week, I was on vacation in sunny Florida, and boy did I work. Well, I didn’t work for the agency, but I worked my marketing brain a bunch. And then I had an idea. (Hang with me, it takes a few paragraphs to get there.)

Y’see, after the kids all went to bed, some of the adults would stand outside and chat about the days events. Inevitably, the conversation always turns to “so, what do you do?” Like many of you, I work in emarketing, which includes advertising, branding, strategy, and all that good stuff.

One of the guys on vacation was a small business owner struggling with his company’s place in the competitive landscape. He had built a successful business, but was losing market share in key battlegrounds. The specific details aren’t important, but suffice to say, I put on my marketing hat and we talked for hours about his challenges. In my mind, his next steps included (but weren’t limited to) a SWOT analysis and a repositioning of his brand identity.

Marketing Experience
It all seems to be going well, but at a certain point, I realize I can’t help this guy any further. He needs an agency that’s geared up for his specific marketing needs.

Unfortunately, he’s already struggling, so hiring a marketing agency — even an agency with reasonable rates — may not be feasible. He’s just trying to keep the lights on and his staff employed.

But what if there was a database of young, hungry marketers who were willing to help out a small client in exchange for something they could add to their portfolio? Maybe barter some services, if that’s an option.

I’m not talking about an independent website here. I’m thinking something organized by a national registry of marketers who want to add something substantial to their portfolio, but do not know where to start.

For example, I write books, which you can find on Amazon. The advantage of this is that I can actually roll up my sleeves and market my own product. Advertising, promotion, public relations; it’s all mine to execute as part of my promotional strategy. I learn from my successes and my failures, which don’t adversely impact my agency clients.

But what if you don’t have a product? Making one to market it makes no sense. That’s going to take time away from what you really want to do, which is be a skilled marketer. And skills come from practice.

It would be extremely helpful if young marketers could find a small business that needed some marketing support. That would give them the opportunity to develop a real-world marketing plan, execute it, and manage the campaign. Of course, young marketers do things like this in school, but that’s a school thing. You learn certain things in school and other things in the field.

In an ideal situation, there would be a searchable database of potential clients. Young marketers could do a few searches in their area and try to find a client. They could read up about the client’s challenges and then try to figure out if they’d be able to market their brand. Or, like Google’s “I feel lucky” search, they could just roll the dice and hit a button that randomly matches them with a local business that needs marketing support.

As a manager, it’s so hard to tell if a recent graduate (or even a person a few years out of college) is going to be a good performer. The business and marketing case studies are great learning tools, but I am looking for something that tells me that the candidate is going to bring passion and energy and new ideas to the agency.

In my mind, it’s a win-win. The junior marketer gets some essential real-world experience and the independent business gets some low-cost consulting. Maybe in the future, the client will even be ready (and better positioned) to hire a small agency to help them explore additional marketing services.

More than anything, I’d like to see young marketers get a chance to work on their own account in a low-pressure situation. They could try out their ideas and see what works and what doesn’t work. Plus, a little pro bono work drops a few deposits in the karma bank. And in the afterlife, you shall receive total consciousness, so you’ll have that going for you.

I’d love to see someone’s working portfolio that shows how they are working with a small, independent business to help them increase sales or some other key performance indicator. I’d like to see how you take a small budget, a tough client, and a short deadline and create a smart emarketing campaign. Now, THAT would be impressive.


PS: If this already exists, please feel free to respond and post a link or two.

2 thoughts on “How to Help Young Marketers Gain Career Experience

  1. Love the idea, I think a good place to start would be universities. My school had a program where the entire class would work on a project with real clients for free. The professor over saw the work, so their was proper guidance but each student had a chance to get their piece selected. I think building on a larger database of universities that want to be involved would be great. If the work increases a business profits, maybe even a donation back to the school would be a great “good faith” move. Nice article!

  2. Ross – Giving back to your school is a time-honored tradition. If you can give back in a more structured way — like creating a database of young marketers eager to gain experience — you are doing even more than that. Finding talented young marketers is hard because they have little real-world experience. The classroom exercises are great and necessary. As a manager, I want to see more than that. Real, actual working experience.

    Spread this around. Hopefully it will reach the right hands and the right people will do something to begin making this connection.

    Thanks for the comments!

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