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My experience with undergraduate students
One of the questions I am often asked by undergraduate students is whether or not they should follow a career in marketing. Often their first exposure to marketing is in marketing principles or marketing 101 at university. Sometimes they come across marketing by accident by simply choosing it as interesting elective, or marketing forms part of the core program for their business undergraduate degree.
The answer is yes and no depending upon the individual student, their work preferences, and their overall mix of skills. While marketing is an interesting and challenging career – it is not everybody.
Almost an accountant
When I first left school, I had plans of becoming an accountant – primarily because I was strong in both maths and economics, and I thought accounting would be a good combination of both these disciplines.
It took me a few semesters to realize that accounting was probably not the most appropriate career path for someone like me. I have an interesting mix of analytical and creative thinking styles – much like a scientist perhaps – but more interested in business practice and activities.
Why I switched to marketing
I realized during my initial study time at university that a career path and accounting – where I would probably be involved in repetitive monthly reporting, profit analysis of different issues, review of ratios and so on – while technically not presenting a problem for me, the idea of a relatively competitive and stable series of work tasks was probably not going to challenge me in the long-term.
I found I was far more suited to a marketing career because I was very much interested in new challenges and problem solving, by being able to apply both an analytical and creative mind.
For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed my 20 years or so in corporate marketing. The range and scope of challenges was immense and constantly changing. Even moving from a similar role from one firm to another within the same industry presented significant new challenges to address – no two marketing strategies are alike, because no two organizations have the same strengths and weaknesses.
Therefore, for someone like myself, who enjoys variety that is somewhat entrepreneurial, the marketing profession was an ideal career path. And in recent years, the profession of marketing have shifted towards being considered a “profit manager” for an organization – and some people like this responsibility and others would prefer to avoid it.
However, there are certainly students that I come across who will probably not strong problem solvers and would probably benefit from a more stable and regular work environment. There are certainly people who enjoy more repetitive business tasks, perhaps such as accounting, as was my original career intention.
Test and trial
What I usually suggest to students who are uncertain about their career is to try a variety of different subjects at university while they have the opportunity and to also think about their preferences in terms of how they like to work. There are obviously numerous online personality and psychometric testing options now available, which also would be beneficial in terms of identifying your skill set.
You should also review the section on what a marketer does.