If you’re struggling to find a marketing internship, you’re not alone. In fact, about 4 in 10 graduate without a single internship. But employers expect undergraduates to leave college with some professional experience. So, what can you do instead?
In this article, we’ll cover five ways you can stand out as a student marketer without any internship experience. And guess what: every single method costs nothing but time. By trying out these side projects, you’re signaling to employers you’re ready to tackle the professional marketing world.
Launch a social media account
Billions of people go on social media every day, and businesses have made it a core piece of their marketing strategy.
By creating and running a social media account, you’re able to demonstrate to employers the necessary skills to succeed in marketing, including:
- Graphic Design
- Community Management
To get started, write down a list of topics you’re interested in. Consider launching a blog focused on travel, food, or even marketing. Check out similar pages to see what makes them successful. Ask your friends for advice on how to best position your social media presence.
Next, simply create an account on one of the major platforms. If your topic relies heavily on visuals, Instagram or Pinterest might work best for you. You want to reach your audience where they’re most likely to find you, so take time to consider how each platform can benefit your topic.
Take a look at the following example, Bucknell Dorm Eats, founded by two college students.
As the name suggests, this Instagram page features tons of delicious food found in the area around Bucknell. And get this: marketing students created the page. Why? Because they’re able to show off their social media skills while eating yummy food. It’s a win-win.
Now that you understand the benefits of creating a social media account, consider creating one to refine and showcase your marketing skills.
Participate in a marketing case competition
Have you ever thought of a marketing campaign for a company and wished you could implement it? Marketing case competitions are a great way to get started.
In these competitions, you team up with other students to develop creative and innovative marketing campaigns. They require you to think critically about concepts you learned in class, from consumer behavior to strategy. In addition to showcasing your creativity and critical thinking abilities, these competitions help demonstrate skills in:
- Problem Solving
- Public Speaking
Depending on who hosts the competition, you also have the ability to network with huge companies. Instead of applying against thousands of other applicants, participating in these competitions gives you face time you really can’t find anywhere else.
To participate in one, you need to research competitions individually. Often, they operate on lengthy timelines and happen throughout the year. Here’s a list of several marketing ones and their sponsors to help you get started:
- The Digital Marketing Competition – Amplified Digital
- The National Student Advertising Competition – Oculus
- Collegiate Awards & Competitions – American Marketing Association
- Brandstorm – L’Oréal
- Online Marketing Challenge – Google
Remember to contact your school’s career center for information on case competitions hosted at your university.
Even if you don’t win, your presentations and research will demonstrate to future employers your ability to apply concepts to real-world settings.
Conduct independent market research
Securing an internship can often take months of applying, networking, and interviewing. While they are undeniably important in gathering marketing skills, conducting your own market research can also help demonstrate more technical and analytical abilities, including:
- Data Analytics
- Consumer Behavior
- Project Management
Before diving into your research, assess your interests and overall skillset. Do you like to work with numbers or are you more creative? Do you see yourself working in a specific industry? These are great questions to answer as you determine the focus of your market research.
Importantly, you need to conduct initial market research to help develop a hypothesis. Once you conduct your research through surveys or interviews, what do you expect will happen? Will participants have a negative perception of a brand when compared to another? How will they perceive different marketing campaigns?
Take a look at the following market research report I published on Spotify. Note: I conducted this research before securing any internship.
At the time, I wanted to intern at Spotify – so I chose to focus on how its users viewed the app’s personalized experiences, such as Spotify Wrapped. I hypothesized that consumers wanted Spotify to create more of these features. And after receiving over 130 survey responses, I validated my initial thought.
Although I didn’t end up working at Spotify, I used this report in several of my future interviews – and it often impressed recruiters and hiring managers. And it cost me nothing to produce.
So take the time to figure out how to best approach your research – and know the result will help you stand out.
Get certifications from Google, HubSpot, and more
As a student, you already have tons of knowledge of theoretical marketing concepts. Now, you should consider completing online certifications to refine your marketing skills. They are a great way to demonstrate not only what you learn in the course, but your commitment to lifelong learning. Recruiters love to see candidates who want to pursue more knowledge – especially in an ever-changing field like marketing.
While several certificates cost thousands of dollars to complete, many highly-regarded organizations offer free ones. Take a look at the following list of certifications offered:
- HubSpot Marketing Software
- Content Marketing
- Inbound Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Digital Advertising
- Digital Marketing
Take a look through the options above and allocate time to get started. By putting certifications on your resume, you’re signaling to prospective employers your commitment to staying up-to-date on marketing trends.
Still not convinced? Check out our deep dive into how certifications can help you get hired.
Start cold emailing other marketers
While the methods above provide essential marketing skills, you should also start expanding your network. Unfortunately, a lot of roles get filled internally through references. In fact, one in five roles were filled internally in 2020. Sure, what you know matters – but so does who you know.
To start, use LinkedIn’s search to find professionals to contact. If you hope to become a marketing manager one day, search that title and look at the options available. Consider refining your search by filtering for those who went to your school – the more personal you can get, the better.
Consider the following example email I sent this past month which helped me set up an informational chat.
A successful outreach email focuses primarily on personalization. In other words, avoid mass outreach emails – your response rate will likely suffer. Instead, relate your experiences to theirs. Did you both go to the same school? Are you both from the same area? Did you like a recent blog they published? Include these details in the email.
By conducting outreach, you will develop the following skills:
- Project Management
Having gotten to the end of the article, you should now have a solid idea of where to begin. Whether you launch a travel-themed social media account or send messages to professional marketers, you will set yourself up for success and, more importantly, stand out as a great student marketer.
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