Experience Vs Qualifications – the debate rages on…
A recent discussion in LinkedIn’s largest group for UK-based marketing professionals, the UK Marketing Lounge, highlights a frequently encountered dilemma for recent marketing graduates and job seekers: What are employers looking for in the ideal marketing candidate? In today’s competitive jobs climate it can be difficult to gauge what exactly is most valued in a candidate. Is it qualifications of experience?
Thanks to the Cambridge Marketing College for this summary of the discussion:
When you start out with limited or no experience, but have a degree under your belt, most employers will see that, if nothing else, you have the ability to learn and think clearly. Qualifications infer to an employer that you’ve reached a certifiable level of knowledge. Graham Jackson, Director at Klarity Marketing Ltd, writes that a degree also sets the ceiling that you can rise to: people with degrees will climb higher on the management ladder leaving their less qualified colleagues behind, says Jackson.
Furthermore, some corporate companies insist on ticking boxes, so certain qualifications are required. Sometimes the job specification state that a graduate degree is an essential. Qualifications are also regularly used to screen very able candidates out of the running at stage 1 of the recruitment process. This is why it is important to know what the job role requires. If you’re applying for a specific marketing job that asks for a specialized degree or qualification and you haven’t got it, chances are you’re not going to be successful.
The discussion also emphasized that ‘switched-on’ students can get internships, do voluntary work placements, shadowing and begin building a network while at university. This ensures graduates can matriculate with a qualification, some experience, and some contacts. Certain jobs state that a degree is necessary, but in many cases graduates will also need experience and contacts to be considered.
To be an effective marketer you need a sound theoretical grounding. A degree in marketing is extremely valuable to employers as it shows that the candidate has a holistic and complete view of marketing. This highlights the importance of ‘relevance,’ whether your qualifications are relevant to a job, and the importance of specific qualifications.
It is crucial to refresh your knowledge with constant learning, development and growth. For instance specialist courses offered by bodies such as the CIM allow marketers to gain skills in a particular area. In a comment made to the online discussion, Emma Stevens, Marketing Manager at Roundpoint, emphasized that marketers have to keep updating their skills because they are expected to be experts in so many areas.
Qualifications are meant to accelerate your career and show an employer that you’ve reached a certain level of knowledge in a specific area or field. It is no longer enough to simply gain a degree and stop there.
The best qualifications, without work experience, show employers that you’ve simply ‘done a course’. For a candidate to stand out, it’s important to prove you can apply what you’ve learned.
Many job seekers are told that their level of education is sufficient, but ideally employers want some marketing background. Ammon Johns, an Internet Marketing Consultant, commented that “three years of actual working knowledge trumps the degree to any employer looking to play it safe.”
In today’s economy companies can afford to be selective and choose an applicant that has everything in the job specification. Academic knowledge is all well and good but if it cannot be applied to the business world, or accompanied by sufficient experience, or the candidate has no diversity outside of their degree, then they are seen as less valuable to an employer.
There are an abundance of candidates in the market with degrees and transferable skills, but they are not successful because they have no work experience. Systems Trainer Murad Sheikh believes it’s your ability that makes you stand out from the crowd. Experience is proof that you can successfully put into practice what you’ve learned, thus of more importance, Sheikh writes.
If you’re trying to break into marketing then don’t underestimate your network. Focus on your connections while you are building up your experience and working on your qualifications. If you neglect cultivating relationships then you increase your chances of being in an even more competitive situation when job hunting. Hannah McNamara, Managing Director at HRM Coaching Ltd, states that most vacancies are filled through networks. Building up a network can help get you through the door.
Given the current jobs market, employers can be as picky as they want as the supply of qualified candidates now outweighs demand by some margin. Kennedy Mutandiro, Brand/Product Manager at Reckitt Benckiser, writes in the forum that the most valued skill is not experience or academia but who you know that wins hands down.
The Right Mix
The discussion indicates that gaining successful employment is not dependent on either qualification or experience, but a combination of both mixed with personality. Annette Clubley, Projects Director at Hughes Media Internet, writes that ability combined with experience is more valued by employers than qualifications, unless they are relevant and the industry requires them.
David Prescod, Founder at Digital Marketing Mentor Ltd, believes that qualifications and experience are equally important components of marketing yourself as a product, rather than being an ‘either or’ question. Especially at entry-level where what matters are qualified candidates who can also show some awareness of marketing, who have a good ability to think clearly and can apply their knowledge.
The industry also plays an important part in deciding what is required in a job candidate. Wade Eagar, Head of Online at Danone Medical Nutrition, writes that the digital marketing channel is ever changing, and legacy qualifications don’t really mean much. He states that past experience is only valuable if it is in the specialized area you are aiming to be hired in. Eagar also believes that the deciding factors are personality and fit. This highlights the importance of looking at the job specifications and the industry you’re trying to get into or progress in.
The Marketers Toolbox
Striking the balance of having a relevant qualification, some work experience, a good network and an agreeable personality are all important components of the marketers ‘toolbox’, and essential for candidates looking for that perfect marketing job.
Of course every job is different and each employer will value different elements of the toolbox to differing degrees. Nevertheless, the comments from the UK Marketing Lounge discussion highlight that each component will be of value as you make your way in the profession. Qualifications and experience are necessary, and your personality and network might just be the things that give you the edge over other candidates, especially when battling through today’s competitive job market.
Edited by Simon Lewis | Only Marketing Jobs