Meet Samantha Pearce. Sam finished high school and studied a marketing degree in the UK. Her early career was spent in professional marketing roles in the UK and Sydney, working for a major global workplace solutions firm. Sam loves working with people – the relational aspect, as well as the obvious opportunity to combine creative flair with business savvy – it’s what attracted her to marketing in the first place.

But along the way, waking up every day to a professional marketing role in a corporate environment lost its charm for her. Still pursuing traditional marketing roles, Sam attended an interview with Chandler Macleod and experienced an epiphany – there was a whole new career out there for someone with her people, time management and project coordination skills. Three years down the track, Sam is our top billing recruitment consultant for sales and marketing professionals in Australia, and reigning Employee of the Year.

For many marketing professionals, identifying and pursuing a new career path is very challenging. If you believe some of the statistics touted about career mobility, most of us will change jobs 29 times and careers five to seven times during our working lives. This makes a lot of sense – very few people have the same motivations and aspirations at 45 or 35 than at 20, which is the age many people make their first serious career decision, using their hard-earned qualifications to earn an income. The starting point for marketing professionals eager to pursue a new career direction is identifying those transferable skills and experiences built up during your marketing career.

What are transferable skills?

A study conducted by Chandler Macleod, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry across more than 200 enterprises and employer groups identified a number of so-called ‘employability skills’. These are defined as skills required to not only gain employment, but also to progress and contribute successfully to enterprise strategic directions. These skills vary in use and weighting from job to job:

  • communication: understanding verbal instructions, empathy, speaking effectively, persuasiveness, assertiveness, information sharing, networking, customer focus
  • teamwork: accepting diversity, working as part of a team, motivating others
  • problem solving: using numbers, reasoning with words, using written information, reasoning with numbers
  • initiative and enterprise: initiative, self-sufficiency, business acumen, creativity and innovation
  • planning and organisation: goal-setting, planning, managing work, managing others
  • self-management: responsibility, approach to work, self-confidence, coping with pressure
  • learning: handling feedback, self-development, determination, flexibility, and
  • technology: computer literacy, safety compliance.

When you think about your average marketing professional, many of these competencies are apparent in spades. Anyone who has successfully managed a large campaign has needed to be assertive, to understand both verbal and written instructions, to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing, to plan and problem-solve, to be self-sufficient and to influence and manage the work of others, and to cope with significant pressure (deadlines, budget, suppliers, customer expectations) with a can-do attitude.

Marketing professionals are usually solid project managers who have strong relationship and people coordination skills, as well as the ability to work within and deliver to defined budgets. Good marketers are also excellent business and strategy developers, and their enhanced communication skills set them up for a range of other career opportunities.

So by rights, marketers should find career mobility pretty straightforward. After all, they possess most of the essential skills and if anyone knows how to sell via written communication (i.e. application and résumé), it’s a marketer, right? Well, not always – and often this is due to a combination of taking a scattergun approach to pursuing opportunities, and a generic approach to the application process.

A unique offering

Finding a new career path necessitates a strategic approach. Every recruiter in Australia has experienced ‘serial applicants’ – those job seekers who supply the same generic application and résumé to any advertised position – and generally, these applicants are avoided. This is not to say they have nothing to offer, rather they are not selling themselves into the right opportunities in the right ways.

Taking this scattergun approach is where many marketers seeking a career change go wrong. Just like product development, one of the early considerations must be market research and the creation of an offering tailored to the needs of the target market – in this case, an employer.

For each opportunity you plan to pursue, take the time to research the company, industry and role, and align your application accordingly. The obvious place to source this information is on the web, but reading industry journals and attending job function or industry specific networking events will also be useful.

Focus your résumé on your transferable skills and the results you have achieved when applying these skills throughout your career. Be upfront about the fact that your background may differ from the ideal stated in the ad, and point to how the skills you do possess will add value. Specify why you wish to pursue this new career direction and acknowledge that it will require some relearning.

Talk in the language of the industry or role you are seeking, not in the jargon you may be used to as a marketer, but which can mean little to someone outside the profession.
In many instances, your first point of contact will be with a recruitment consultant rather than the end employer. Use this to your advantage, because if you form a great relationship with your consultant, they will become your greatest advocate and pave the way to opportunities into which you may not have been successful selling yourself on your own. Explain your career motivations to the consultant, ask questions, listen to advice and be prepared to take the advice you’ve been given.

Which way to turn?

Making a career change doesn’t always mean an entirely new direction. It may well be that a change of role within the marketing profession will provide new challenges and the opportunity to leverage existing skills in a new way. A change in vertical industry focus, a shift from product to services marketing, or switching from agency to client side can be just as rewarding.

For marketing generalists, an opportunity for change may come from considering a move into a more specialist focus. Direct marketers, product marketers, online specialists, campaign managers and brand managers are in particular demand. In large corporate environments, marketing roles housed outside of the centralised marketing department are emerging; for example, employer branding specialists who work within HR departments and use their marketing expertise to develop employee acquisition, retention and communication strategies to enhance employer attractiveness. 

For those marketing professionals, however, who seek a greater level of change, transferable skills in project, business, people and budget management can result in opportunities in such fields as:

  • Project management – particularly in the IT and professional services sectors. There is an important caveat here, however – read the job description thoroughly to ensure that the role is not biased towards the technical. Look for keywords such as ‘strategic’ and ‘cross-functional’.
  • Product management – demand in this area is high as organisations seek greater speed to market for product offerings. Marketing is at the core of these roles, but far from being simply a sales function, emerging product management roles encompass training, stock and inventory, forecasting, development and strategic planning. Salaries for product management roles are on the rise, particularly in FMCG, IT and telco sectors.
  • Recruitment – far be it for us to beat our own drum, but professional marketers can often make terrific recruitment consultants and have the potential to earn significant incomes. People, relationship, budget and project management are at the heart of effective recruitment, and the insider industry knowledge and networks most marketers possess pave the way for the solid transition into a marketing recruitment specialist.
  • Strategic relationship management – working alongside a sales team, strategic relationship and alliance managers operate largely in the B2B services sector and seek to enhance client relationships through cross-selling and other strategies designed to secure client profitability and loyalty. While the business development and hard sales component is usually left to the sales team, relationship and alliance managers will work to agreed numeric targets and can receive excellent bonuses and commissions.