9 Life Lessons for Starting a Career in Marketing

starting a career in marketing

Are you looking for a career in marketing? Are you wondering what it takes to be successful in the industry? At Olive & Company, we know what it takes. We’re sharing our best advice so you can begin honing the skills necessary to succeed in our fast-paced, ever-changing world. No matter what facet of the industry you’re interested in, these tips from experts with established marketing careers will help you land your own marketing job.

Be Bold. Be Brave.

Author Benjamin Mee once said, “Sometimes, all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” To that, we say: Network. Try stuff. Meet people. Fail. Take on projects. Join organizations. Invite people to coffee. Get rejected, and don’t take anything personally.

If you want a career in marketing, you have to be willing to adapt, take risks, and be bold—because your success and the success of your clients depends on it. As you embark on your marketing career, challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. This will show your employer and your coworkers that you can handle difficult situations with poise. They’ll know they can rely on you when deadlines creep up or spirits get down.

Understand Agencies.

Large agencies operate differently from small agencies, and it’s important to understand the distinctions between the two. At larger agencies, you’ll likely be part of a team assigned to a specific client project. Smaller agencies operate with “all hands on deck.” With fewer people on staff to assign certain roles and responsibilities, employees are often asked to collaborate with coworkers and dip their feet into a wider variety of project types.

Large and small agencies aren’t necessarily better than one another. Different work environments appeal to different people, which is why you should consider a couple factors before deciding where you want to work. Ask yourself whether you’d like to work on a variety of project types, or if you’d rather home in on one specific industry or brand. Consider staff size, office culture, and company benefits, too, before committing to a marketing agency job. Whether you end up somewhere large or small, get ready to roll up your sleeves and work hard.

Learn To Write.

“Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet,” says Kyle Wiens at Harvard Business Review. “In blogs posts, on Facebook statuses, in emails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. Good grammar makes good business sense.”

If you want a career in marketing, you have to be willing to adapt, take risks, and be bold—because your success and the success of your clients depends on it.

You don’t have to be a copywriter or a poet, but knowing how to put words on a page will benefit your career in countless ways. It’s crucial to be able to clearly communicate the point you’re trying to make when collaborating with coworkers—and certainly with clients.

In today’s digitally dominant world, we communicate primarily through communication channels like email, Slack, and social media. If you don’t know how to write, you likely won’t be taken seriously. And, more importantly, a misstep in communication could wreak havoc on a project, potentially ruining a client relationship or slowing down a project timeline.

Be Careful on Social Media.

When you apply for a job, potential employers may check your social media profiles, and even relatively benign comments can sometimes make the difference between landing an interview or not. A Monster survey found that 84 percent of employers use social media in their recruitment efforts. Among the reasons employers were turned off from a certain candidate after reviewing their online presence, posting inappropriate photos and videos on social media topped the list.

It’s not all bad news. Social media gives us the ability to create an impressive, professional online presence that recruiters and employers gravitate toward. According to Monster editor Liz Torres, “On social media, you have the time to craft what you bring to the table, and to add color and to become more memorable. That’s the main benefit of social media.” You don’t have to be active on every social media platform; just make sure the ones you use showcase your best self.


Whether you’re in an internship or you’re running your own global ad agency, never stop hustling. It’s an incredibly competitive industry, and you have to be willing to put in the effort to succeed. As Ross Simmonds put it, “Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle.”

What do we mean when we say “hustle?” To hustle is to step up to the plate, no matter what the task. It means working hard and approaching every day with tenacity and determination. It’s not always easy, but hustling for what you want—especially in your career—will always be worth it. It shows your employer you’re serious about your work, and you care about what you do.

Mind the Details.

In an application, in an interview, in a follow-up note, in everything you do … pay attention to the details. Especially when you’re first starting out in your career, don’t give anyone the chance to question you or ignore you. When you pay attention to the details, you’ll be prepared with an answer to any question, and a defense to any retort. Paying attention to detail encompasses any number of work-related tasks, such as:

  • Beginning projects early to allow plenty of time for iterations and improvements
  • Re-reading emails, proposals, and other work for poor spelling and grammar
  • Double-checking your formatting and font choice before hitting ‘publish’ or ‘send’

According to LinkedIn Influencer Josh Bersin, “If you don’t focus and try to pay attention to detail, your mistakes will define you. And that is a reputation you don’t want.”

Stay Positive and Solve Problems.

Everyone has bad days, and everyone has struggles, but employers want team members who offer solutions and positivity. According to our Partner and Chief Strategy Officer, Erik Norsted, “It may sound like a small thing, but—trust me—it’s not.” Aside from improving your work environment, fostering a culture of positivity can actually save your company money.

In workplaces where negativity is welcome, employees wind up disengaged and stressed out, which can lead to 37 percent higher absenteeism and 60 percent more work-related errors and accidents, according to Gallup. What’s more, workplace stress can lead to an increase in voluntary turnover by nearly 50 percent. Long story short, positivity pays off!

Know What YOU Want.

What type of role are you looking for? What kind of work do you enjoy? Are you a people person, or do you prefer working with headphones on all day? Do you want to rise up the ranks at a big agency, or do you want to start your own boutique firm by the time you’re 30? These are the type of questions you should ask yourself to ensure you don’t wind up working a job you dislike.

As you begin searching for a marketing career, you’ll likely be bombarded with recommendations about where to apply, what to focus on, and who to speak to. These suggestions can be helpful, but don’t let them dictate your career path. By participating in internships, attending agency tours, and asking professionals for informational interviews, you can get a feel for what you like and dislike about the industry and begin to develop a clearer picture about what you want your marketing agency job to look like. Use the knowledge you gain during these conversations to inform your decisions, and then go forward and forge your own path.

Learn to Learn.

The ability and desire to learn is the single most important thing we look for when hiring someone to work at Olive & Company. Modern brand marketing requires a commitment to ongoing learning, and the candidates with a passion for learning are always the ones who rise to the top. A 2016 Pew Research study found that 87 percent of workers believe attending training and developing new skills is essential in order to keep up with changes in the workplace—and they’re right. In fact, Forbes says the future of your career depends on lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning can take many shapes. Online tools like Lynda and Udacity allow you to take self-paced courses to further develop your skill set. Podcasts, blogs, and books can help keep you up-to-date on industry trends, while strengthening your understanding of the field. However you prefer to consume content, strive to make continual learning part of your daily routine.

Go Get ’Em.

Just like anything else in life, you’ll get out of your marketing career what you put into it. By knowing what you want, working hard, remaining positive, and staying up-to-date on industry trends, you’ll be a successful marketer in no time.

Before you can wow your new boss and coworkers, you have to land an interview. Get noticed by recruiters and employers by beefing up your personal brand on LinkedIn in three easy steps.

Erika Voeller

Erika Voeller

Erika is passionate about content creation and brand growth. As a copywriter, she uses her talent for writing to help elevate brands. When she's not writing, you'll find her practicing yoga, exploring Minneapolis, or sipping on iced coffee.