While marketing, advertising, and PR jobs are usually popular options among graduates in Malaysia, the reality is that there usually aren't as many entry-level positions available in this line of work, especially when compared to other industries like banking or engineering. This is because employers hiring for such roles usually place a great deal of importance on prior working experience, given the very hands-on nature of the work.
However, it’s crucial to remember that there are still positions available for graduates, though you must be prepared to compete for them. Plus, even if you are unable to find work in marketing immediately after graduation, there are still ways you can acquire expertise and abilities in the field to back up your future job applications.
With that said, here are some tips on how you can source for opportunities in this incredibly competitive line of work.
Join a non-marketing graduate programme
Regardless of the industry, large companies usually have in-house marketing divisions to promote their products and services. Those that do run dedicated graduate programmes will typically rotate accepted candidates across multiple divisions or roles within their organisation until they find a fit that makes best use of a candidate’s knowledge and strengths.
This means that you can try joining a graduate programme with the intent of being placed in your employer’s marketing team eventually. There’s no harm in applying for general graduate programmes to see if employers do have options for marketing placements within their programme rotations. This might open you up to even more opportunities that you may never have considered previously!
However, if you apply for positions like this, it is important not only to prove your interest in marketing, but also your interest in the industry. For example, if you do apply for a pharmaceutical company’s graduate programme, you can expect to be asked: “Why do you want to work in the pharmaceuticals industry?” Knowing what you’re talking about and being enthusiastic about what draws you to the work will be a massive point in your favour.
Go out and network your way into jobs
Many marketing, advertising, and PR jobs are usually unadvertised, and there are also many open positions with smaller employers that do not attract much attention. So you will have to be a bit bolder and put yourself out there by connecting with as many potential employers as possible or applying speculatively.
Attend career fairs, employer networking sessions, or on-campus talks by companies and speak to company representatives. Find attractive companies/agencies online or on LinkedIn and contact them directly to see if they have any positions available. Tap into your personal and professional networks – you never know who might be hiring or open to having a conversation with you.
This is a sector where employers especially value candidates who show initiative by actively promoting themselves or specifically making attempts to connect in-person. Making speculative applications has the advantage of allowing you to showcase your abilities in that regard. You must be confident, alluring, and eager to showcase your unique selling points (USPs) – all of which are key to succeeding in marketing work!
Get more experience to compete
The best course of action is to look for experience inside the sector as soon as you decide that you want to apply for entry-level marketing positions. The good news is that this can happen in a variety of ways.
You could try doing part-time or freelance marketing work for smaller companies/business owners, or applying for a marketing internship. These stints could last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Regardless of the duration, you will still get valuable samples of work to display in your professional portfolio. Some companies may even choose to convert you to a full-time marketing staffer at the end of your internship.
A word of caution: the pay for work experience and internships will vary. Some may pay you a stable monthly salary, but others may just cover your work expenses or expect you to do unpaid work. Make sure you carefully evaluate what you can afford or are willing to accept, and whether the job experience is truly "worth it."
Another popular strategy for acquiring marketing experience is to volunteer for a non-profit organisation, doing tasks like managing their social media presence or drafting press releases for the media, donors, or stakeholders.
You may also decide to pursue a postgraduate or upskilling course, either to expand your knowledge and skills or to try to break into a more established work sector. Some course providers may even offer professional attachments to external companies, giving you chances to gain experience doing real marketing work. This is especially key for creative jobs in advertising, which require candidates to display a portfolio of past projects or campaigns.