5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Entering the Marketing World

A little over a year ago I walked into a marketing firm for the first time as a shy, eager intern who knew virtually nothing about the marketing world. I was a senior journalism student who spent most of her academic life working in print and publishing with no agency experience, but I was hungry to learn. Maybe you resonate with that. Maybe you’re about to graduate and are interested in the marketing industry, or simply ready to take a step towards a career in advertising. A year ago, little intern Carly was craving the wisdom of someone who would be willing to grab a coffee with her and talk about the basics of what it looks like to work in advertising, because she truly had no idea what to expect.

After graduating in May of 2020, I eventually worked my way up to full-time employment as a Social Content Coordinator. I’m by no means an expert, but I feel my experience — my failures, growing pains and observations — might hold a little something of value for future marketers. Though I can’t grab a coffee and sit across from you to tell you about these experiences and insights in person, we can always pretend. So, pop a Keurig in and pour yourself a cup. Here are five things I wish I knew before entering the marketing world.

The marketing world speaks its own secret language.

Ever heard of SEO? How about a KPI? Do you know the difference between B2B and B2C? Are you lost yet? I wouldn’t be surprised if you are.

When I first started working as an intern, I heard these commonplace marketing acronyms around the office, and I felt like I was trying to understand a different language — in a way, I was. There’s a very specific vernacular in the world of marketing. Whether we’re collaborating in the office or communicating with a client, we need to all be on the same page in order for real and effective ideation to take place.

It was overwhelming at first, but as I learned to talk like a marketer, I also began to think like a marketer. For example: B2B stands for “business to business,” and it refers to businesses that are marketing their products and services towards other businesses and organizations. B2C stands for “business to consumer,” which refers to businesses that are marketing their products and services toward consumers. It’s vital to understand the difference between the two when creating social strategies. A B2B audience is completely different from a B2C audience, so their social copy will likely read in a different voice and tone. Learning this kind of vernacular is truly the first step in becoming a marketing whiz.

Pssst, want to stand out at your next interview? Familiarize yourself with this glossary of all the marketing jargon you need to know. Think of it as a cheat sheet. You’re welcome.

Creativity ebbs and flows.

As a social media manager and copywriter, I’m constantly brainstorming new ideas to better engage audiences across multiple platforms for several different accounts. It keeps me on my toes — but I’m not always in a state where creative juices are flowing. I find myself in mental dead spaces throughout the day, where my brain can barely remember how to work the coffee machine, let alone compose a clever tweet. When I hit those stopping points, it’s better for me to take a step back.

Now that my job requires me to be creative on-demand, adding structure to my day has become a game changer, but structure looks different for every individual. Maybe you work better after going for a walk, taking deep breaths or listening to a relaxing playlist. Maybe you’re the kind of personality that needs to deep work for an hour followed by a 30-minute breather, or you might be a sprinter who works best in quick, 25-minute increments. Whatever works! Learn what makes you tick now, so you can give yourself a pathway to work through mental blocks and move forward in moments of inspiration.

Ah, structure — a beautiful idea in theory, but one we creatives sometimes struggle to execute. This brings me to insight #3.

Agency life isn’t only made up of only Creatives — we need our organizers!

Creatives in the marketing world live in a bubble of ideas — they dream about them, write them down on napkins and in journals, jot them down in sketchbooks, paint them, make songs about them (you get the idea). But our moments of inspiration are nothing without a workflow to bring them to life. We need the organizers and Type As of the world to bring our ideas down to earth and turn them into something profitable.

Our secret to success? Project managers! Project managers are the lifeblood behind any agency or firm. Whereas creatives like me are the ideators behind the content, the project managers funnel and manage our ideas, providing the infrastructure and parameters we need to bring brands to life in a timely way that satisfies our clients’ needs. They manage workflows, build client relationships, enforce important deadlines and save the world with their organizational superpowers. Seriously. We would be nothing without them.

So, which side of the coin are you? Do you fall more in the creative category? Or do you see yourself in the project managing world? Maybe you’re somewhere in-between! Either way, remember that advertising needs both to function properly.

Collaboration is everything.

Whether you’re a videographer or photographer, working behind the scenes on the social team, writing copy, designing logos or managing projects, one thing is true of every job within the business: collaboration is everything. Our ideas are the most powerful things we have; they’re wealthy with possibilities. However, we can reach dead ends when we’re siloed in our own individual workspaces. Ideas are better when we break free from our silos to work on projects as a team. Our Content Director Laura Kate likes to refer to this as “cross-pollinating” — when internal departments merge in their ideation, creation and invention to produce a better, more-informed final product.

The firm I work for understands the importance of working as a team, which is why one of our core values is a commitment to collaboration. Everything we do in one department is informed by the work our colleagues do in another, and vice versa. In other words, we’re better together (thanks, Jack Johnson). Remember this as you enter the marketing world. Agencies are looking for a team player, so get used to putting your ideas out there to see if they stick!

Every day looks different in the marketing world.

The marketing world is always changing. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. You’ve finally grown your audience by gaining a decent following on TikTok and wake up the next day to find that Reels is now the coolest short-video platform. But how is this possible? The fastest answer I can give: Technology is rapidly changing, and humans are changing with it. We live in a world that values information on-demand and delivered in the most convenient way possible.

As a creative agency, it’s our job to stay one step ahead of these trends to ensure our client work is catering to what audiences are hungry for. One way that agencies do this is by using trend-tracking tools and encouraging teams to consume daily industry news, entertainment and articles to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings. If you’re not already doing this, you should start now. Marketers need to remain in the know about what’s happening in the world.

Don’t know where to start? I recommend subscribing to The Daily Carnage for the latest marketing news and content. Remember: Stay current. Stay cool.

Carly is a storyteller and Birmingham native. She works as a Social Content Coordinator at Telegraph Creative—a full service creative agency.