Throughout my business school undergrad, it was drilled into my head that an internship was mandatory if I wanted to get a full-time job right out of school. Marketing students were steered towards large consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies like Kraft, Loreal, and P&G. The goal of every student was to beat out their classmates to score an internship with one of these prestigious companies. I tried – albeit unsuccessfully – to be one of these students in first and second year. I knew by third year I had to get an internship.
I was an average student with a part-time job and some research assistant experience – but I didn’t have enough to make me stand out. As far as employers knew, I wasn’t the cream of the crop.
I went into fourth year with no real (read: marketing) work experience. As predicted, my friends with summer internships received full-time offers. They coasted through their final year with confidence that they’d walk into a job the next year as long as they kept their grades up. Those of us without internship experience struggled to apply for any jobs we could find. We’d all start with ones posted by our school’s career centre, and some of us went outside to sites like monster.ca in hopes no one else was looking there (which they obviously were). I started applying to companies I recognized – but only big ones. As the months went by, my stress level increased, and my “ideal job” criteria decreased. I applied to smaller companies I recognized. I researched websites for any companies I could think of and sent them a resume, even if they didn’t say they were hiring. Then I started applying to any job postings I could find that “kind of, sort of” related to marketing, whether I recognized the company or not.
The life-changer for me in my fourth year was obtaining a position on a conference executive team. I was VP Marketing for the year and put my all into it. One of my team members, two years younger than me (and who I likely wouldn’t have met if not for the conference), sent me a vague message near the end of the year saying that a friend of a friend’s cousin was looking to hire a recent marketing grad. I was given a first name and a phone number – no company name or job description. But I called, found out about the company, went in for an interview, and started working full-time just one month later.
Is my company a CPG? No. Does my job make me happy? Yes. Nearly four years later, I can’t imagine working anywhere else.
So, what did I learn from this experience?
- Don’t just apply for jobs because that’s what your program pushes you towards. Apply for jobs and companies that interest you.
- Remove your tunnel vision when applying for jobs. You know how much competition there is in the job market. Consider expanding your search criteria.
- Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a job. It’s your first one. Get that experience on your resume, and if you find it isn’t for you, move on.
- Make room for extracurriculars in university/college. With some programs, your marks will hold greater importance for employers. In mine, that wasn’t the case. The reason I was hired over another applicant was because I had “marketing experience”. Even though it was a volunteer post for a university conference, it made me stand out.
- Make connections – not only with people in your class or even your year. Expand your group of contacts. You never know who someone else will know.
More tips for your job hunt:
A Student’s Guide to Attracting Recruiters on LinkedIn
5 Places to Start Your Internship Search
Do Extracurriculars Add Value to My College Experience?
The Best Time to Work For Free
7 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out
Doing Freelance Work to Pay for School