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How many of you have grad­u­at­ed with a B.S. in mar­ket­ing so you could go out and plan pro­mo­tion­al cam­paigns, study con­sumer behav­ior and buy media time – things you learned in col­lege? Then to final­ly get that job inter­view and be asked “how good are you at sell­ing”, and think back that sales train­ing was nev­er part of the cur­ricu­lum. Well don’t feel bad because a good num­ber of col­leges focus only on tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing the­o­ries which don’t tend to see much light of day until you’ve been in the game long enough and sure as hell not in your first entry lev­el job.

Accord­ing to sta­tis­ti­cians, col­lege place­ment offi­cers and com­pa­ny recruiters over 25,000 stu­dents earned an under­grad­u­ate degree in mar­ket­ing last year. Rough­ly 5 peo­ple of that mas­sive total actu­al­ly got a job doing mar­ket­ing. The rea­son being com­pa­nies don’t tend to hire mar­keters with­out sales expe­ri­ence. Doing sales is how you acquire the street cred for a job in mar­ket­ing. Com­pa­nies have his­tor­i­cal­ly staffed their mar­ket­ing depart­ments with expe­ri­enced sales­peo­ple. Advice from a GE recruiter. “Any intern­ships or actu­al sales expe­ri­ence you can gain dur­ing school will give you an edge.”

The prob­lem is sales and mar­ket­ing are two com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent mon­sters and col­leges don’t inform stu­dents they’re going to have to waste their pre­cious exis­tence in the unglam­orous and tedious job of dial­ing for dol­lars. A recruiter at GE, “Stu­dents who want jobs in mar­ket­ing but aren’t will­ing to work in sales will be bad­ly dis­ap­point­ed. Sales expe­ri­ence is a must.” What’s even worse is that the enroll­ment into mar­ket­ing pro­grams in col­leges has risen by 35% recent­ly because they think they’ll be doing cool cre­ative stuff in the won­der­ful world of media. The field is flood­ed with unem­ploy­able bod­ies and grad­u­ates didn’t pay all this mon­ey to become sales­peo­ple.

Some recruiters believe the prob­lem lies with pro­fes­sors and col­lege place­ment spe­cial­ists who don’t accu­rate­ly por­tray the indus­try. Even an Amer­i­can Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion sur­vey of 300 col­lege admin­is­tra­tors found that 90% thought mar­ket­ing was sell­ing. Recruiters even claim that busi­ness exec­u­tives want more lib­er­al arts in a candidate’s back­ground to make a bet­ter-round­ed employ­ee. If you dis­cov­er you can’t sell don’t waste your time get­ting a M.B.A., which sure isn’t a promise to that job you want. The lat­est trend is for tech­ni­cal majors to get train­ing in sales and mar­ket­ing because it makes them bet­ter at talk­ing about the prod­uct to cus­tomers. So it might be wise for you to pick up a tech­ni­cal course so they know you can chat up some techie jar­gon like a pro.

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