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6 things I learned as an unemployed college marketing graduate

By Megan Paraiso


If you’re a Marketing senior or recent graduate who feels behind because you don’t know exactly what you want to do after graduation, unqualified because of your minimal marketing experience, and/or insecure because you feel like you need to be something you aren’t to land a full-time job, you aren’t alone.

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I was the marketing student who knew the importance of networking, how to make an appointment at the career center, write a resume and cover letter, create an elevator pitch, and update my LinkedIn profile, but the one thing I lacked was the confidence to be myself and own my strengths, weaknesses, and uncertainties.

I started applying for full-time jobs in tech and consulting, networking, and building my experience before graduation. But I didn’t start having hard conversations about post-grad life and applying for the full-time marketing jobs I truly wanted until 8 months after graduation.

Here are six things I learned from 30 conversations with college professors, coaches, working professionals, and college graduates that helped me land my dream Marketing job after college:

1. Everyone can resonate with transitioning in uncertainty

Everyone has experienced feeling like they don’t know what they’re doing or what they want. For example, the:

  • person sitting next to you in class who studied abroad and interned at one of your favorite companies over the summer.
  • UX Designer you met at a networking event who tried 5 careers before finding the right fit. 
  • alumni speaking to your class about the job they’ve been at for eight years at the company they started working at right after college. 
  • recruiter interviewing you over the phone who isn’t sure if they see themselves in recruiting in the next few years.

Nobody knows what they want or what they’re doing all the time, and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to own what you don’t know and ask questions because there are people out there who understand and want to help by sharing what they wish they knew while they were transitioning in uncertainty.

2. Make genuine connections by thinking about what you can do for others instead of thinking about what others can do for you

Jessie Woolley Wilson, CEO of DreamBox Learning, gave a talk about Networking and Fellowship at the Future For Us Assembly.

 “Networking is thinking about what others can do for you. Fellowship is thinking about what you can do for others.”

She encouraged us to think of networking as fellowship, and it shifted my uncomfortable idea of networking being a one-way street, to fellowship being a 2-way street. Jessie gave an example of going to dinner with Michelle Obama, and asking her, “Michelle, what can I do to support you?” Imagine how you could stand out from everyone at the dinner by asking Michelle, who is used to being bombarded with asks and demands, what you can do for her rather than asking her what she can do for you. When you want to help people, it makes them want to help you too.

You can still respectfully ask for help (circling back to point #1), support, time for coffee for an informational interview, or for a referral, but when you lead with thinking about what you can do for others, you continually seek to understand their pain points and how you can help solve them to add value even after the first conversation is over.

3. Marketing careers are not linear

I asked different working professionals how they ended up in the job they have now and many of them responded, “by accident.” 

Yes, by accident.

Some of them weren’t even marketing majors in school but accumulated experiences that led them to their current role.

I also went back to my old university as a confused recent graduate to ask my college advertising professor for marketing career paths. I realized that students are taught that we start in one role and work our way up, but marketing isn’t one straight path because it’s  extremely broad.

She told me not to overthink it and to just start somewhere, work hard for one year to build my skills and experience, and I could always change jobs if I find out that that marketing role isn’t for me.

Hint: Download the productive job-hunting game plan to gain clarity on your job hunt.

4. Hiring managers are seeking the right person for the role. Just like you are seeking the right job.

Interviews used to make me extremely nervous, and the nerves escalated when I couldn’t stop thinking about my fear of being judged or worrying about not being a “good enough” candidate.

One thing that helps to calm my nerves is remembering that the interviewers and hiring managers are also human. They feel the pressure of filling the role and hope that you’re the right person for the role, just like you’re hoping to land the job.

Also, similar to dating, job hunting is a two-way street. In the end, you can’t control if they choose to hire you. Rather than worrying about what you can’t control (what they think of you and their judgement of whether you’re “right” for the job), focus on what you can control (doing your best to show up as your authentic self, fully prepared with confidence)!

5. Know your nonnegotiables and stick to them

Although job hunting can feel extremely discouraging at times, don’t let go of your non-negotiables to settle for a job.

A resource that can help you figure out what you want and your non-negotiables is the 80,000 Hours Career Guide to help you understand what makes for a dream job.

If you’re interviewing and want to learn more about whether the company can accommodate your non-negotiables, you can use this guide to crafting job interview questions to help you identify those companies.

6. Give yourself a chance

We don’t have control over whether we get the interview or the job, but the answer is always no if we don’t give ourselves a chance. In fact, women apply to 20% less jobs than men, and are 16% less likely than men to apply after reading a job description.

If you’re even slightly interested in a job and don’t hit every single bullet point, give yourself a chance and apply.

If you’re even slightly interested in a company and aren’t sure if you should attend an event they’ll be at, give yourself a chance to learn if the company is the right fit for you and make a new connection.

If you don’t feel confident about your upcoming interview, give yourself a chance to show the interviewer how you can bring value to their company by:

Whether you are a recent graduate or college senior, I hope this helped you find the guidance and courage to go after the opportunities you want. If you’re still feeling stuck and have questions, give yourself a chance to find answers by leaving a comment below (or even reaching out to the writers on Post College Journey!).


Megan Paraiso is a social media marketer at a Seattle media agency who loves building community and meaningful connections. Learn more about her post-grad journey on her Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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