Survey: 734 Marketing Professionals Share How They’re Hiring in the 2020 Recession

If you’re a marketing student about to graduate, a job-seeker considering the field of marketing, or someone who’s looking to advance in their marketing career, this report is for you. Marketing is an immense, growing, and well-paid field, and is one of the few where credentials and alma mater mean far less than quality of work and level of knowledge.

Over the last three weeks, 734 marketing professionals took a 10-question survey to help those seeking to enter the field. Thanks to their thoughtful responses (the avg. survey took ~13mins to complete), I’ve been able to assemble the superb data below, data I believe can help thousands of up-and-coming marketers be better prepared for the journey ahead.

Sections in this document:

  • Where respondents work & how they started in marketing
  • Hiring expectations for the year ahead
  • Skills most essential to getting hired
  • Activities with the most career impact
  • Curated advice from the respondents

For those interested in a segment-able view of the responses, the kind folks behind Porter Metrics have put together a Google Data Studio document with filter options.

And the Remote Career Summit also featured a video: How to Start a Career in Marketing that features a discussion of the data from this report.

Where Respondents Work & How They Started in Marketing

The professionals who took the survey cover most broad segments of the marketing field: in-house, consultants, and agencies. Both B2B and B2C brands are well-represented.

The survey also asked about respondents’ role in recruiting and hiring. 42% are directly responsible for marketing hires in either a management or executive role, and the remainder work on marketing teams or have marketing responsibilities, even if they don’t directly recruit and hire.

Remarkably, a full 40% started in the field with no formal education nor employer-provided training. Only a quarter of marketers graduated college with a relevant degree!

This is especially remarkable when considered alongside the broader economic analysis (in the United States, at least) estimating that most job growth and especially job growth in professional fields (like marketing) will require a college degree at the least.

It may well be that marketing is one of the few professional fields where self-taught entrants can compete at a similar level to those coming out of a degree program. This should also serve as a powerful reminder to recruiters and hiring managers NOT to require degrees in your job applications, or you’ll cut out a significant portion of the field’s talent.

Personal note: I myself do not have a college degree, yet have found a relative degree of success in the marketing field 😉

Hiring Expectations for the Year Ahead

The world economy may be in a rough position, but marketing could be a bright spot for the (hopeful) recovery ahead. More than 75% of respondents expect that they/their companies will hire full time marketers in the next 12 months (before July, 2021).

A majority of marketers also expect to work with an agency or consultant in the next 12 months, good news for those in that part of the field.

Skills Most Essential to Getting Hired in Marketing

Of the questions asked, I believe this one ranks as the most useful of the bunch, and the responses truly surprised me.

I expected “familiarity with marketing software” and “crafting persuasive copy” higher, and did not anticipate the importance or popularity of “data measurement and analysis.”

But, this is why we run surveys! Hopefully, this data can help aspiring marketers understand the broad skills their employers are expecting, even when those aren’t specifically listed on a job application.

Next, we’ll look at the ratings marketers gave individual tactics as they applied to their work.

The above can be interpreted two ways: either the bias toward content marketing and SEO is a result of the overall digital marketing world, or it’s skewed based on the audience taking the survey, which comes primarily from folks who follow me on social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Reality is probably that both are true — my network is more skewed to SEO+content, and SEO+content have become among the most popular and important tactics in the marketing field.

Activities with the Most Career Impact

To better understand how various investments helped marketers in their career, I asked a group of questions with this phrasing:

“For each of the following, rate on a scale of 1-5 for how helpful you believe this activity was in helping you get hired & progress in your career:”

Once again, the top responses surprised me:

I’m thrilled to see such a diversity of top answers — it suggests there’s no one, right way to get into marketing or grow one’s career. Many activities can and have had a positive result for those in the field, and you can find your way by following their footsteps, or by breaking out and forging your own path.

Curated Advice from the Pros

Nearly 500 of the 734 respondents left a few words of advice about how to get started, get hired, or accelerate a career in marketing. You can see all of these in Porter Metrics’ Data Studio Report, but I’ve also curated a sample of some of the most unique, valuable, and interesting responses below.

  • Building genuine, professional relationships is as valuable as a degree. Ask for wisdom and direction and apply it. The right job will follow the right relationships.
  • Show don’t tell. It’s important to demonstrate that you know how to produce engaging content by blogging or posting videos online (long before you apply for a job). Do experiments aimed at producing real results – like growing a following on social media, building your email list, producing guest posts for popular blogs, etc.
  • At every job you have, offer everyone free PR/Marketing advice for life. People will call you two years later with a problem they can’t solve looking for your advice. In the end, they hire you. Every job I have received in my career has been through this technique.
  • A right mindset of seeing how a company’s product solves a user’s problem and being aware of all means to get the attention of the buyer is needed. This will make you write and design for THEM. You’ll pick up the other skills along the way.
  • Find a mentor, read read read from industry leaders, read everyday and continue to work on skills by applying it through a personal project or at work. Lastly, understand the importance of collaboration and take that throughout your entire marketing career.
  • Pay attention to your writing. Yes, there’s a lot of focus on video and podcasts, but strong writing will never go out of style.
  • Make sure your resume tied back to results you’ve achieved. You’d be surprised how many people do NOT do this.
  • Build something of your own to show off your skills / why you should be hired. Start a blog, podcast, YouTube channel about a topic of interest; grow it – and use it as a case-study for employment opportunities.
  • Don’t become an expert at something you don’t enjoy doing.
  • In addition to being a good (informed) marketer, it helps immensely to be an avid reader and excellent communicator with cultural intelligence – this is 95% of the job. Also, develop a growth mindset and learn about martech. Nerds can be marketers, too!
  • Go to a major industry convention, follow the speakers on social media & read their blogs. Take the info you learn & test it out on a personal blog of your own. Step 1 will inspire, step 2 will teach, & step 3 will give you the experience to communicate strategy & tactics to future employers.
  • Go beyond tactics to understand WHY the tactics work. This will inform your growth as you hone technical skills (which can be rendered ineffective by poor strategy).
  • Always be learning and always be helping others. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert with a large network of people who like you and want to pay it back.
  • Take the time to understand exactly who your customer is. The more you can help them achieve what they want, the faster you succeed. Build everything around superior customer experience.
  • Honestly, take a hard look at what you’ve enjoyed most in past jobs, even if they weren’t in marketing. Most likely, you enjoyed the things you were best at (and vice versa). Marketing is very broad, and while getting your foot in the door (and having a paycheck) is important, try to position yourself to go after what you’re best at and that you’ll enjoy in the long run.
  • Where possible, sign up to speak or educate people on marketing. You’ll see the industry from a different POV and start thinking more critically about what makes a good marketer.
  • In this economic climate, empathy and graciousness are as vital as ambition.

Thank you again to all of the respondents, and to everyone who’s helped share this document with aspiring marketers.