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Building Marketing Experience on the Job

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Marketing jobs are everywhere, but which one should you take? It's difficult to answer that question unless you know the best track through which to move and build up your experience so that it really counts. In marketing jobs, as in most other field-oriented jobs, most of the learning is done on the job, and experience is a major factor on resumes. But which kind of experience matters and what does not? Experience with different marketing jobs or marketing functions may in fact hinder, rather than assist, your development as a marketing professional. Even if you are an employee doing self-management of your career, it is essential to know which kind of experience counts in your portfolio as a marketing professional. This article deals with this little-realized secret.

Employers usually judge marketing professionals on their SKAP (Skill, Knowledge, Ability, & Personal characteristics) profiles. In a SKAP assessment:
  • Skill is behavior that is learned and can be improved with instruction.

  • Knowledge is information, concepts, facts, and theories acquired through learning processes.

  • Ability is the innate or acquired proficiency to perform certain functions.

  • Personal characteristics are an aggregate of competent social-interaction behaviors.
The SKAP profile of a marketing professional usually includes technical knowledge, social competence, professional work experience, education, intelligence, team orientation, and interpersonal autonomy. However, relevant work experience and a record of successful accomplishments can cover up a lot of other weaknesses on a resume. The principal reason is that in marketing, relevant work experience encompasses all of the input necessary for a SKAP profile, and a successful track record proves that the individual was able to internalize and apply the work experience, making him or her highly employable.

When a marketing professional's work experience is judged by any potential employer or interviewer, essentially two factors are taken into consideration:
  • Whether the person has appropriate work experience to perform the required job functions

  • Whether the person has the needed technical skill
Work experience is usually reviewed by asking the following generic questions:
  • Which tasks did you like best?

  • Which tasks you didn't enjoy?

  • Describe specific accomplishments and the way they were achieved.

  • What did you learn from the work experience?

  • How did you deal with difficult problems?

  • Describe challenges you faced and how you solved them.
However, the really relevant way to build up marketing skills is to move, step-by-step, through the following skills and job roles:
  1. Building technical competence: This includes product knowledge and marketing knowledge.

  2. Marketing existing products to existing clients: This represents a significant increase in interpersonal skills.

  3. Marketing new products to existing clients: Another step up the ladder, at this stage, you have technical competence and have developed the interpersonal skills to be able to market new products to existing clients. This may seem like a small difference, but it is significant for both yourself and anybody reviewing your portfolio.

  4. Marketing existing products to new clients: Another step toward building up your marketing skills that is enormously relevant to both potential employers and yourself. In the first three steps, you moved along the periphery while increasing your interpersonal skills. At this level, the acquisition of skills is dramatically different since it involves developing client relationships on your own and serving new clients. A sizable portion of these new clients can remain yours and will be willing to switch products or services when you switch companies.

  5. Marketing new products to new clients: This is the marketing professional's real job, but it is one that cannot be reached through shortcuts. At this level, sophisticated interpersonal skills and consummate knowledge, skill, and ability are essential.

  6. Marketing Management: Once you have covered steps one to five and have acquired knowledge of marketing theories, you are well equipped to be the next marketing manager and move your career forward.
Any marketing executive who moves through steps one to five described above, either in different companies or in the same company, acquires the kind of solid skill foundation needed to become an excellent marketing manager and handle the job successfully. He or she will never be out of a job for long and will always find employers, with or without an MBA.


Weitzul, James B. Personality Traits in Professional Services Marketing. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 1994.
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Popular tags:

 work experience  assessments  potential  interpersonal skills  resumes  employers  matters  theory  marketing managers  behaviors

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