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Why don’t young people want a career in marketing?

18 May 10:00 by John Austin

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It’s no secret that the marketing industry has been caught up in an ongoing skills shortage in recent years. In March 2018, Marketing Week revealed the results of a survey of 8,405 UK students aged 18-24 with 51% saying marketing was ‘never’ or ‘hardly ever’ mentioned at their school with just 3% believing marketing offers a real career opportunity. 

It’s hard to believe that an industry that was so popular with young people just ten years ago is now one not widely considered as a serious and rewarding career option. So, what’s to blame? 

Marketing has undoubtedly changed exponentially over the years thanks to advancements in digital and easier access to data. Perhaps the most significant thing these advancements have enabled marketers to do is reach a bigger audience through an increased number of platforms. Great news for the marketer, but perhaps not for the audience that’s constantly bombarded with sales messages at every turn. 

In the article that accompanied its survey findings, Marketing Week stated the industry has to contend with a “perception problem among the younger generation that it is intrinsically linked with advertising, which Generation Z notoriously either distrust or dislike.” 

However, a lack of trust in brands from increased ad exposure isn’t the only reason young people aren’t considering a career in marketing. As the scope of marketing has grown, so too has the role of the marketer. While organisations still want professionals possessing the skills fundamental to the marketing function, they now want someone proficient in areas such social media, email marketing and data analysis along with a good understanding of data laws. 

CMO of OpenJaw Technologies Colin Lewis summed up the conundrum in an article for Marketing Week when he said: “If you were hiring a carpenter, would you expect them to be an expert at plastering, proficient at rewiring and competent at carpet-fitting? Even if someone were available with 100% of the skills needed to do the job, they’d be unlikely to apply for it, as there would be no development opportunity.” 

Then there’s the added fact that individuals possessing some of the skills demanded of marketers could land roles in more lucrative fields. Speaking to Campaign, senior brand manager of Coca-Cola Louise Maugest said: “We need more data savvy people, but a lot of them don’t even think about applying for marketing jobs and tend to go more towards programming, finance, consulting.” 

Not only is the expectation placed on marketers unrealistic, but it makes defining the role difficult. This uncertainty around marketing and precisely what it involves today is unlikely to attract young people to consider it as a legitimate profession. 

It’s for all of these reasons that marketing should consider giving itself a rebrand, with employers making more of an effort to help young people understand what a career in this field looks like, the (realistic) skills it requires and the real opportunities it can deliver. Whether this is achieved through offering marketing apprenticeship schemes or getting more involved with schools, colleges and universities, we’ll have to wait and see what the industry pulls out of the bag to secure that all-important young talent. 

What do you think it takes to attract young people to a career in marketing? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Alternatively, if you’re already sold on marketing, explore our latest roles today.