Question: I am currently in school for my marketing degree with an interest in advertising. I have no experience in advertising or marketing and have no idea how to approach applying for jobs. What is a good way to write a resume and conduct a job search if you have little or no experience?
-- Jessica, Washington, D.C.
Jessica: Get some experience. If you are still in school, it is never too early -- or too late -- to get some kind of experience that will add to your learning and strengthen your resume. An internship would be ideal. Go immediately to your college's career center, experiential education office or favorite faculty member to explore options for a work assignment that will offer a "building block" experience for you.
Even if your related work experience leaves something to be desired, you can begin to fill the gap through community involvement (e.g. help to market a program for a nonprofit organization) and extracurricular activities (e.g. join the campus marketing club or become a student member of the American Marketing Association). Informational interviews with alumni of your college who are now employed in marketing or advertising also will add to your understanding of the field. In addition, study winning ad campaigns (www.clioawards.com) to demonstrate that you are a knowledgeable and enthusiastic young professional in your field.
On your resume, be sure to include an objective that specifically states marketing or advertising in its description to provide immediate direction to the reader. Follow the objective with a "Skills Summary" or "Highlights of Qualifications" section in which you spotlight related skills and qualities that present your strengths. In the education category, note your major, grade-point average if it is high, and campus involvement or leadership awards. In the experience section, include any experience, paid or unpaid, using action verbs and showing results and contributions where possible.
As for the job search, come up with a list of employers of interest to you in your desired geographic areas and attempt to develop a network that can help open some doors for an initial interview. Take advantage of career fairs, recruitment days and alumni connections offered through your college. Of course, you can also apply online, work through employment agencies and check for job postings. The greatest return, however, will come through a targeted approach in which you identify your prospects and polish your interviewing skills.