“The funny thing is, at uni I took a marketing course and literally told the guy sitting next to me, ‘If I ever work in marketing, shoot me dead,’” Ilse Van Dyck laughs.
She’s definitely changed her tune since then, having become a performance marketer before launching Boelo, a marketing job board. But that was before she understood the power of data.
“I had this very old-school image of marketing, which was that it was just fluff,” Ilse explains. “Sometimes, when I look at other departments, I think, ‘Ooh, it must be really rough not to have tangible results’.”
It’s clear that Ilse loves marketing. But she was also outspoken about the sector’s failures when I interviewed her for People&Digital, the podcast.
Here are some more of Ilse’s thoughts about marketing and how she thinks you can build the perfect career as a marketer.
No, it doesn’t really suck, but it’s super hard. You spend so much of your energy just trying to navigate your career because there are no clear paths. Marketing today is not what marketing was yesterday and it’s not what marketing will be tomorrow. So everyone’s just lost and you spend a lot of time asking yourself questions about where you are and where you’re going. In teams that I managed, I saw marketers having those same struggles. It’s just such a waste of energy. Marketing is a very complex field to navigate.
In the ‘60s, I can imagine marketing was kind of clear cut. You had three channels – TV, radio, print – and that’s it. But today, marketing is so fragmented: you just have to look at your typical SEO profile versus your typical creative profile in an ad agency to see that. Those are two completely different people with completely different skill sets. There’s no standard to working in marketing.
If you take marketing in one type of company versus another type of company, it’s even more different. Or just a startup versus a scale-up versus a huge corporate company. This is one of the biggest challenges. And it’s also one of the reasons that I started Boelo, because when you look for a marketing job, you get this huge pot of everything. Everyone is a specific type of marketer; no one is just a marketer. But there was no platform where you could filter for specific marketing roles.
It’s completely unrealistic the way jobs are described. It’s really a bit of a mess. I started Boelo with the idea of cleaning up the internet, but I quickly accepted that this was not a very realistic goal. I do try where possible, though. I scan the web for marketing jobs and publish them on my platform, yet I also contact businesses to tell them, “Hey, I found your job description. I see you’re looking for a marketer. Just a heads up, with this job description you’re not going to find it.”
I personally had the luxury of working in a start-up at the beginning of my career.
It had its disadvantages, but one huge advantage was that I got to do everything. You go from website design to email marketing to SCA to SEO. And that’s really nice because you get a feel for what gives you energy and what you couldn’t care less about. It’s a good way to help direct you into the skills that you want to develop and the type of marketer that you want to become.
Your fellow marketers are probably just as lost as you, so at least you’ll feel a bit better about it [if you speak with them]. We’re all just pretending! I don’t mean that we’re all faking it, and it’s not that everyone’s going around being completely lost all the time. But no one is this shiny, perfect, happy person in control of everything. When I was young, I saw everyone being like that and all these glorious examples of success. You open up LinkedIn and everyone’s boasting about their newest projects. And you’re just like, “What the hell?”
But I realised everyone’s in the same boat. Everyone’s just as overwhelmed. No one has got it 100% together. And if they do, they’re lying or there’s something wrong with them!
Never underestimate yourself. This is super important when you’re looking at job descriptions, which are essentially wish lists for companies. Trust me, they won’t find someone who ticks all the boxes. It’s just not realistic. So, by default, they’ll hire someone who comes close.
Most men apply for jobs when they fit 60% or 70% of the requirements, whereas women need to be much closer to the perfect fit before they get the confidence to apply. They’re looking for a 90% overlap with their skills. And that has a lot of consequences. It means men make higher career jumps while women’s trajectories naturally go a bit slower. It explains parts of the inequalities in the labour market.
The scarcity in the market is crazy. I had a discussion with graduates at a marketing school last year and there were already companies battling each other for the best student, offering company cars etc even at that point. We’re not just talking about experienced profiles anymore, you know, like the rockstar talents. No, it’s already going down to junior profiles. The war for talent has already gotten to that stage.
Everyone thinks they can do marketing. If you’re standing on the sidelines, you might think “Sure, I can provide a blog. I have Facebook at home. I can do social”. The threshold looks less high. But if you ask all of those people to actually start doing a marketing role, they realise there’s actually either some skill that needs to come into this or experience. You actually do need to know what you’re talking about.
In theory, you’re at this point where everything comes together. You’ve got product, you’ve got customer success, you’ve got finance, you’ve got legal. And as a marketer, you’re supposed to take all of that in. You’re supposed to be aware of as much as possible, to make sure that you can somehow present something to the outside world that makes sense.
When it works and when it’s right, it’s the most glorious feeling. Marketing is so diverse, it also means that it’s impossible to ever be bored. There are so many options. If you’re bored, give me a call because something’s wrong with where you’re working!
Voila! It was super great to have Ilse help us navigate the world of marketing in this episode. I hope you found it as interesting as I did! And if you’d like to hear more about what she thinks, check out her full episode on People&Digital, the podcast.
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