How to get into Marketing from IBM’s Marcus Davidson

For my next instalment of the “how to get into Marketing” series, I spoke to Marcus Davidson who works at Inside Sales and Marketing at IBM. A nice, detailed interview, Marcus gave me lots of tips and insight about how he started his career, what his biggest challenges were and what tips he would give to those looking to get their first step on the Marketing career ladder.

Having started at IBM back in 1997, Marcus had a lot of experience to refer from for this interview, offering a wealth of information and tips. Of course, having only his own experience to go from, I would like to point out that these answers are of course all Marcus’ own views and thoughts and in no way reflect IBM. So without further delay, lets get started with the interview:

1. How did you get to where you are now?

How to get into MarketingBelieve it or not, I got a job at IBM by mistake. I didn’t go to University as I preferred the independence that working brought. At the time I was looking for a short-term job at Southern Electric. For some reason (to this day I still don’t understand how), I turned up IBM instead of SE and got an interview for a role in the Customer Satisfaction department. Although it wasn’t what I went there for, I knew IBM was an amazing company, so I took the job – and 15 years later, I’m still here!Before long, I became the IBM Customer Satisfaction Manager for several European countries. It was then that I realised most of the truly successful people at IBM had a selling background, so I made the leap into Sales. I completed the IBM Sales School and was made a Client Manager, covering some of biggest clients in retail, insurance and consumer goods. Selling IT was great fun, however I longed for something less technical, which allowed me to exercise my creativity, so when I spotted an opportunity to join the Marketing team I jumped at the chance! So here I am today, supporting the Sales team I was once a part of.

2. What do you look for in a CV?

Currently I don’t play a part in the recruitment process, but back when I was a Recruiting Manager, I’d look for a short, concise CV, which was relevant and tailored to the role. A long list of responsibilities is not particularly helpful, but an understanding of what you specifically achieved and the value you bring to your current employer certainly is.

With so many CV’s on my desk I’m afraid I was rather unforgiving with things like spelling mistakes. I was had a candidate who stated “attention to detail” was a strength, only he spelt “detail” incorrectly. Likewise, cliches like having a “bubbly personality” or stating “socialising” as an interest are guaranteed to make me think twice about your suitability.

3. What do you look for in an ideal candidate?

I guess there was one mantra I personally lived by; hire for the attitude, train for the skills.

I’m a firm believer that you can train someone to do pretty much anything, but you can’t train someone to be engaged and passionate about what they do – that has to come from the heart. If you hire people with the right attitude, you can achieve anything. Someone with all the “right” qualifications, skills and experience can be massively disruptive if they come to work in the wrong frame of mind. I once hired someone into a fairly tough customer facing role, whose current and only job was as a part-time waitress. She gave the most outstanding interview I’d ever witnessed, she was so passionate about her job and sold the benefits of her experience to me so throughly, I simply had no choice but to hire her!

4. What are your “must haves” from a candidate?

Definitely a positive “can-do” attitude. Creativity is also important, but not in isolation, it has to be combined with an ‘outcome based’ focus.

Collaboration and communication skills are massively important in any large organisation, particularly writing and listening skills. But most of all for me, strong emotional intelligence is the key to pretty much everything.

5. What “nice to haves” do you look for in a candidate?

It sounds brutal, but with everyone so busy and with so many applications for each role, “nice to haves” never really make it on the radar.

6. What do you hope they would bring to the role?

Fresh thinking and an ability to look at a problem in a new light is definitely one thing I love about working with new hires. We can all be guilty of doing the same old things in the same old way, simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it around here.” So to have someone challenge my thinking and occasionally ask “why don’t we try it this way?” can not only be a breath of fresh air, but can also lead to tangible positive change. If you’re new to an organisation, don’t ever be afraid to speak up or ask questions.

“Don’t think that “being creative” is the key to every marketing job. Think about what else you can bring to the organisation.”

7. Do you have any advice for those looking to get on the marketing career ladder?

There are many different and varied marketing roles and every company engages marketing in a slightly different way, so please don’t think that “being creative” is the key to every marketing job. Most organisations have plenty of marketing admin and process work that needs to be managed and not many companies can afford someone to be creative in isolation. So think about what else you can bring to the organisation aside from creativity and ensure you come across as “well rounded.”

Secondly, maintain a healthy online presence. Your contribution to Twitter, LinkedIn, blog and communities are a marvellous way for an employer to understand a lot more about you.

Lastly, if you see a role at your employer of choice, don’t be afraid to go for it, even if it’s not your ideal job. I’d argue it’s better to take a non-marketing job at a great employer, than to have your perfect marketing job at a company you don’t like. Once you’re at the right company, work hard, prove your worth and you could get your dream role once you’ve made a name for yourself (even if you got the job initially by mistake!) 

Key points to take away:

Marcus offered a wealth of great information and tips in his interview, but these are just a few of them:

When applying make sure you send in a CV which is short, concise, relevant and tailored to the role you’re applying for. Recruiters receive a tonne of applications for any one role, so you need to ensure that on paper you seem like one of the best for the job. It sounds obvious, but judging from Marcus’ past experiences it obviously still gets overlooked – check your spelling! When competition is high, you don’t want one silly spelling error to be the reason why your CV was cast aside instead of someone else’s.

Also show some interest, not just in the company, but about yourself personally. Seeing friends and family doesn’t tell the company anything about you. Do you like to travel? Do you play a sport or an instrument? What hobbies do you have? Just include something which makes you stand out from the rest and lets them get to know you a little bit before the interview stage comes round.

Once you land that job you’ve been striving so hard to get, maintain that drive. Don’t just sit back and relax. Don’t coast and don’t blend in. Don’t be afraid to try and do things differently, or ask questions.

Finally, Marcus also discussed the importance of taking a job at your dream company, even it’s not your dream role. Nine times out of ten you’ll probably find that companies will appreciate someone who has taken the time to stay with the company, be loyal, patient and work their way up the ladder, as opposed to someone who has jumped from job to job to get their dream role at their dream company. Patience is a virtue.

If you have any points you’d like to add yourself, or if you have any questions then feel free to give me a shout on Twitter, thanks!

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