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How to Break Into CPG Marketing at the Biggest Firms

by Alison Ringo

Marketing jobs have a reputation as creative, interactive, and often somewhat autonomous. Nothing is ever quite what we expect, marketing included, but it’s definitely a lively spot in the professional world.

Of course, not all marketing jobs are created equal, for you or for the top CPG employers. The big names do have entry-level positions, of course, but those tend to go to the highest GPA-holders, former in-house interns, etc. If your five-year goal is working in marketing for a blue chip CPG company (P&G, Kraft, Unilever, and similar) here are three steps you’d do well to take.

1. For your first role, pick something with hands-on range. Unless you had significant internship experience during college (that is, more than two separate three-month stints that basically amounted to Tweeting and filing papers), you need to get a real, professional understanding of what Business to Consumer product and brand marketing entails.

The first company you work for doesn’t need to be CPG itself, but as long as you will be marketing to individual consumers rather than businesses or organizations, you should start learning the right skills.

In five years do you want to be heading a digital marketing team? Would you rather focus on one product/brand within consumer packaged goods? Or do you think your strength lies in PR and events?

The only way to find out is to choose an entry-level job that gives you some hands-on exposure to the facets of business to consumer marketing that you feel are the most up and coming for the years to come, and where you want to be.

2. For your second role, choose a function, then become an expert at it. If you’re lucky, you may be able to move up within the same organization your first role was with. This is ideal, since employment loyalty is always a big plus when the bigger firms’ HR reps look at your resume.

Regardless, in your second job, choose a role that best aligns with not just your strengths, but also your interests. Much of marketing is based in creativity and ingenuity, and it’s hard to come up with game-changing ideas, or to execute on the tried and true, if you’re stuck leading a social media initiative for a company and you’d rather be heading up the introduction of one of the company’s brands (or vice versa).

Alison Ringo heads the KAS Placement marketing recruitment research team

3. For your third role, aim for the big name employer. By your fourth or fifth year out of school, you should have both the general knowledge of consumer marketing and the specialized skill sets of your chosen function within marketing that will allow you to step into the higher-stakes world of the Fortune 100 CPG’s.

It is possible that your move from role two to role three might need to be lateral; in other words, your move into a larger firm may not mean a bump up in title, though hopefully it will entail at least a slight bump up in salary.

Approaching a major CPG marketing role with a stable job history that shows consistent progression in a specialized marketing skill set puts you on even footing with incumbents. Moreover, stepping into a bigger arena from the smaller one means that you’re bringing in a fresh perspective, which is what much of marketing relies on.

As a consumer packaged goods marketing recruiter, KAS gets to work with some of the biggest and most fun brand names you know from your grocery store, mall, boutique shops, etc. These companies are by far and away the most desired places of employment for most applicants whom we know, whether in marketing, sales, media, or other disciplines.

Landing a marketing position with the big-name consumer goods companies might seem out of reach when you’re a month or a year out of school, still getting your feet on the ground. But with a little patience and a lot of focus, you can make it just another short-term goal.

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