Blanka Sulentic

with Blanka Sulentic
Find out what it takes to prepare for a career in marketing from studying, to interviewing for a job to making sure you build the right experience to progress in your chosen field.  
1. Studying towards a career in marketing, is it important to have a qualification in marketing or is it really based on the individual’s ability to adapt to that career path?
I believe studying is crucial for anyone wanting to progress in their chosen field and this is no different for someone that wants to get into marketing. Knowledge of sound marketing principles is essential. A marketing qualification will definitely give you the edge over other marketing candidates when applying for a position. It will give you rich exposure to business management and creative leadership.

2. Going into a marketing job interview, what should an individual be prepared for, does their CV and basic appearance count?
Of course they do! First impressions are everything. The way you dress, the way you talk, the way you carry yourself, your CV, all speak volumes about who you are. My advice is to dress conservatively. You don’t want to be remembered as ‘the cleavage girl’ or the ‘bellbottoms guy’. Buy the best suit you can afford and walk into your interview with confidence.  
Be sure to print out a copy of your CV and put it in a file to present to the interviewer, just in case. A portfolio of previous work experience is also an advantage and could be the deciding factor.
You can Google a list of job interview DOs and DON’Ts and how to prepare a CV. If you won a Miss Bikini contest and you are applying for a professional marketing position, leave it out of your CV. People put the strangest things in their CVs that add no value to recruiters. Your CV is a marketing tool. It must be targeted, relevant and engaging. Keep it short. Triple check  the grammar. Have just enough information to peak the recruiters interest and land you in an interview seat.   
The one area nobody prepares you for is the salary question, which usually comes in the form of: What are your salary expectations?
Remember that an employer will pay you just enough to keep you satisfied to perform, so if you are the first one to blurt the sum of money you want and they are prepared to pay more for this position, guess what you will get? What you want and not a cent more. So rather, opt for ‘I believe my skills and experience (if you have done marketing-related vacation work) speak for themselves. I would like a market-related salary.’ And then keep quiet. The silence is there to intimidate you. Just stay confident. You need to be clear about the value that you can bring to the table and your interview will be a walk in the park.
3. Building experience in the field of marketing, how does one go about doing that?
One thing you can be sure of is that no matter how hard you study, your degree is no guarantee that you will land a job. Experience is all that counts. But how do you get experience, if nobody will give you a chance to get it? Make sure that you start early. Whilst you are studying, volunteer at marketing firms, advertising agencies, PR companies and such. If you want to learn a certain skill, work for free. Who can say no to that? In return, ask for a reference letter and take a copy to your next job interview. Those few weeks or months of experience could mean getting preference over several other candidates when applying for your dream job.  
When you do land your dream job, and let’s be real here, it will not be a marketing management position, just because you have a marketing management degree. You must be prepared for some serious skivvy work in the beginning, until you build trust and credibility with your employer. Once you start showing excellent performance, you can ask to be more empowered. The work responsibilities will increase and so will your paycheck, with time.  
4. The world of marketing has many different challenges, what can some of those be?
The legal responsibility of a business is to make a profit. Marketing is there to build awareness, stimulate the demand for a product or service and get a call-to-action, which eventually leads to a sale and affects business profitability. The challenge of marketing is to cut through the clutter when engaging its target market. The marketing content should be relevant, appeal to emotions and generate positive word of mouth. Delivering measurable marketing results is another. For every Rand of spend, there should be at least R1.01c return. Talent management and retention, and the list goes on and on.  
5. What makes a good marketer?
There are many qualified marketing people out there, but few that are able to think big and pay attention to detail at the same time. I believe these are qualities of a good marketer - qualities that deliver marketing excellence and delight customers.
At the time of  this interview - Blanka Sulentic was the Head of Marketing and Communications for the Professional Provident Society.