To compete for lucrative Wall Street or consulting jobs, students across the United States are joining on-campus investment clubs to help prepare them for real-world situations. And while marketing students don't–yet–have similar clubs, students in all disciplines are racing harder and faster than ever to differentiate themselves before they graduate. In a "race for distinction"–how should a marketing student stand out?


Business Week had an interesting article about a month back, "Meet Your New Recruits: They Want to Eat Your Lunch." The article noted that many college students considering a financial services career are joining on-campus investment clubs where they manage a small chunk of money (~$25K to $300K) so as to get hands-on experience before they graduate.
"The whole idea of smart people just falling into banking is becoming rarer," says Lance LaVergne, a vice-president and global head of diversity recruiting at Goldman Sachs . "Clubs are essential to preparation, especially for students who are not majoring in traditional disciplines like finance or accounting."

Of course, this mad-rush to add skills and extra curricular activities before graduation might cause some students to concentrate too much on the destination and not enjoy the journey. "Many of my fellow classmates have been planning out their college choices since middle school, so to tell them not to plan for a future career during freshman year is illogical," says Janet Xu, 22, a senior at Yale and editor of the undergraduate magazine Yale Entrepreneur.

Every semester I guest lecture at two San Diego universities, in either introductory or senior level marketing courses. Invariably, the conversations often turn to the skills and experiences that students should have to make them more employable.

A key portion of my advice for sophomore and junior marketing majors is to find activities and experiences to differentiate themselves from their competition.

Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm suggesting they join an expedition to climb Mt. McKinley–but that would make for an interesting interview!

I'm simply suggesting that as an interviewer I like to see a diverse background in sports, dance, volunteerism, leadership, communication (debate) etc. And I often suggest it's not enough to "be in a club", you have to participate and make a difference.

In addition, from time to time, I offer to help students with their resume. I'm often flabbergasted by the lack of extra curricular activities and limited business experience.

Marketing students, I'm not looking for the next Seth Godin–although that would be nice– but please give me an internship, an AMA club leadership position, or an impactful marketing senior project–something that shows me you've tried to stand out from the crowd!

OK, I'm off my soapbox, but I need your help. I guarantee that I will point future students to this post, so it's your turn to give marketing majors across the United States some advice:
* What skill sets/classes should students focus on to best prepare them for a marketing career?
* What's the one piece of advice you'd offer a student considering a marketing career?
* What's the one subject area you'd tell marketers to either "ace" or double up on?
* What qualities make a marketing graduate employable "Day 1"?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Barsch directs services marketing programs for Teradata, the world's largest data warehousing and analytics company. Previously, Paul was marketing director for HP Enterprise Services $1.3 billion healthcare industry and a senior marketing manager at global consultancy, BearingPoint. Paul is a senior contributor to MarketingProfs, a frequent columnist for MarketingProfs DailyFix, and has published over fifteen articles in marketing, management, technology and healthcare publications. Paul earned his Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He and his family reside in San Diego, CA.