Advice for Nathan (and anyone that wants to be a marketer)

I just got a note from Nathan, who asks,

" [I recently realized] that I want to be a marketer. So now with a resume that includes "Research Analyst" for an economics professor, "Finance Director" for a Nevada governor candidate, and a degree in physics from Harvard, I find myself applying for jobs in marketing. Ultimately, I would like to be VP of Product Development or perhaps CEO at a new company (I love bringing remarkable ideas to frutition), and I have suddenly realized marketing, not finance, is the way to go for me. And, as I search for jobs and try to find an entry point for my new found path, I have a few questions:

1. Where do I start? Most of what I read online seems to say I should have had a marketing internship in college. Can get an Assistant Brand Manager position with no experience?

2. Do you have company suggestions? Which companies get that some of the millions they are spending on TV ads could be better spent improving their products/services?

3. Which books should form the backbone of my marketing education?"

My answer is easy to write, harder to implement. In my experience the single best way to become a marketer is to market. And since marketing isn’t expensive any longer (it takes more guts than money), there’s no need to work for Procter & Gamble. None. In the old days, you could argue that you needed to apprentice with an expert and that you needed access to millions (or billions) to spend. No longer.

So, start your own gig. Even if you’re 12 years old, start a store on eBay. You’ll learn just about everything you need to learn about digital marketing by building an electronic storefront, doing permission-based email campaigns, writing a blog, etc. Who knows more about marketing–Scoble or some mid-level marketing guy in Redmond?

You don’t need a lot of time or a lot of money. You can start with six hours every weekend. Over time, if (and when) you get good at it, take on clients. Paying clients. Folks that need brilliant marketers will beat down the door to get at you. After a while, you may decide you like that life. Or, more likely, you’ll decide you’d rather be your own client.

People who want to become great fishermen don’t go to work on a salmon trawler. And people who want to become marketers ought to just start marketing. (Bonus: here is a book list).