Back when I was a senior in high school I attended a business leader summit. 8 business leaders from some of the well know companies in the area met with seniors from the area high schools for a panel discussion on the topic of college and careers. 3 hours of discussion on topics I don’t even remember (this was 30+ years ago). What I do remember and consider to be the most valuable piece of information I got was when the moderator turned to the panel and asked this question: “How many of you work in the field you studied for in college?” I was shocked when only 2 hands from the panel went up. 2 out of 8! My immediate thought was something along the lines of oh great! Why am I going to spend a lot of money I don’t have to get an education I’m not likely to use? I did go ahead with my plans, graduated and I no longer work in the field I studied for. I became what I feared and it was the best career move I could have made AND I still use what I learned.
The harsh truth of this industry is that it moves quickly. In the span of 1 year we’ve seen the rise of the internet of things, proximity beacons, programmatic ad buying, attribution, virtual reality and smart virtual assistants to name a few. When you graduate you’ll be behind the cutting edge but ahead of many. I learned and grew up with the industry from it’s infancy, long before Google was a household word. There were no courses or degrees in digital marketing and communications. Everyone I know in this industry works hard to keep up.
So what does an undergrad with a degree from a reputable marketing and communications program have to look forward to? Is the degree worth the effort? The answer is unequivocally yes but don’t stop there. Keep learning! This industry never sleeps – it keeps evolving, mutating, and morphing. To keep up you’ll have to do the same. So read, research & assimilate information, discuss, network and think for yourself because no one in the online industry has all the answers. Also, know your strengths (forget about your weaknesses for now). A strength is the combination of your dominant talents, complimented by skills (these can be improved with training) and knowledge (also can be improved with experience and education) you can use to advance your talent.
How to catch up?
Whatever job you land will be your first opportunity to catch up. Likely you’ll have a manager or coworkers that will mentor you and will encourage you to continue your learning. Don’t procrastinate or try to do your reading and learning in large blocks of time. Do it in small increments over time. Smaller bites will give you a chance to think about what you learned and see possible connections and uses for the information. Follow industry professionals and join in on discussions (groups and tweetchats for example). Use tools like Evernote or Trello to help you track and categorize ideas and resources. Use bookmarks – and categorize them so you can actually find what you want when you want it. Mine are categorized by subjects that interest me: seo, web servers, security, ui/ux, customer service, etc.
Getting that first job – a few pointers
You just graduated so you’re suited to an entry level position. Be humble but look for an opportunity with a small to mid-size company. The smaller the company the wider the diversity of tasks everyone has to do. Too small and you may be in over your head. Too large and your learning may be too narrow.
Make sure you have a LinkedIn account and that it’s up to date. Since you’re in digital marketing and communications it would be a good idea to have an active Facebook and Twitter account as well. It’s okay not to use an account for professional profile building – but be clear about it by not mixing content and don’t include them on your resume. See below.
Don’t mix personal and professional content. Ensure the content you post is relevant and consistent to building your online profile and authenticity. An occasional post about a fabulous dinner might be okay but keep them to a minimum. The more off-topic content you post in a social media channel you use on your resume as evidence of your experience, the weaker your experience will become.
If you’re active in online communities relevant to the position you’re applying for, list a few of them on your resume and include some of the highlights of what you discussed or learned.
Give evidence or your writing ability. It should be clear you can write with a goal in mind, that you have a clear ‘voice’ and can deliver a clear message.
Demonstrate you can learn what you don’t know quickly and apply it.
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- Skills You Need for a Career in Digital Marketing
- Digital marketing careers [infographic]
- Want A Job With Great Work-Life Balance? Choose A Career In Digital Marketing
These cost $$ but I think the strengths finder (especially) is worth the investment.
- New York Times
- Washington Post
- Other large urban area papers