There I was sitting in a gymnasium filled with hundreds of other students who attended the same school as me (sadly 95% of which I did not know), all looking uncomfortable in black robes and funny hats while waiting to walk across the stage to graduate.
Earning my marketing degree was four years in the making. I knew my parents were proud and I was finally prepared to begin my career…or so I thought. I can honestly say it was only in the past few months – almost five years since I graduated – that I finally considered myself to be a well-prepared marketing professional.
And while earning a marketing degree is a great place to start, in an effort to help you become even better prepared I put together a list of five insights I wish someone had told me about pursuing a career in marketing.
I Wish Someone Had Told Me That…
1. We learn a foundation of knowledge for a reason.
While you earn your degree, there will be times in class when you may ask yourself, “Why am I learning about this?” I know I did. But what I didn’t realize is a wide range of knowledge about the different marketing principles and disciplines is an advantage. As a future marketer, this knowledge is an asset you can use to stand out within your organization and advance your career by taking on projects outside of your typical job responsibilities.
Marketing employers love versatility. Preparing now will enable you to adapt to changing situations throughout your career. In college, I learned about the different marketing theories, but I also learned how to put real-world perspective on them. And now because of that I am able to adjust rapidly to any real-world marketing situation, which I may be involved in within my current position.
TIP: Learn as much as you can; everything from internet marketing to consumer behavior. A career often spans 40 years, and you never know when that knowledge may be needed – or when an opportunity to shine will present itself.
2. The field is in a constant state of change.
Times change; the world isn’t flat. Pluto is no longer a planet and the same goes for what you need to know in order to have a successful career in marketing. Even though marketing is steeped with traditions and standard principles, what I failed to realize in college is that marketing is continuously changing, and if you don’t keep up you may get left behind. By recognizing this early on, you can be ready to identify new opportunities, become more knowledgeable and even advance your career.
Take social media marketing for example. In just five years, it has gone from basically nonexistent to becoming a huge channel for businesses’ marketing efforts. By going to Google Trends and searching "social media marketing," you can see that prior to 2005 it didn't even exist!
It’s important to first realize the marketing profession will continue to be changing throughout your career; that’s step one. But it’s also important for you to be able to see these types of opportunities faster than others, which can be a great way to positively impact your career outlook.
TIP: Keep an eye out for industry trends and don’t be afraid to check out the latest fad. When Pinterest and Google+ came out many people were skeptical. Yet, both now provide huge marketing opportunities for businesses.
By staying ahead of the crowd, you will again be able to stand out in your organization and prove yourself to be well educated in the world of marketing.
3. Gain experience in any way possible.
Every college student worries about entering the job market with no previous experience. As a soon-to-be college graduate with a marketing degree, I never fully realized I could gain experience to put on my resume while I was in school in ways other than holding an internship.
I wish someone would have told me how I could use a blog and Facebook to gain relevant experience for my career. Instead it took me a few years to learn that by having your own blog you can gain experience with content marketing and that by helping local small business owners manage their business’ Facebook pages you can gain experience with social media marketing.
TIP: Many small businesses need help with social media marketing. You need experience. Connect with them to explore the ways you can work together. It’s a win-win situation all around.
4. Marketing is data driven.
In my career I learned almost every single marketing activity has data behind it. It’s important to be aware of this because data can often help you make the best possible decisions in your job. No longer are marketers just pulling ideas out of a hat and hoping that leads to reaching business goals. Rather, market research data is collected and analyzed in order to assist the team in developing insights to determine the best plan of action.
For example, when you see an advertisement, like this one from Priceline, it’s important to understand how and why a decision was made. In Priceline’s case, it was simply because the data showed that ads worked to well.
TIP: Data drives business activities. By developing a solid understanding of how data collection and market research works you will be better prepared to see how to make the best possible decisions throughout your career.
5. You should find a niche.
I chose to earn my marketing degree for one reason: I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I saw that marketing professionals are often able to work in a wide range of fields and industries, and since I had no clue what I really wanted to do I figured a marketing degree would provide plenty of opportunities to consider.
However, during my time in school I never took the time to figure out where I would like to work; my niche. I learned on the job that many of the career paths you can take are quite different from one another. While many marketing career paths such as advertising or internet marketing may require similar skills sets, the exact positions and how you obtain them can be very different paths.
TIP: Take the time to research specific marketing niches to help you determine what you think you would enjoy the most. All you need to do is Google “Top Marketing Blogs” and you will find a list of blogs within the different niche areas for you to learn more about. It’s a good idea to do this while you’re in school, so you can start your career on the right path and not have to do a course correction like I did (I started in sales and moved into marketing – I wish I'd started in marketing!).