By: Richard Harris, Managing Director at IQ
It’s the beginning of 2018 and the promise of your new career awaits. You’ve completed your studies (or that much-needed Gap Year) and you’re ready to show the world what you can do. It’s an exciting time for you as you’re about to join one of the fastest growing and rewarding professions today. Businesses are absolutely dependent on data-driven insights, digital channels, automation and are in need of highly skilled, knowledgeable people. And the good news is that your career can take you almost any place! With the pace of technological advancement continuing, you’ll be presented with new challenges and opportunities on a regular basis.
"Your biggest advantage is your ability to continue to grow and develop your skills."
As you can imagine, I spend quite a lot of my time talking not only with marketing leaders but also to new graduates and those that have just joined our swelling ranks, about what to expect and what they should be doing to help advance their career.
So, I thought it might be useful to provide some answers to the most common questions new graduates ask me.
1. Where is the best place to work?
Did you know it costs a business between $10,000 and $20,000 just to hire you, let alone the cost of your salary, desk, and laptop? And the harsh reality is that you are unlikely to be profitable (i.e. your work output contributes to financial results to a lesser extent than you cost) for some time. This is because you don’t add a whole lot of value at the moment. While your Uni degree or certificate is useful, the reality is that higher education providers can’t keep up with the pace of change and so struggle to teach the leading/bleeding edge stuff that successful marketers need to know.
Your first employer is going to be your first exposure to business culture and will provide the training in those fundamental skills. So, when looking for that first role, you should be looking for an employer who understands your career goals and can help you achieve them by investing in your professional development and exposing you to a range of projects and opportunities to learn new skills.
At the end of the day, it’s important to get that important first role and begin learning the ropes.
2. What should I be reading?
Keeping up to date on industry news and trends is going to be critical. It’s important to see what others are doing and what emerging trends are affecting our industry. There are of course many sources from industry newsletters (Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising), the mainstream media (Sydney Morning Herald), industry publications (B&T and AdNews), aggregators (Flipboard, Google Alerts), Podcasts (Marketing Over Coffee), and staying up to date on the various awards (AC&E Awards).
However, don’t limit yourself to industry only materials. As marketers, we are creative problem solvers and so we should be aware of emerging technologies and breakthroughs that we may be able to apply. I personally read New Scientist. Not a week goes by that I don’t read an article that six months later some bright spark has repurposed for a commercial opportunity - and it’s usually the marketers that take the lead.
So spread your wings and find publications that give you a small window into the future.
3. How do I stand out?
No one is going to give you what you want - you have to earn it. This means going above and beyond when it counts. Be flexible with your work hours and be open to new challenges. Staying within your designated work hours and duties (which is a valid choice) will not portray you as someone who is driven and engaged.
Increasingly technology is taking on more of the heavy lifting so the choice of whom to promote or hire will often come down to transportable skills - broad understanding of data-driven and digital marketing strategies; the ability to learn and apply new concepts quickly; being able to switch tasks quickly; effective time management and of course, communication skills. As an employer myself, I look for two qualities above all - intelligence and ownership. If someone can demonstrate they have an active mind that is keen to learn and a desire to take the lead they will always get my attention.
4. How do I build my network?
Networking is important. Changing roles and companies more frequently and the growth of the gig economy has seen a decline in opportunities to learn from peers and managers all those “soft skills” that are often learned from observation and experience. To counter this, joining groups that provide access to what others are thinking is essential. Of course industry membership is an ideal way of doing this (Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising or Digital + Technology Collective), so too are attending industry events (Data Day 2018) and joining relevant LinkedIn groups. Regardless of how you do this, it is important that you build your network, as learning from your peers is an ideal way of maintaining your industry skills and knowledge.
5. What skills do I need to develop?
This is a big question and one too complex to answer here, but luckily there are ways to determine how your skills compare to your peers and what skills you should be cultivating for that next role you have your eyes on.
The Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising has built a framework to define what skills and capabilities are required for roles across a range of disciplines and levels. Coupled with an online skills assessment tool, teams can take the assessment and quickly get a view of where there are gaps in skills to help focus on where your development will yield the best results.
6. What’s coming that I need to know?
You’re going to hear a lot of talk about Machine Learning, AI, and Blockchain. These are things to start being familiar with but the truth is that the majority of what you need to know is best practice using current technologies and channels.
There is a lot to learn and there are many directions your career can take. The best advice is to follow your passion.
If you dig digital technologies and using them to engage effectively, then digital marketing is the way to go.
If you love digging into data and applying insights, then data-driven marketing is where you’ll find your tribe (and mine too BTW).
Customer experience is also a growth area as many companies now claim to compete primarily on customer experience. There is a lack of people who understand this space and can help optimise all channels as this will often require the ability to manage cross teams outside of the marketing team.
The bottom line is this….
Your biggest advantage is your ability to continue to grow and develop your skills. There are many paths to follow and a wealth of information you can access. But it all comes down to you. You need to find/make the time, you need to hold your manager to commitments to help your development and you need to step up and be the go-to person who likes a new challenge.
If you’d like to understand more about how you can best manage your skills, then we are always happy to talk.