I was recently asked what I’d tell new marketing grads as they begin digital marketing careers. I thought back to the characteristics of those I’ve hired and mentored over the years and which made great team members, and ultimately great future leaders. A few things stand out in my mind.
When it comes to digital marketing, things move incredibly quickly. Scott Brinker from Chief Martech started a graphic landscape of the marketing technology space in 2011. At that time, 150 companies graced the list. In 2016, there were nearly 4000. Unless you’re some kind of savant or have more hours in the day than the rest of us, you can forget knowing the ins and out of all of them.
Instead, spend your time becoming a marketer that can look at the company’s position, the opportunities to connect with your target and then analyze the tools available to make that easier, quicker, more effective and trackable. One of the fantastic things about new grads are their energy and tech savvy, but without strategy behind it, too much time and resources can be spent chasing nonsense just because it’s new.
The most valuable team members have the ability to communicate with other departments and make the effort to really understand the company’s challenges by interacting with people outside their department and above their pay-grade. This is where a marketer can uncover a business’s hidden strengths or uncover the stories that make for great marketing pieces.
As a new grad, you’re going to be spending your time doing ‘trench work,’ or the daily, hands-on tactical tasks. As you move up, I encourage you to never completely stop spending time in the trench. If you don’t have the opportunity to jump in, dig in and do the work alongside your employees in your daily role, do it on the side. Volunteer your skills for a friend, a not-for-profit or even a pet project. Keep relevant and connected. Keep doing the work.
Who are the most interesting people? Who brings unique insights and perspectives to a team? Who always seems to get things done because they’ve learned how to be efficient and multi-task? Busy, inquisitive, well rounded people. Not only does having outside activities make office chatter with you more interesting, you learn a multitude of skills and lessons that can be directly applied to your work; for example, photography- understanding color, contrast, balance, is also needed in designing digital advertising. So if you don’t already have some productive outside interests, find some!
Getting started in your first digital marketing position is an exciting time, and I hope for all of those just starting off that you enjoy the journey as much as I have!