If you’re a marketing student in 2014, you should be stoked. Marketing is one of the most exciting fields to work in right now, and it’s rapidly evolving. So rapidly in fact, that your school’s curriculum can’t even keep up.
It all dawned on me in my final year of university. With graduation on the horizon, like many seniors I began putting my feelers out for a job. And, like many Ottawa students, one of the first companies I had my eye on was Shopify. Rapid growth, a great product, and a world-class company culture aside—they’ve got a freaking slide in their office alright?
So I eagerly went to one of their job fairs, an open-bar, ugly Christmas sweater party at their office (lol yep) and chatted up some Shopifolk about marketing roles. The shocking truth followed: Shopify doesn’t hire marketing grads.
Like a frying pan to the face, I realized good grades weren’t going to get me the exciting career I wanted. After all, the companies I was interested in weren’t running TV or billboard campaigns like we learned about in school.
So, we know school curriculum can’t keep up with the rapid evolution of marketing. Once textbooks hit the shelves, many are already out of date. And you’re not studying Physics or BioMed—a GPA just doesn’t hold that much weight for a marketing candidate.
The new graduates that get the online marketing roles today are the ones that have taught themselves the things that matter. There are so many worthy things to learn and most of them aren’t taught in marketing programs.Sean Ellis
With that in mind, you’ll want to allocate your time accordingly. I’m not saying skip class, and this definitely isn’t an excuse for laziness—you’ll have to focus this energy elsewhere. Where? I’m glad you asked…
If there’s one thing university is teaching you, it’s how to learn. And that’s your biggest asset as a marketer. Your career will be defined by learning something new every day. Learn, evolve, or fall behind.
…if you get into Marketing… you’d better love learning. This space changes more frequently than Lady Gaga’s weird outfits.Travis Wright
At a high level, marketing degrees today don’t prepare students to wield the power of online data and online channels. These things aren’t just part of a subset of marketing called “online marketing” anymore, it is marketing. Now let’s dive into the details.
Brian Balfour’s (VP Growth at HubSpot) T-Shaped Marketer concept is a great place to start. Let’s take a look…
- Statistics: Don’t be a part of the 90% of marketing students who skip this class; a solid understanding here will help you make meaningful conclusions from data. And don’t trust me on that number, because I made it up.
- Behavioural Psychology: I found this was touched on in most of my marketing classes. Don’t miss your Consumer Behaviour class and if you’ve got an extra elective, you can’t go wrong with Psychology.
- Branding, Positioning, Storytelling: No complaints here. Your marketing degree will serve you well on these.
- Product Design & UX Principles: Since these days marketers are working more closely with and testing on products themselves, understanding design principles is a valuable skill.
- Analytics: It’s pretty shameful that a lot of university marketing programs still don’t have a course on analytics. This is insanely important because this is how we track business performance, learn, and improve.
And that’s just one layer. But remember, you don’t want to bury yourself in homework (even if it’s self-induced). The advice in the sections that follow will help you hit the other layers, understand what to focus on, and bring it all to life.
- How To Become A Customer Acquisition Expert: Brian’s post is full of learning resources for each subject area. Check it out.
- 5 Things University Marketing Programs Aren’t Teaching (But Should): More perspective on what your degree is missing.
- Treehouse: Learn to code with seriously great online courses (and very affordable).
- Udemy: Such a great resource for marketers. Plenty of high quality courses here made by really smart people.
It’s not bad advice. But for marketers I would add that you really must follow marketing influencers online (their blogs, on Twitter, on other online communities). And not just specific people, pay attention to what your favourite companies are doing too. This will help you stay ahead of the curve.
The best education (for my dollar) has been in following the people who are smarter than me…Mitch Joel
There was a time in my life where I didn’t read much, and now I look back on it as the most superficial and bleak point of my existence.Ryan Holiday
- GrowthHackers.com: Countless marketing rockstars all in one place, talking and sharing ideas. Go here often, and don’t be afraid to contribute.
- GrowthHacker.tv: A paid resource, but a really great one. Tons of one-on-one interviews with smart people. For me, listening to experts talk clicks in my brain in different ways than reading can.
- RyanHoliday.net: If you’re looking for books to read, start here and join his reading list. Genius marketer and a really inspiring person in general.
What’s that? Your club needs to sell hundreds of tickets to an event? Sounds like a marketing challenge to me. Use those coding skills to cook up a landing page, find creative ways to promote it, track conversions with Google Analytics, add in a little hustle… BAM you’re applying this shit already.
Try to pick a club that’s very entrepreneurial. If you’ve got an Enactus at your school, just join that. Using entrepreneurship to change the world for the better… who’s not down for that? Enactus students all over the world are doing some pretty amazing things and you can too.
- Enactus: For realz, it’ll change your life.
If your school has a co-op program that’s a great option, but I found the placement choices were a bit limited. A lot of the choices are specialized roles at big companies where you don’t get enough broad exposure.
That’s why I’d recommend seeking out a role at a startup if you can (even if it’s part-time and/or unpaid). It’s faster-paced and you’ll be able to see how your marketing efforts directly impact the business.
- Ask around at your local startup incubator if anyone could use a hand (I got a job this way).
- Reach out to your favourite companies with enthusiasm (I’ve gotten interviews this way).
- Go to local Meetups and other events and chat with marketers and entrepreneurs (Build your network and you’ll never have to apply to a job posting again).
I was fortunate enough to major in economics, which has a major impact on marketing. Many economic principles remain unchanged and do in fact guide my decisions on a daily basis.Jordan Skole
If you’re about to jump into business school, keep this in mind. If you’re currently a marketing student and not getting much out of your degree, try a different discipline. And if you’re not a business student at all—use that to your advantage.
Overwhelmed? Have questions? Email me. Want to learn more? Join my course for marketing students who want to get ahead.
This post originally appeared in Medium. Comments can be seen there.