I've recently been going through a series of interviews with a whole host of marketing agencies. The first question they tend to ask me is ‘So, you did a degree in Archaeology..” and after a minute of explaining that I don’t dig up dinosaurs the conversation moves on in a more serious discussion about skills and experiences. While I'm talking though the thought playing at the back of my mind is -hell, is that really all my degree has become? A conversation starter?
So does a non-marketing degree still have any relevance in the marketing industry?
I graduated in 2009 with a degree in Archaeology and History. Although my knowledge of micromorphology and England’s medieval economy hasn't come in any direct use (yet), I’ve come to realise that there are those magical things which come out of your degree….transferable skills.
Yes, that awful phrase does actually count for something, even if it’s indirectly help in the long term. If I was going to speak to undergrads today I’d say that humanities graduates actually have a great skill set for doing marketing. We're great at doing research, analysing large quantities of information, presenting it, writing and thinking about things from a whole series of different angles. So, those skills which helped you write that essay on historiography do actually have an application when it comes to writing a marketing plan, or building a campaign.
But if you really want to get into the world of digital, there’s one fantastic piece of news…
There’s no one formal route into the industry. You can do a lot to help yourself, but ultimately there isn’t a set course, of X years of study which is going to get you into a marketing job. Showing a passion and having experience are the two things which count. With skills based interviews being the way forwards having those times when you ran a successful campaign, or tracked a mailshot etc are crucial for showing an employer you can do the job.
Gaining experience on the side and using those wonderful transferable skills should definitely put you in good stead for once you graduate. The best bit with learning about marketing is that as it's all online you can do it whenever you want, and, you don’t have to spend much money doing it.
The golden rule is experiment! Do something, hell do anything where you can see results. What works, what doesn't? What could be improved? Set up a test website or campaign, play around with it, experiment! Even if it’s abject failure you will have learnt something from it.
So, when it comes to gaining that experience here’s my advice:
Find the skills you're good at:
When it comes to digital there are a huge number of areas when you can choose to specialise. You might decide you want to keep it general, but at least by exploring the different options you’ll know what does and doesn't work for you. Some even general marketing jobs tend to have an emphasis on a couple of certain areas, so a marketing assistant job might focus 80% of their time on email, 10% on reporting and 10% social. If you hate email, then it’s best you know beforehand you end up signing your life away in an unfulfilling marketing role.
The core areas of digital which you should explore are:
Website Design and Development
Get experienced in social
Just because you’re on Facebook doesn’t give you social media experience. I’ve touched on this before, but if you use Twitter, and *love all things* social, does not give you experience - only enthusiasm.
Set up your own page, learn about Insights, advertising options, and how to craft content as a provider not a consumer. Look at the differences between B2B and B2C markets, and keep a track of how things like Edgerank are changing the social landscape.
Build a website
Have a stab at building one. Seriously, it’s good fun and a great learning curve. If you want to make a site for yourself to act as a portfolio then that can work well. From playing with fonts, transferring domain names or editing the HTML, they’re all good skills which any digital marketer needs to know. You probably won’t be the one building the sites for clients, but understanding the ins and outs when talking to the technical team means you can understand one another more easily.
If it’s coming up to graduation and your serious about working for a company then start making in-roads. Follow them on Twitter to see what they get up to. Find the key figures who do the hiring and firing on LinkedIn. Just knowing the general landscape of the marketing industry, who to work for and who to avoid can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
If you can, actually get away from the computer and network with people face to face. Whether they’re business networking events, or friendly socials, it’s great to meet people face-to-face, and if your much more likely to be remembered if a job or opportunity comes up in the future (assuming you make a good impression that is).
Find a niche
Quite self-explanatory but finding a niche area of marketing will keep you interested when things seem dull. There are plenty of topics out there whether its marketing for hotels, fitness or luxury cars to name a few, you can find something that appeals.
The specialist knowledge you can in that field might not be entirely relevant to the job you end up doing, but there is always ideas and practices that can be translated from one sector or marketing to another.
So what happens if your degree gets nothing more than a mention in an interview? Actually it doesn't really matter. What matters is that it's given me the skills, albeit indirectly at times, that massively help towards gaining experience, which in turn has helped in all areas of my life, not just my career.