Future-Proofing My Career

Rockstar!...or maybe not.

I graduated from university eight short years ago with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, specialising in marketing and management. I was so excited to be out in the workforce, thinking that I was equipped with all the knowledge required in my field, and that I was going to be an absolute rockstar thanks to my relatively pedigreed educational background.

Talk about having acute tunnel vision and a massive chip on the shoulder.

Thankfully, this is not a story of failure — yet. I may have graduated with a solid foundation in understanding consumer behavior and implementing traditional marketing approaches, but I had zero understanding of digital marketing. Heck — I didn’t even know it was a thing! I missed an opportunity to understand the practical uses of AdWords when I failed my last interview with Google back in 2010, and never really understood the true power of harnessing the ubiquity of social media to reach out to customers.

I didn’t even know what demand generation meant or that there was a difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing. I’m taking a breather now to think about this post and my colleague’s just sent me an article on chatbots!

Marketing innovation never stops!

Most self-professed digital marketers I’ve met kinda give off these vibes…

Despite the relatively quick lifecycles in innovative marketing strategies (blink and you’ll find five new ways to nurture your leads or remarket to your customers, that sort of thing), I’ve been fortunate to have mentors and bosses who have helped shape my marketing acumen, as well as free resources from leading service providers such as Marketo, Hubspot, Localytics, and Google. My personal learning cycle has accelerated in the past two years due to my work scope and responsibilities, and it got me thinking: Why did it take me so long to actively future-proof my career, and how do I consistently ensure I’m equipped with the right skills (or at the very least, knowledge that I can eventually apply)?

Anecdotally — I’ve heard that the shelf life of our hard skills is less than 5 years! So we’re almost always going to run the risk of being obsolete unless we work on ourselves.

Why did it take me so long?

Sheer complacency. I thought, arrogantly enough, that there would be plenty of room for the different marketers out there. The truth is — and it becomes starkly apparent the more I apply for different jobs and speak to recruiters — that digital marketing skills are the hottest. stuff. in. marketing. right. now (feel free to Google “why digital marketing skills are important” or variations of, to get more articles). People are even becoming specialised in their digital marketing skills — I’ve seen too many job postings that state “Requires deep understanding and execution of SEO and social media strategy”. No one really wants a traditional marketer anymore. A marketer who has an appreciation for driving revenue and understands how to apply advanced digital marketing concepts beyond CPCs or CPAs (cost per clicks; cost per acquisition) has the potential to be an all-in-one marketing powerhouse.

How do I future-proof my marketing skills?

  • Learning on the job: I’ve been fortunate to be immersed in responsibilities that require me to understand these new concepts. Learning on the job is instrumental, but it’s not the only approach.
  • The Internet is my best friend: I mentioned above that I downloaded free articles from reputable marketing software providers — Marketo’s white papers are my favorite example of a business-to-business (B2B) lead generation tool because they articulate what email marketing is (for example), and then illustrate how Marketo helps their clients in email marketing, thus showing thought leadership and solution capability — and study them like I would back at uni. Google webinars are also a favorite of mine, as well as Quora. Quora provides a safe spot for thought leaders — both independent and corporate — to provide bite-sized, meaningful insight without the shadiness that some Reddit AMAs tend to get, and I like how it’s easy to reach out to these thought leaders in an informal manner.
  • Lynda.com and other online ‘schools’: Sometimes, you need to spend a little to get a lot back in return. I like using both free and paid courses for a formalised learning approach.

I like to set aside an hour each day to catch up with new developments in marketing and to read these resources.

Future-proofing is relatively simple but it has to be self-initiated. The concept of future-proofing is also not so much about learning something new, but formalising what you may already know logically, and provide you with a workable framework to implement these strategies. I’ve learnt so many new terms and concepts across my career, but that’s what they are — new terms. If I explained that you need to develop content to attract new customers to your website, you may probably nod and say “OK, that makes sense”. However, if I encapsulated that sentence as “Demand generation”, a layman person may go “Say what?”

That’s a different topic all together though, which I may explore in a future post. Right now, in this poorly-performing economy, what stands out is that I need to be more than what I thought I should be. It’s not a cause for depressive thinking. It should drive me (and you!) further in becoming the best professionals we can be.