Not too long ago I stood in front of 30 eight and nine-year-olds showing them the ever exciting method of Lattice Multiplication. (Seriously, the kids LOVED doing it.) Yep, I was a third grade teacher. Ive talked before about the thought process and decisions I made when I decided to quit teaching and get back into marketing, but I haven't talked much about the tactical steps. If you want to work in marketing, or even if you're new in your career and want to expand your skills, my experience might help you.
It all boils down to doing three things: learn, build and practice.
If you don't currently work in marketing, you'll want to learn the skills and tactics you need to perform in a marketing role. Even if you used to work in marketing but haven't for many years, as was the case for me, things change quickly in the industry. You want to make sure you're up on current trends and techniques. You have to invest some time to learn, but there are great resources available. What resources will be most helpful for you will depend on what specific type of marketing interests you, however, Ive tried to recommend general resources which would be beneficial for all marketers.
There are so many fantastic books out there about marketing in general and specific branches. I currently have a list of about 25 books I want to read this year and Ive started a marketing book club with friends to help me reach that goal. When you're starting out, I recommend these 5 books to get you going.
Books are great, but they take a long time to write and publish which can sometimes make the content less relevant after they are released. For the most up to date trends and insights into the marketing industry, blogs are ideal.
You're reading Search Engine Peopleright now, so you're off to a great start! I'm also a big fan of HubSpot, MarketingLand, TopRank and Moz. I especially love Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO and Beginner's Guide to Social Media.
Again, there are so many insightful blogs out there, and will depend on your specific interests, I think this roundup of 75 Must Read blogs by Unbounce is pretty comprehensive.
If you're stretched for time Marketing Dive has a helpful daily email roundup of the top industry news. Even setting up Google Alerts for certain terms can work.
Find what works for you, or what source you prefer, and READ! When you're in the learning stage you'll read a lot. But that doesn't stop when you become a practitioner. Its crucial that you keep your skills and knowledge relevant and sharp.
When I made my career change I completed the Public Relations & Strategic Communications certification program at University of Washington. This program was only a year-long and held 2 nights a week, so participants could still work. The best part is that it was taught by actual practitioners, not academics, so we got more real work advice and experience. I highly recommend you check any colleges or universities near you to see if they have a continuing education program.
If they don't, or a continuing education program isn't right for you, there are plenty of excellent Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) available for free. In fact, there's enough out there now that you can complete all the coursework for an MBA online at little to no cost
Conferences & Events:
Industry conferences and events can be a great way to learn about marketing and expand your skillset. Often you'll learn from industry leaders and hear about the remarkable work brands are doing. Mostly you will learn about current trends and tactics, so conferences and events are a good addition to more fundamental learning you do in marketing.
Some of my favorite conferences and events are:
To work in marketing its helpful to have a strong network, especially to help you get a job. Its important to have people you can learn from, discuss ideas and theories with, and in general support each other through you careers. There are ways to build your network both face-to-face and virtually.
Attending conferences and events like the ones I mentioned in the last section will help you build your network as well as learn marketing. The networking is sometimes the best part of conferences. I highly recommend attending the meals and happy hours they organize, that is where the magic happens!
Twitter is a fantastic way to meet and interact with colleagues in marketing. One way to build up your network is to engage in Twitter Chats. Twitter Chats are conversations that happen virtually on a given topic with a set hashtag. Some examples are #AdChat, #BlogChat, #SEOtalk, #socialchat, and many more.
Your Digital Presence: Twitter
Speaking of Twitter, if you aren't there yet, I highly recommend you start using it now. Its a great way to talk with people and keep track of the latest news. Its also smart to curate and share content that interests you to help build your professional profile.
Your Digital Presence: LinkedIn
LinkedIn is, of course, another excellent channel to build your professional identity. Make sure to connect there with marketers you meet both in real life and online. One piece of advice is to personalize your connection requests. Its a great way to make a good impression and stand out from the rest. Also you can share content on LinkedIn as well so you can show your marketing knowledge.
Your Digital Presence: Blog
One of the best ways to show your marketing knowledge and acumen is to blog. If you want to work in marketing, I strongly recommend you have a website with your relevant social links, resume, work samples and a blog. Its best if you schedule time each week to write and publish posts. Especially if you want to build your professional profile, its wise to post relevant and interesting content as often as possible.
You've got the knowledge, now you need to build the skills. After you've learned the basics, its time to put what you've learned into action. I recommend putting your talents to work for a nonprofit, startup or even your current company – depending on the situation.
When I was making my career change, I volunteered my time to build a marketing and social media plan for Seattle Works. I had already been volunteering with Seattle Works for many years, so I knew the organization well and understood their culture, audience and tone of voice. Like most nonprofits, they didn't have a lot of people-power so trying new things in marketing and social media was intimidating. And since I was familiar with the organization, the team was happy to let me help.
In helping Seattle Works, I built up my experience and had real-world work samples to show in future job interviews. I also got to help an organization I love and want to see succeed. There are plenty of nonprofits out there, or even new companies starting out, that need someone to help them with marketing. It can be a win-win for you and the organization.
One thing I want to make clear, this isn't a linear process. When I made my career change I was practicing while I was learning. And at the same time I was networking as much as I could. It wasn't an easy process and it definitely took time. And I took a few steps back career-wise and salary-wise to get started. But I worked hard and proved myself. Ive been successful since my career change and its confirmed that I made the right choice for me. Hopefully my experience can help others who are looking to make a similar career change.
What resources or tips would you recommend to someone who wants to work in marketing?
Karianne Stinson is Account Director at the new digital content creation agency, Mediabrands Publishing. Prior to Mediabrands Publishing, Karianne was Manager of Social Strategy and Planning with Seattle-based social marketing agency, Spring Creek Group. Karianne helps global and local brands create interesting content, manage their online presence, and grow their social communities.