Ah, the new year. Fresh calendars are being hung in homes around the world while gyms across the country fill to capacity from a crush of resolutioners looking to improve their health. Packs of cigarettes are thrown away en masse. A wave of new online dating profiles is born. Container stores are stripped clean by all of us looking to “get more organized.” It’s a time of year when many people look to cross a skills gap, change a habit, advance their career, or try something they’ve always meant to do.
So it’s not surprising that so many marketers fall into the same thinking. From specialists looking to diversify their skill sets to move toward management, to marketing neophytes looking to become experts in their favorite field, to managers and marketing directors who want to more specifically understand all the work they manage, literally every marketer can benefit from some form of continued training in 2017.
But as it goes for many New Year’s resolutions: if only it were so simple.
From random YouTube videos to online graduate degrees, staying educated in marketing (while also still working) presents too many options with too little guidance about where best to turn. What options present the best marketing ROI, if you will, in terms of value gained for time put in?
One of the biggest mistakes that professionals make today is failing to set personal learning goals. It’s one thing to have your eye on a position in the future, and another entirely to have that dream position aligned with specific learning goals that will ensure you arrive on time. In the digital world, marketing skills are developing and changing faster than ever—and marketers who don’t make a concerted effort to keep up will quickly find that all the “experience” they slowly accrue over time is worth less and less in comparison to much younger marketers with full jackets of skill credentials and a couple projects under their belts.
One of the key changes in the marketplace is the rise of new credentials. In years past, universities typically provided formal credentials through undergraduate and graduate degree, while “experience” would slowly accrue and demonstrate worth over a long career. This dynamic has changed. Between the inaccessibility and difficulty of trying to earn a degree while working and the ever-growing demand for technical skills that colleges have difficulty staying up to date on, formal credentials have exploded into a far wider spectrum for marketers. From online learning to certificates and “micro degrees,” employers are becoming increasingly accepting of numerous form of demonstrated knowledge (only about five percent of HR professionals are still holding out against online credentials.)
Choosing what type of learning path is best for you is often just a matter of thinking briefly about what your professional goals are for the immediate future:
You might have a clearer idea of how you can learn, but that still leaves the big question of what to learn. With marketing becoming an ever more digital and integrated practice, the sheer number of applicable skills can be overwhelming to parse through. Here are some recommendations for best ways to start spanning your marketing skills gap in 2017:
Ultimately, the best place for any marketer to be is in a mind-set that embraces constant and ongoing learning, whether it’s reading an article every morning or coming home to work on an online degree at night. Credentials can help fill out resumes and interviews, but ultimately they are meant to reflect knowledge and skill sets that should be apparent from the work you do. Seek out ways to learn the most for as little monetary investment as possible (though, excellent learning can sometimes cost) and don’t be afraid to bring your employer into the conversation for both guidance and possibly financial support.
The ever-changing landscape of marketing doesn’t have to be frightening. In fact, it presents an amazing opportunity for marketers to remain dynamic in their careers. But for those who want to remain mobile and dynamic, it will require a likewise ever-growing and dynamic love for learning that spans your entire professional lifetime.