Studying v Working in Marketing
Graduate from secondary school, go to university, and get a job in your field – this is the expected career trajectory. From the beginning of high school, this wasn’t just what my parents assumed I’d do, it was an expectation reinforced by teachers, friends, other family members and society more broadly.
I, however, took the long route getting to where I wanted to go in my career. Before landing my current position, I took time out to travel the world, live interstate and work in a variety of vastly different jobs, from being a deckhand on super-yachts to waitressing, from working as a winery cellar-hand to working in administration. It was only after all these experiences that I finally stumbled upon my niche and began studying a degree in marketing.
I did this on an external basis, which gave me the freedom to work in the industry while gaining my qualification, and I can honestly say that my experience of the gap between studying marketing and working in marketing has been truly eye-opening. The biggest differences I’ve found to date are:
1. Marketing moves at such an alarming rate that universities can’t keep up.
When the industry changes so rapidly, keeping the learning content of a degree up to date isn’t always possible. UX, chatbots, customer segmentation, predictive analysis and intelligent content curation are just some of the crucial and relevant recent marketing advances that my degree is yet to teach me about. Textbooks are great but doing my own research means I can learn about current trends and industry changes in order to put the learnings into practice in my own work.
2. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
Every client is different and every marketing strategy requires a new tactic. Learning how to be creative, how to think outside the box and how to push the boundaries of what’s previously been done isn’t something that can be taught. However, it can be learned, and the best way of doing that is through experience and a bit of trial and error. Testing new ideas, adapting them after feedback and refining concepts is the process that helps to ensure a practical and innovative approach.
3. An A+ on paper means nothing if you can’t apply what you learn.
Learning about customer service and target market interaction is one thing. Putting it into practice is another. I’ve learnt the fundamentals of giving a presentation, the importance of time management and that the customer is always right, but what we write and what we do when we’re faced with a real-life scheduling conflict or challenging customer is a completely different scenario. Unfortunately these are the sorts of situations that studying marketing and public relations can partially prepare you for but that only experience can properly teach you to handle.
Studying has given me a strong foundation while working at the same time has allowed me to test the theories and decide what works best for the particular customers I deal with and is the best fit for my own personality and preferences.
Everything I have learned in my course has all been highly beneficial. My degree has taught me the fundamentals, and has also challenged me, inspired me and given me the best foundation for a career in marketing. However, there are some things that just can’t be learnt from a textbook, such as the way customer interaction shifts, social media updates, artificial intelligence advances and the evolution of the marketing landscape.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to put my learning from university into practice daily, and to educate myself along the way while working with The Long and The Short of It. A degree is great but it takes experience, great mentors and continual learning to keep ahead in this crazy race we call marketing.