I Know Enough to Be Dangerous, Part II

by Susan Mullin

When your digital and mobile marketing skills need a boost, you don’t have to look too far to build them up

In Part I of this series, we emphasized that even if you’re a social media whiz among your friends and family, that doesn’t mean you necessarily have the right skills employees are looking for in today’s increasingly digital and mobile world.

Indeed, today’s employers hiring digital marketing and analytics professionals are looking for much more than a casual user. They expect candidates pursuing these roles to have business-specific and results-oriented experience including:

  • Sophisticated leadership of strategy, implementation and results specific to the company’s goals and objectives.
  • Creativity and innovation in developing content and executing.
  • Deep, extensive command of today’s most important business intelligence and marketing automation tools, like Marketo, Eloqua and Tableau.

So if you don’t have this level of expertise but you want to develop it, what’s a marketing professional to do? The good news is that there have never been more opportunities to learn, practice and grow your skills than right now. Here’s how.

1. Find a mentor

Mentors aren’t just for college students and interns. Even the most seasoned professionals find extraordinary value in having a mentor—or even a trusted team of them. Identify someone in your network with the skills, connections and career success that you’d like to have for yourself. Sit down with this individual regularly to ask questions and gain insights. Maybe s/he can even audit your resume to help you identify glaring gaps in skills or experience and then help you make a plan to fill those gaps.

2. Take a class

Whether you’re looking to master a particular software product or glean tips from the experts, there is no shortage of in-person and web-based classes and programs to help you master new skills.Many technical schools offer basic courses in technology, graphic design and marketing, and their adult education/community education programs frequently offer more practical courses taught by professionals and retirees as a community service. Local colleges, universities and graduate programs often offer “mini courses” in areas of growing professional interest. Some even allow you to audit for-credit courses.

Local chapters of respected trade and professional groups—such as the International Association of Business Communications, the American Marketing Association and the Association of Women in Communications—host ongoing skills-sharpening classes specifically designed to meet the professional development needs of marketing and communications professionals. You need not be a member to participate, although members typically receive discounted registration rates.

And, if you’re looking for truly low-budget training, you’d be amazed how many good instructional videos can be found on YouTube and Vimeo. Likewise, for a small membership fee, Lynda.com offers literally thousands of online video tutorials to help you learn software, creative and business skills.

3. Take a test drive of a new product or software, such as Marketo or Eloqua

Many cloud-based software products offer free trial subscriptions, often for a week and sometimes even longer. By signing up for a trial run, you’ll not only have an opportunity to try out the software yourself; you’ll also have free access to webinars, training videos and online community message boards to help you get to know the product. Some even offer customized online demos with the company’s sales team, where you can often glean personalized tips straight from the experts.

4. Conduct informational interviews

Do you have a professional contact or friend who is at the top of their game? Or perhaps you have your sights set on a specific company that’s been particularly successful in their marketing efforts. Request an informational interview with a member of a team or company you admire. Use the meeting as an opportunity to find out what skills they value, what specific software products or experience they require of their employees, what qualities they look for when hiring. Perhaps you can even request a demo of a particular software or campaign while you’re there. And, of course, don’t forget to thank the individual profusely for sharing their time and insights with you.

5. Follow the thought leaders

LinkedIn offers many lively professional groups and content-rich articles that can help you stay connected with hot topics and trends in the industry. Likewise, if you conduct a little research into which companies are tops in digital and mobile marketing, you’ll start to see some names appear over and over again. These are the thought leaders. Follow them, subscribe to their blogs and news feeds, and stay connected so that as they share their knowledge, you’re there to absorb it.

6. Put your new skills to work for a good cause

You’re likely involved in volunteer work or community service on some regular basis. Use these connections as an opportunity to learn new skills while advancing the goals of an organization or group you care about personally. (Nonprofits are often glad to have help and are willing to tolerate some stops and starts in return for a tangible product or service they can eventually use.) For example, if your church or synagogue needs a new web site, perhaps you can volunteer and then teach yourself as you build it. Or perhaps a food bank is desperate to raise money to feed the hungry, so you might volunteer to help develop a digital communications strategy where you’re actually the architect of the strategy, the implementation and the results.

7. Grab some colleagues and host your own workshop

Sometimes you’ll discover you’re not alone in lacking some key skills for today’s digital and mobile marketplace. In that case, there’s safety in numbers. Find a group of friends or colleagues with similar professional goals and interests, and pool your resources to bring in an expert or a panel of experts for a couple hours or a full day.

What other avenues for professional development and skill-building have you found valuable? We’d love to hear from you!

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Posted in , Digital Marketing, Professional Development