One Skill Every Marketer Should Have – No Matter Your Pay Grade

Photo of three young, female marketers engaging in lively conversation around a big table in a downtown boardroom.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Think about how your career has evolved since you got your start in the workforce. It may look a bit different from your marketing counterparts… different titles, different responsibilities, and a different skill set. But there’s one skill that should be common to all marketers to help successfully elevate their career and remain marketable in today’s business climate.

When you start a new job, you have one major responsibility – learn and digest all that you can in as little time as possible. You spend the first few weeks discussing company culture with your supervisor, watching training videos, reading info sheets and guidebooks, and being tested on your retention of all of the above. Exhausting, right?

Then months go by and you gradually become the expert, the go-to for all things _____ (you can insert your position/area of expertise here).

But mastering the skills, tools, and technologies needed for your current level or position is only half the battle. Your commitment to learning shouldn’t stop once you’ve passed the training phase and mastered the basics. It’s an ongoing effort and one that every marketer – from interns and assistants to VPs and CMOs – should dedicate themselves to.

The act of learning looks different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But if you’re struggling to commit to a regular habit of learning, here are a few steps you can take to make it fit your personal work style.

Step 1. Take Inventory

Before you dive in, determine the specific skills you need to learn. Chances are, you already have a clear understanding of what your current role requires. But learning and your personal professional development require you to be progressive and forward-thinking.

Consider what new skills you need to propel your team and company forward. What is a new process you could implement to make your team more efficient? What new app integrates into your current stack to improve team alignment?

Now, take it one step further and think about your next role. On average, we change jobs every 4 to 5 years. So be sure to take into account your long-term professional goals and the skills you’ll need to achieve those. Hopefully, there’s some crossover (and your list doesn’t end up as long as that never-ending scroll).

Step 2. Make time

I know, your to-do list is long and your days are short. If you ask any other marketer, they’ll likely share a similar sentiment. I get it. But if you don’t make time for learning, it will always take a back seat to some other task or some other activity.

If you’re struggling to find the time, the 4 Disciplines of Execution is a good place to start. The book shares a set of practices that can help you step out of the whirlwind and effectively execute on those goals you set for yourself in step 1. Additionally, try blocking “heads down” time off on your calendar that is dedicated solely to learning something new, or brushing up on an old skill.

It’s important to remember that learning is about investing in yourself. While your company may provide you with time on the job to learn or access to professional development funds, you will need to take initiative and responsibility for your own development.

Find some time outside of work – away from the phone calls, impromptu office visits, and Slack pings. Whether it be studying for a certification on the weekends or attending industry conferences, making time for those distraction free moments away from your desk puts the onus on you to take charge of your career growth and development. There are many opportunities and channels available, but the goal is to find what works for you.

Step 3. Seek help

Learning doesn’t have to be a solo activity. The great thing about acquiring a new skill is that there is always someone who’s already mastered said skill, and is probably open to teaching or mentoring you in that area.

Tap into the SMEs around you at work or in your network who can serve as coaches as you journey into a new arena. LinkedIn’s Career Advice feature does just that – allowing you to connect with professionals to gain advice, career guidance, etc.

Also, check out vendor user group meetings like the Philadelphia Marketo User Group or local chapters of industry organizations and other meetups geared towards your industry or career path.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Step 4. Watch for trends

While you may have your list of “must-have skills for 2018” dated, signed and sealed, remember that the industry is always changing. And one of the keys to remaining competitive in your field is keeping a close eye on how the industry is changing.

“What new trends are emerging?”
“How are new technologies impacting the industry?”

With apps like Feedly, you can curate your own list of industry-leading sites and resources to access top news stories about your field and industry right at your fingertips.

Your LinkedIn news feed also serves as a great resource. Follow people, companies, and/or topics that are relevant and align with your core values and monitor how things are shifting. More often than not, those industry leaders and pioneers will help you determine what new skills should be added to your repertoire.

Some of my go-tos are Forbes Leadership content, Liz Ryan for professional development insights, and Marketing Profs/Ann Handley for marketing, content, and social insights.

Step 5. Be realistic

Repeat after me: “I am not and will never be a unicorn.”

Children should aspire to be whatever they want to be. Adults on the other hand, eh not so much. Eventually, you learn that some career paths, like a mailbox or dragon breeder, are off the table. Yet today, the idea still exists that marketers can and should be mythical, multifaceted unicorns.

Being both a versatile and multidimensional marketer is essential. However, striving to become a specialist in every area of marketing is very unsustainable.

In virtually all of the marketing positions I’ve held, website management and maintenance has been a requirement. While I certainly have a high-level understanding of how a CMS application works and can maintain the design and format, add content pages and other assets, it’s highly improbable that web development will ever be my area of expertise.

It’s important to have an understanding of the different areas of marketing but stretching yourself thin in hopes of specializing in all of these areas will do more harm than good.

Learning isn’t optional

Regardless of what industry you’re in, what your title is, or what pay grade you fall within, learning should never be optional. Marketing leaders and leaders-to-be who commit to a life of learning and ongoing professional development will have access to greater opportunity than those who don’t.

What are some ways you work towards being a lifelong learner? Share your stories and tips below.


About the Author

Kiyana Neil

Kiyana is DemandLab's Marketing Manager. She brings seven years of experience to her role in supporting DemandLab's sales and marketing efforts, leading brand management and corporate communication efforts, and helping to ensure a seamless sales cycle and a better experience for the company's prospects and clients.

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