When I graduated from college, I thought I was finally done learning. Gone were the days of reading dry academic literature, doing research and following lectures on Marketing and Consumer Behavior.
Turns out I was wrong: I wasn’t done learning after graduating from college. In fact, I started learning about marketing after I got my degree.
University had taught me about customer psychology, media strategies, critical thinking, and doing research. And that’s great. But university didn’t teach me how to optimize web pages, or how to write short, clear and appealing social media copy.
When I landed an internship role, I was confident that I’d do a great job. But when I started my internship, I learnt the hard truth: My time-management skills were poor, the content I wrote was waaay too long and complex, and I had struggles with properly designing a social media graphic.
Years after following that first internship, I have massively improved my time-management, writing, and graphic design skills. But that didn’t suddenly happen. I had to put in the hard work and I needed to stay curious and keep learning. My internship taught me to communicate more clearly. During my first job, I taught myself the basics of copywriting. While being unemployed, I taught myself how to write better copy and how to optimize my website for search engines. And now I’ve landed my second full-time job, but I’m still looking for ways to improve my marketing knowledge and skills.
And that’s something I love about this industry. Marketing is such a broad topic. It’s a mix between theory and practice. Everyone in the industry is unique. And the best thing: You don’t really need to have a marketing degree in order to become good at marketing. Some of the best marketers I’ve met followed courses that didn’t have anything to do with marketing. Some followed an English major, others graduated in Biology.
What really matters is your drive to gain knowledge and improve your skills. The best marketers are the ones who know they still have a lot to learn. Those who stay ever-curious, even when they have years of experience in the field.
There is always room to learn, improve, and grow. If you’re curious and open to new ideas and perspectives, I’m sure that your learning experience will be an enjoyable one.
Let me highlight a few tactics that helped me gain more marketing knowledge and experience, even as a beginning marketer:
- Consuming: Gathering information, reading books, following courses
- Experimenting: Trying out new things
- Helping others: As employee, intern, freelancer, or volunteer
- Doing things for yourself
- Becoming part of a community
Before you create and teach, you have to consume and learn. Consuming information is one of the most important roads to gaining more knowledge.
When I was a student, I hated studying academic articles. I’d rather go to lectures, take a lot of notes, and study these notes. When I got my first job, reading still wasn’t my favorite activity. But I knew I had to consume information if I wanted to learn more about marketing. So I started following marketing podcasts. And when Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces became popular, I started attending these social audio sessions.
Since then, I’ve discovered so many ways to learn new things about marketing:
- Reading marketing books, like “Junior” by Thomas Kenemy
- Reading marketing articles written by individuals, companies, and agencies
- Subscribing to marketing newsletters, like Amanda Natividad’s “The Menu” and Kushaan Shah’s “Marketing Mind Meld”
- Attending (online) conferences, like INBOUND
- Listening to marketing podcasts, like Jason Bradwell’s B2B Better
- Attending webinars, like SparkToro Office Hours
- Lurking and participating in Twitter Chats, like Christine Gritmon’s #ChatAboutBrand
- Listening to Twitter Space Rooms, like Brianne Fleming’s #BrandJam
- Following free online courses, like Google’s AdWords certificate
See how many things you can do to learn more about marketing? Just keep the following in mind: You don’t have to read, listen to, or watch everything. Make learning enjoyable and sustainable for yourself. You can even get one great takeaway after reading one single thought-provoking LinkedIn post. Just make sure to be curious and be on the lookout for inspiring content.
Are you unsure what to do during your next marketing campaign? Do you feel like you don’t know how to write good copy? Does recording yourself on TikTok sound scary to you?
Why don’t you just give it a try?
Marketing is all about testing new things and seeing what works for you, your employer, your client, and your audience. It took the most successful marketers, brands, and creators years of experimenting before they found their golden ideas. And keep in mind: we are all trying to figure things out.
I once heard someone use the acronym F.A.I.L.: It means ‘First Attempt In Learning.’ So go make those mistakes and learn from them.
You’re not going to become a good marketer by only consuming content–you have to do the actual work. Of course, having a part-time or full-time paid job is a great way to get experience. But there are so many more ways to learn while helping others.
Consider doing an internship–or even voluntary work for a non-profit. Go find a good cause you find important and help them with their marketing strategy. I’m sure that there are a lot of NPOs who would accept your help with open arms and give you the opportunity to learn and experiment.
You can also try freelancing. While doing my bachelor’s degree, I launched my own business. With my company SociJel, I helped small entrepreneurs set up and execute their own marketing strategy. Meanwhile, I was able to put academic theory into practice.
You can even learn more about marketing by helping out your friends and family. If a friend of yours has a side project, why don’t you help them by creating some social media posts?
What about creating your very own passion project?
It took me a year to find a new full-time job after being laid off by my previous employer during the pandemic. During that time I started sharing content on Twitter. When I got more comfortable, I designed my own website and started blogging.
As I tried out all these things, I gained valuable insights on topics like SEO, SEA, copywriting, and content marketing. Some of my blogs ranked high on Google, I had a few tweets go viral, and I saw hundreds of posts flop. And I’ve learned why something worked or failed—all because I set up my own personal project.
Creating your own side project isn’t only a valuable learning experience—it also helps you build your portfolio and gain some credibility. So start creating!
Join a marketing community—online or offline, it doesn’t matter! When you become part of a community, you will meet people who have interests and goals similar to yours. In communities you can exchange knowledge, information and perspectives with other marketers. By doing so, you will learn from others, and others will learn from you.
A great side effect: you’ll build friendships with people from across the entire world. You’ll also be given opportunities you never would have thought of. If I hadn’t become part of a marketing community, I wouldn’t have written this blog!
Let me highlight a few communities that helped me:
In 2020, I re-joined Twitter. I was soon made aware of a community called “Marketing Twitter.” Thousands of marketers come to Twitter every day to share useful insights on topics like copywriting, SEO, and creativity. Thanks to #MarketingTwitter, I discovered great marketing sources, built friendships with other marketers, got a new job, and found ways to remind myself of my own worth and deal with imposter syndrome.
American Marketing Association
A professional community for marketers! The AMA offers trainings, certifications, webinars, and opportunities to build your network.
Social Media Pulse
Social Media Pulse is just getting started, but I’m sure it’s going to become a great community where you can connect with and learn from everyone. So mingle in, share your thoughts, and let’s learn together!
These are just a few examples of the many paths you can follow in your journey to become a great marketer. And remember: every path is different. Some become brilliant content creators, others love researching customer data. Some prefer reading books, others learn by following courses.
There isn’t just one right way to becoming a knowledgeable and experienced marketer–there are many of them. The only thing that matters is staying curious and being willing to learn new things.
Even after graduating.
Jelle Postma @jelle0908
I’m a 23 year old Marketer from the Netherlands. Obsessed with content creation, personal branding and learning new things!