In May 2016, I graduated from The University of Texas with BBA’s in Business Honors and Marketing. While I never officially changed my major, you can ask any of my friends and they can give you about twenty alternate majors I bounced off of them during my four years. I constantly debated whether or not my major was a) challenging enough b) true to my personality and c) powerful in the marketplace. While my stance on the first two constantly changed, I can say with confidence that by graduation, I was highly confident in the latter.
At times, it seems like a Marketing degree comes with a stigma (or two or three…). Despite being one of the most in-demand skills with world-renowned research and undergrad/graduate programs dedicated to this ever-changing field, somehow there are still people who believe it’s just a soft, feminine degree, who question you with “Are you in Marketing because you’re bad at math?”.
Pardon my defense, but the day being proficient in advanced statistics and R means I’m “bad at math” is the day you can tell me Marketing is for softies. However, until everyone is on board (looking at the demand for analytical marketing skills, it shouldn’t take them long to catch up), here are a few ways you can make sure that your Marketing degree is not only as quantifiable as possible, but that you can also communicate its power effectively.
This one’s all on you, habibti. While it is absolutely necessary to exercise your right brain and stay as creative as possible in this field, university coursework is the best way to beef up the quant side of your marketing degree.
After using this program in multiple internships and in my current career, I cannot recommend taking some advanced statistics classes and learning how to code in R enough. Take the difficult professor, this skill is becoming more and more in-demand every year, and as more universities add R as an alternative to Excel and SAS, utilize the classroom environment to really drive this home.
While I was never able to fit a formal visual design coding class into my schedule at uni, I still highly recommend finding time for this. While self-learning is very possible, given the increasing number of online resources and community classes, take advantage of the resources your school provides. You may even have to go outside the business school to take an entry-level computer science course, but with hard skills, I usually find that I can learn something twice as quickly in a formal classroom setting, rather than relying on my own self-study. Furthermore, coding gives you the ability to take your creativity to the next level – not only can you create beautiful design on paper or in Illustrator, but you can also take these online.
If your Marketing degree doesn’t already require you to take classes in other business disciplines, I highly recommend you enroll in a few other entry-level business courses. It is imperative to understand where Marketing fits among the other business units. I’m biased, but as much as I like to believe Marketing is the most important business driver, we as marketers need to understand the impact our decisions have on other parts of the business (perhaps if only to effectively push back when they try to cut our budgets 😉 ).
My biggest piece of advice here is to diversify, diversify, diversify. Use every summer (and perhaps even some free time during the semester) to touch as many different facets of Marketing as possible. Not only will this help you figure out what you like most, but it will also make you a well-rounded interview candidate and help you work with different teams, creative and analytical, once you start working.
Whether you consider yourself a number-cruncher or the next Basquiat, it’s important to exercise your design skills as a Marketer. Understanding how design and advertising affect the total marketing campaign will allow you to understand how the creative piece affects timing and budgeting.
Heads up – if you’re a Marketing major through your business school, you may need to look outside formal recruiting methods to find these opportunities. My experience came through cold-emailing every advertising firm in Austin, TX and going into their office with my portfolio for interviews. Additionally, most positions come unpaid, so plan ahead!
Harnessing the power of marketing analytics is one of the most in-demand capabilities in all major corporations right now. Using big data to inform marketing strategy allows companies to make more targeted campaigns – cutting extra costs and decreasing marketing clutter.
In any marketing internship that touches analytics, you’ll be asked to look at the performance of different campaigns and optimization decisions through things like A/B testing and Key Performance Indicators. My biggest piece of advice here is to never stop questioning if you’re looking at the right KPI’s or if there’s something you could be doing better. With each metric comes a new lens through which valuable insight can be drawn – does click-through or conversion better measure success for this piece?
If your degree plan doesn’t include some advanced statistics classes and R coding classes, invest some time in learning the basics yourself, or ask your manager at your internship for visibility into this area. Marketing analytics will only become more important from now on! This is a highly relevant way to add some quant skills to your tool belt.
If possible, try to find an opportunity to look at marketing campaigns and how the marketing organization of a company affects all the other pieces of the company’s puzzle in a high-level view.
This can be done either through strategy-level internships, or even strategy-specific coursework. Regardless, as marketers, we have to understand how all of our decisions affect other organizations – when we don’t, we begin to lose credibility with Finance, Supply Chain, etc. Learn how to always pull each decision back up to a strategic level to ensure maximum cohesion.
Show it off
Now that you’ve worked so hard on building up a diverse portfolio of marketing skills and insight through your difficult coursework and varied internships – it’s time to show it off!
In my opinion, Marketing majors can do this best in two ways – a standard resume and a personal portfolio/website.
Unfortunately, most employers, even the most creative ones, will always require a boring, standard, one-page resume. However, don’t fret! This is your opportunity to show off your digits. With every bullet, be sure you quantify the impact you made in your project or internship responsibility.
On a more creative note, the emergence of personal websites means that more and more employers are willing to take a quick glance at your linked portfolio. In this digital age, we are not only expected, but nearly required to maintain an online presence. Don’t let your Facebook or stale LinkedIn be the only thing that pops up when an employer (inevitably) searches your name – take this as an opportunity to show off your design skills and personality!
You can start by exploring the free templates on Blogger or WordPress, or take this as an opportunity to work on your CSS and HTML skills! I’m currently re-vamping my own website and will write on how I’ve designed mine in an upcoming article 😉