So, you have a degree in marketing, communications or public relations. What does that mean for entering the workforce? The harsh reality is that in many employers’ minds, it may not mean all that much, as a large number of people with college degrees have no practical experience and/or meaningful internships.
Of the resumes that we receive at Kolbeco, roughly 20% have meaningful experience. In addition, they are not students of the media, meaning they don’t watch the news, read the paper or are active in building a professional brand for themselves on social media.
As I look back at previous generations, many professionals of years past did not have the educational experience, but they had practical experience. They learned on the job. They were always passionate students of their trade.
Allow me to share my grandfather’s story, a man who faced a challenging childhood, managed to get a high school education, and started his career selling irons door-to-door during the Great Depression. But the man who began as an iron salesman had a passion for engineering. He was self taught, never stopped learning, and went to work for Douglas Aircraft in California, which later merged and became McDonnell-Douglas. During his time there, he became the chief engineer on the AV8 Harrier project and worked in a lead role on the Apollo project. Yet he only had a high school diploma. Why was he successful leading a team of 2200 engineers? Because he was a student of engineering – even in retirement! He loved designing aircraft, and it was a big part of his identity. He remembered many of the internal debates within the walls of McDonnell Douglas – now Boeing. These were passionate debates on how to address problems and make the designs better. Believe it or not, I have met people on his team who remember debates with my grandfather from 30 or 40 years ago! That is what I call passion.
I believe there are lessons to be learned from my grandfather’s story – lessons that translate to the marketing and PR industry. The story teaches us that it’s not just about that diploma hanging on the wall. Want to have success in marketing? Be passionate, push boundaries, and most importantly, make mistakes. Want to be a great PR person? Have a true, authentic appreciation for the media. Become a consumer of media – read a journalist’s articles, watch the news, follow them on social media, learn the audience. You will soon understand what a journalist or a producer likes. You don’t need to ask them and shouldn’t have to. As you learn this you become a resource as a PR person and not a pest.
But being a great professional is also about finding your personal passion, and gaining life experience. Looking to enter the marketing field and not sure how to get started? Volunteer at a nonprofit. Explore the world. The more depth you have as a marketing person the more creative you can become. While some of this comes from experience, there are numerous creative people who are young and always thinking of new ways to push the boundaries. As a new graduate, look to push the more senior experienced people to their limits as well. They will appreciate it if they too are passionate people.
Education is a great start, but where you go from there is up to you.