What advice would you give a new graduate who is entering the marketing and communications world during COVID-19? Graduates today are faced with more uncertainty and challenges than in previous job markets. However, as this unique period in history is teaching us, and as Zig Ziglar reminds us, “Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.”
Graduates, don’t lose hope! Success is always waiting for those who are willing to work hard, think outside of the box and learn from others who have faced job loss, personal setbacks, seismic career shifts or all of the above.
Here’s my humble advice of lessons learned after spending 20+ years in the magazine publishing, communications, content marketing and business ownership fields. Hope this advice will help encourage you while also providing the proverbial kick in the pants to get out there and don’t let present circumstances hinder your outlook on the future. Things will get better, so use this season to get ready for your best launch yet.
1. Be a lifelong student
It’s probably not what you want to hear after having just graduated, but the learning never ends. Set aside time each week to digest industry blogs, podcasts and other resources to stay on top and keep your skills and knowledge fresh. Social Media Examiner, Amy Porterfield’s podcasts, Marie Forleo’s newsletter, and a variety of blogs (Neil Patel has some excellent SEO-based videos) are all on my regular rotation of reading, listening or watching.
They keep me informed, challenge me to be a better communicator, writer and marketer. With so many resources to choose from, find the ones you most enjoy and invest in some continuing education each week. Best of all? Many of them are free. Hubspot Academy is a leader when it comes to free online training. It offers a variety of certifications on topics including email marketing, inbound marketing, sales and even growth-driven design for your website to up your game.
2. Get focused for your day
The work world can be an exciting yet exhausting place with a whole lotta hustling going on. Lately I’ve been using an app called Headspace to do short 5- or 10-minute meditations. By focusing on deep breathing and having a little quiet time before the rush of the day, I stay more grounded and less overwhelmed when projects or looming deadlines strike. If you want to take it one step further and invest in a good time management program, Monday Hour One has changed how I approach time and made me more efficient and intentional.
3. Don’t be afraid to be yourself
The world is saturated with people who want to be just like each other. Don’t fall for this trap, and rush to be like everyone else. People appreciate authenticity and meaningful ideas.
Discover the unique traits that God has gifted you with and share those with the world. And it’s OK if you don’t know all of your “gifts.” I didn’t either when I was getting started. But as one of my virtual mentors says in her book, Everything is Figureoutable, “Clarity comes from engagement” so try and do new things to find what you love and are passionate about.
4. Spend less time on social media
This may sound counterintuitive because social media is a key component of promoting your brand but hear me out. After reading Cal Newport’s popular book on Digital Minimalism, I am trying to take back control of my social media usage instead of the other way around. Scheduling strategic times to focus on social media instead of jumping on or off 10 times a day (or more if we’re being honest), helps keep you focused and more productive. And while we’re on the subject of scheduling, plan your day the evening before. Looking ahead to what projects, deadlines or meetings you have coming up can help you be better prepared and present your best self.
5. Read, read, read
I’ve always heard the saying, “Leaders are readers” but I didn’t get it until I became a leader. Whether you aspire to be a leader or not, reading can make you a more thoughtful, well rounded business professional. There are countless visionaries and greats who have forged new paths and ideas in the marketing and communications field and leadership overall. As you’re getting started in this industry, learn from them. Chances are, they’ve authored some books along the way. Books are a fantastic way to study their methods and thinking to stretch your mind. You may not always agree with everything they share, but by learning their ideas, strategies and systems, you are shaping your own vision and approach.
If you’re not a book reader but enjoy audio learning, consider audible books. A monthly Audible subscription is the price of two to three of your favorite Starbucks beverages … just sayin’. The Greatest Salesman in the World is one of my favorite reads from this year.
6. Get a virtual mentor (if you don’t have an in-person one)
I wish I had sought mentors earlier in my career because I know I could have benefitted from their support and guidance. I am an introvert so reaching out to people and asking someone to be a mentor doesn’t come easy. But what I didn’t realize at the time – that I do now – is you can have virtual mentors.
Find two or three super stars in this industry who you admire and study their rise to success. How do they communicate? How do they handle their social media? What does their marketing look like? What books are they reading? What podcasts are they listening to? Studying the best of the best in the business helps improve your game as well. James Clear’s Atomic Habits and Benson Agbortogo’s The Business System That Never Fails are two books that I read recently that are shaping how I approach my life and business daily.
7. Serve your audience well
It took me awhile to learn this one. As a professional in the marketplace, you are here to serve your market. Know. Thy. Audience. Know them like you know every detail of your favorite celebrity’s personal life (see Do You Know Your Association’s Ideal Members? for more info on knowing your audience). Find out their needs, their wants, their indulgences, the issues that keep them up at night and and address them in your marketing and how you communicate to them through your content. Standing out in a noisy world involves some genuine investment of caring for your customers and how you can help them with what you offer. Focusing on your customer is how to stand out in the crowd. I will leave you with this quote by Seth Godin from his book, This is Marketing:
“Marketing is the generous act of helping others become who they seek to become. It involves creating honest stories – stories that resonate and spread. Marketers offer solutions, opportunities for humans to solve their problems and move forward.”
How’s that for purpose? You now have your marching orders … get out there and be brilliant! I believe in you!