I recently sat down in a room in downtown Montreal with 3 marketing professionals – people-managers, executive team members, strategic veterans of the marketing world. We discussed marketing in an increasingly-digital world and, unsurprisingly, all 3 had a ton of differing opinions on where marketing was going, how to execute successfully, which strategies would always be successful for certain brands, etc. However, all three managed to agree on one thing: recent grads from marketing programs at most Canadian universities leave the academic world with a skewed, unrealistic, and ineffective understanding of the realities of modern-day marketing.
After years of interviewing (and hiring) young, freshly-graduated marketing hopefuls, it was clear to these 3 that marketing degrees at formal universities were forgetting some of the most fundamental concepts that nearly every marketing grad lacks: how to engage within a digital world. While universities might be successful at teaching students about brand positioning, value proposition, target markets and more (those are necessary, for sure) it fails to apply those concepts to digital channels. We already know that the world runs on digital: whether it is web or mobile, marketers have for a while now been sprinting to high returns on campaigns which focus exclusively on digital. In fact, I know several companies that only rely on digital marketing to build their brand presence and to engage with their community. Even more specific? A number of brands focus their entire marketing budget (tens of thousands of dollars monthly, easily) on Facebook marketing alone. The importance of digital literacy in modern marketing has long been exposed – so why haven’t traditional educational institutions caught up to it?
Accordingly, young professionals have begun to re-skill – almost immediately after leaving university. The reality can’t be ignored: do a quick Google or Indeed search for junior/intermediate marketing roles available right now in Canada, and the vast majority will call for skills in WordPress (or another CMS), SEO/SEM, social media management, content writing, email marketing, and more. A number of companies that I can list off the top of my head even have a policy to only hire junior marketers who have knowledge of HTML and CSS – basic web development. Reskilling becomes necessary as students graduate from a Marketing degree, struggle to find a decent marketing job, and end up in a role that doesn’t align with their true interests.
Schools like Les Labs have emerged in the wake of an ever-growing phenomenon: marketing grads enter the market without the proper skillset that the market is actually searching for. Where universities fail, independent schools like Les Labs thrive: students have the opportunity to learn from professors who are both academics by nature but also still present in the workforce – instructors with a finger firmly on the pulse of the “real” marketing world.
A recent article in the Economist reiterated that reskilling and lifelong learning is no longer a “nice to have”; it has become a “must” to succeed (truly) in the real working world. Suggestion? Spend the next 5 minutes cursing your university – then go out and do something about it.