A joint article from Alpha Digital’s Bek Agius, senior brand and marketing manager, and Katelyn Robinson, head of SEO
For those of us who are fortunate enough to have made it in this highly competitive world of digital marketing, we should be thankful. For us, we had time within our own journeys to build up a wealth of successes and failures; trials and deep ends; sitting in the back of meetings and bombing in front of a group - that led us to where we wanted to be.
Why then are students feeling so much pressure to be experts before even graduating and why are agencies expecting so much of entry-level employees? Surely, we can’t expect the university experience alone, gained amidst the covid-era, to effectively equip the next wave of digital marketing professionals?
It’s time to acknowledge the role of tertiary education while also claiming some ownership as an industry as to what we owe these up-and-coming digital marketers to ensure they’re supported, equipped and confident to thrive in our industry.
Defining the responsibility of the tertiary institution
While university courses are important for gaining base-level, theoretical knowledge and can also be useful for developing soft skills, they often cannot match pace with industry updates and expectations of best practice. It is important for universities to provide students the opportunity to understand what is happening in the industry via guest lectures, tutors, networking nights and internships; and also help develop relevant programs which foster a dialogue between the industry and the incoming wave.
Agency’s role in preparing the next wave of digital marketers
So much of an individual’s ability to succeed within the marketing space relies upon the relationships built within the industry - and in the past, this would have been a healthy mix of exposure to clients and peers through study, internships and graduate programs.
For us, building relationships has been so important, especially in Brisbane where everyone knows each other in the digital industry. For students, there should be so many opportunities that come from people you know - whether it be university lecturers, students or other colleagues. Your network is important, so grow and nurture relationships.
Without the face-to-face exposure to these opportunities, the strength of relationships is harder, if not impossible to forge, leaving graduates to fend for themselves when stepping into their first professional roles.
While internships are a great leg up, industry organisations providing them must work on parameters to ensure programs are long-term enough to be valuable and not exploitative of emerging talent to offer students the opportunity to really learn, immerse and refine their skill set. While internships are beneficial to get glimpses into the industry, build networks and find out what they do and don’t like - going into a company two or more days a week, consistently, offers students with the experience of ongoing projects and industry professionals.
How do we work together to make it happen?
For many industries the pandemic was a circuit break and this year marks an attempt to foster a sense of normalcy, and recuperate from the years that have been. With the focus now set so intensely on the present, shifting our gaze to our industry long-term and the next wave of the incoming workforce should be at the forefront of agencies.
Fostering these spaces, initiatives and programs within our workplaces is not without its own gains and advantages for the company themselves. Although diverting resources to train and support students within your workplace can be mistaken as more charitable than it is valuable, forging these connections with the next wave represents a proactive response to the future of our industry. These programs are an investment in our industry and your company’s future, building your talent pipeline and enriching your community impact.
Assisterhood is one such program, and Lead of the Queensland cohort and experienced Marketer, Liz Ballentyne explains why the community is crucial to up and coming marketers, saying: "Building relationships and hearing from others in the industry is so important when trying to get ahead in your career - at any age! It's how you learn, discover points of difference, and identify new growth opportunities. As a digital marketing student, it's also a great way to get specific advice on tactical areas. When I was early in my career I really struggled with accessing this knowledge. And finding a mentor seemed hard, awkward and expensive. That's why now, I invest time in creating these opportunities. The benefits from building relationships go both ways."
While it may seem like a small impact activity, the value of well-established professionals sharing their insights cannot be overlooked. There are such a diverse range of opportunities from low-touch engagement in networking events, podcast and webinar features to higher touch investments like mentoring up-and-comers or implementing a robust immersion program, there is no good reason organisations aren’t doing more.