Hint: Be a student of where technology is heading.
According to Forbes, 60% of graduating college seniors today will be unable to find full-time positions in their chosen fields. And, the unemployment rate for 20-to-24 year olds is about 14%, well above the national unemployment rate of 8.2%.
Yet, there is a critical shortage of digital-savvy talent in today’s workforce, according to an article titled “Digital-savvy workers are in demand” that appeared April 15 on JSOnline by Marissa Evans.“The explosion in digital devices has triggered a rush by companies to hire digitally trained employees to provide and deliver the content for all those smartphones and computer tablets. The adoption of mobile devices in particular has become so widespread, so quickly, it has forced companies such as Bader Rutter to think about how to use this new medium and how to balance it with traditional media. In two years, Bader Rutter a Brookfield, Wisconsin-based marketing services agency, has hired more than 100 associates who focus on building digital development in all areas of the company, including public relations, social media, web design and development. The agency, with a staff of 224, has increased employment 40% since it started hiring more digitally savvy candidates.”
Milwaukee-based Big Shoes Network, an aggregator for Wisconsin and Illinois employment opportunities in digital marketing, is another example. Its online job board saw a 40% uptick in job postings on last year. And, so far in 2012, postings are up 50% from a year ago.
Recent research studies conducted by Forrester, the CMO Council and other organizations nationally also confirm that marketers are planning to make significant investments in digital over the next 12 months. Yet, many companies, especially small to midsize businesses, lack the internal expertise needed to plan and carry out digital initiatives. Areas where new skills are in high demand include: Website, mobile site, and mobile/tablet app design and programming; video production; social media strategy; online content creation; search engine marketing, data analytics; and brand strategy.
Unfortunately, most graduating seniors who are looking to pursue career opportunities in marketing, public relations or creative fields do not have these skills. Universities and colleges, in general, have been slow to react and have not adequately prepared students for today’s digital world.
If you are a college student or if you are already employed and are looking to increase your value to your employer and advance your career, here are four practical tips:
Tip #1: Demonstrate that you understand and are already engaged with digital strategically.
According to Daradirek “Gee” Ekachai, associate professor and chair of the Department of Strategic Communications at
Marquette University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Marquette University (one of the few universities that has been proactive at putting digital in practice in the classroom), this is very important. “Employers are not looking for a student who has multiple accounts for every new social media platform,” according to Ekachai. “Rather, employers want to know if a student can use these new social media tools strategically, if they can really engage stakeholders.”
Tim Dodge, CEO and President, Hanson Dodge Creative also says that his company is “actually only hiring people who understand and are engaged with digital every day.” He adds, “On top of that, they must have ideas to share and stories to tell. We are looking for employees who can bring new ideas to the table and who can understand and keep tabs on a bit of everything from Twitter to YouTube to Web programming. Today, everyone has to be a student of where digital is going and how it’s evolving.”
So, if you aren’t already digitally active, begin following and participating in online discussions that are relevant to your industry or discipline. Try to dedicate up to a half-hour daily to the following social media engagement activities:
- Follow thought leaders/experts on important topics in your field. Read their blog posts and leave comments. Check out their LinkedIn profiles. Invite them to join your LinkedIn network. Follow them on Twitter. Retweet their posts.
- Follow leading companies in your industry and their employees on LinkedIn.
- Join relevant LinkedIn group discussions. This is great way to learn about topic industry challenges and this provides excellent opportunities for you to join in on the conversation.
- Start your own blog and begin creating your own content and aggregating relevant content from trusted sources. WordPress is a terrific resource for this. It easy to use and it doesn’t require as much time as you might think to create your blog and post industry-related articles.
These are not only effective tactics that demonstrate your strategic understanding of digital, but they distinguish you from the hundreds of job applicants that may be also applying for the same positions that you are seeking.
Sharpen your skills by picking up courses in digital communications.
FindtheBest Colleges and Universities is an excellent online application that compares and ranks those institutions that are offering curriculum in digital communications.
Tell your story using multiple channels when you apply for career positions or internships.
In addition to submitting online applications (a standard requirement for most employers today), consider setting yourself apart by creating a website with your own personal URL and including print mailings with QR-2D barcodes or other media. This was covered in one of my recent articles titled “Four Lessons to Learn from a Graduating Senior.”
Lastly, Keep your eyes on the horizon of where technology is heading.
In closing, I would add one more point to consider: Traditional media is not dead. While most companies today are rapidly moving to digital channels, they haven’t abandoned their traditional marketing strategies. In fact, our parent company, Quad/Graphics, recently conducted a study among special interest publishers in the U.S. and found that 99% of these businesses still own printed magazines. Anecdotally, we also know that the printed magazine remains the main economic driver for most publishers today.
According to Joel Quadracci, Chairman, President and CEO, Quad/Graphics, “While digital media is growing, we believe digital media complements, not replaces, print. Together, they create greater value for the reader or a more powerful call to action for consumers to shop.”
So, while you need to prove your digital skills, also show that you are strategically savvy about how to leverage legacy traditional vehicles as digital media is brought into the mix. Keep your eye especially on NFC (near field communications), augmented reality, image recognition and HTML5. Learn how early adopters are beginning to use these new emerging technologies and formats to help drive channel interactivity and create more compelling consumer experiences.
It is not just a digital world nor a traditional media world any longer. It is an all channel, all the time world and the consumer is driving when and how they want to connect and interact with people and brands. Employers are seeking new talent that can help their organizations stay relevant to their audiences and on the leading edge of what is happening technologically.