Advice for the Graduating Classes of 2014 and 2015
The recession hit at the very beginning of my senior year at Georgia College. I remember watching the stock market plummet in front of my eyes while I was working out at The Depot (the name of our college gym.) Basically, I watched my inflated dreams of getting an amazing job out of college float away as market bubbles popped and poor financial decisions (and policies) came full circle. Headed into my senior year of college, I had no freaking clue what I was going to do, or if I would find employment come May.
My path into digital marketing was more of a stumble, mixed in with a few
wrong interesting turns. There are things that I wish I had known, and things I’m thankful that I pursued. While I haven’t built a billion dollar company, I’ve been very fortunate regarding opportunities and experience so far in my career. Below are a few pearls of wisdom that I can offer from my strides and stumbles.
Internships: Don’t Skip Over the Free Ones
If you think that an internship is an opportunity for a company to get free labor out of you, then you’re doing it wrong. An internship, whether it’s free or paid, is an education opportunity for you. College courses alone will not prepare you for the work force. Through a free internship, you are paying the company and staff for their time, experience, and an opportunity to get in front of other job applicants in the future. You will most likely require training, lots of hand holding, and you will be mentored throughout your internship. Taking a free internship during my first semester of my senior year in college was the best decision I made for my career. I’m convinced that it is because of my internship that I was able to land a job before I graduated.
Learn Basic Coding
The coding knowledge that I graduated with came through learning on my own and my internship. One of my college courses involved about 4 weeks of Adobe Dreamweaver and Flash, but I wish I had taken some extracurricular classes that were hard coding focused. Despite my limited experience with coding, it was still more than most people in my field when I graduated, and it helped me standout when it came to interviews and job performance. Whether it’s a college course, or you become self taught, I strongly suggest that every aspiring digital marketer spend time learning basic coding.
Start Building Your Web Presence
I was fortunate in having a really cool boss during my internship. He pushed me to buy my domain and build my own WordPress site. My boss even went ahead and set most of it up for me for no charge. He also told me to start working on my LinkedIn profile and Twitter account. During my senior year, I started to build my web presence and take my online reputation seriously. I put down the Xbox controller (occasionally), poured myself a beer, and started blogging. It was my web presence, along with my internship, that got me hired on the spot during my second job interview just 5 months before graduating. When I look for potential new hires now, I’m looking at their web presence and online reputation that they have or have not built yet. Every person that we have hired has some sort of footprint on the web, because it’s that important to us. You don’t have to blog about internet marketing to grab the attention of recruiters, or put yourself on every single social network. My suggestion is that you create a blog, update it once in awhile with content that is meaningful to you, and maintain a public web presence (Tweet drunk at your own risk.)
Prepare to Work
Over the course of about 10 or 11 months, I worked two jobs. My day time job was corporate, which gave me a lot of incredible (yet soul killing) experience. Luckily, I had some really cool and inspirational bosses, which made it much more enjoyable. Before and after my day job, I spent time working on TrustWorkz. Everyday, I woke up at 4 AM and went to bed at around 12 AM. There was nothing glorious, or healthy about it, but it’s what I had to do in order to get to where I wanted; Full time at TrustWorkz. I’m not saying that you have to kill yourself in order to get what you want in your career, but you need to wake up and realize that it’s going to take a lot of work and sacrifice. The great thing about pushing yourself to your limits is that you have the potential of exceeding your very own expectations of success.
Tip: Hard work does not always equate to time spent working. Looking back on it, I wish I had found a better way to manage my time and make room for things that matter more than work.
Do Something Other than Work
Go on dates, fall in love, find God, visit friends in different states, go on adventures, and have hobbies. Your job is only a part of your life, and there is much to be enjoyed and experienced. Make sure that you have a life outside of work, because there is so much of this great gift to be experienced and enjoyed. Plus, your coworkers and bosses want to be surrounded by dynamic people… People who have an insatiable thirst for life.
Life is not a problem to be solved; it is an adventure to be lived. That’s the nature of it and has been since the beginning when God set the dangerous stage for this high-stakes drama and called the whole wild enterprise good. He rigged the world in such a way that it only works when we embrace risk as the theme of our lives, which is to say, only when we live by faith. A man just won’t be happy until he’s got adventure in his work, in his love, and in his spiritual life.”
John Eldredge - Wild At Heart
Embracing Your Journey
During my (still young) career, I worked jobs that I did not enjoy. I worked hours that truly sucked. Right after I graduated, I even went through a year long recruiting process for a job with the Federal government (which is funny, because I lean Libertarian.) Your path in digital marketing might be a bit more straight forward than mine. If you haven’t graduated yet, there’s also a good chance that you won’t even be working in marketing a few years from now. The truth is that your future is not dictated by a degree or your first few jobs. Enjoy exploring and finding a career that you are truly passionate about.