Featured Story: 10 Networking Tips for Young Marketers
As a young marketer, diving into the marketing industry can be a daunting undertaking. With untried practices, unheard of jargon, unfamiliar professionals and inexperience in the working world, a graduate’s first steps into the unknown waters of the industry can be rather tricky. Fortunately, there’s a little tool called networking that helps individuals to become acquainted with their industry, before sinking into the deep end!
I’ve found truth in this idea with my first experiences in the marketing industry. With some studying behind me and all the confidence in the world, I began to encounter unforeseen obstacles and unknown industry territories. I soon realized that a lack of industry experience makes for a rather tough time to become submersed in my industry of choice – digital marketing. As I gradually become more acquainted with the industry, I’ve found this little networking tool to come in handy on many occasions. Much of what I’ve learned about the industry to date, isn’t the sort of information you can find in a textbook or on lecture slides, but rather from industry professionals with experience and understanding in their field. As a result, networking has become something that I truly cherish and hope to utilize in the future, considering the ever-expanding room for growth.
On this note, I’ve put together 10 networking tips that have helped me along the way so far, and demonstrated the power of networking. Let’s network!
1. Your Digital Footprint: Social Networks, LinkedIn & Searchability
Let’s start with an easy one. Many professionals and potential employers in the marketing industry have a good look at their connections’ and applicants’ online presence, and why wouldn’t they?! Since the industry is well acquainted in this regard, your online presence needs to be in tip-top shape.
As a starting point, you may want to keep an eye on your personal social network accounts to ensure that you adhere to industry standards and don’t send off any red flags to new connections or employers. If anything hazardous comes up, this may require a quick Facebook, Twitter and Instagram clean-up. Or if that’s not your style, then possibly even a privacy settings tweak.
Next, it’s a good idea to build yourself a strong LinkedIn profile that serves as a good reflection of your professional self. Include your key education and work experience info, add some skills and join some relevant industry groups. Your LinkedIn profile grows in much the same way that your CV does, as your networking and professional journey advances.
Finally, ask Google if web-users will be able to find you online. Whether it’s a general search for applicants and contacts for a specific skill set, or a personalized search for you as an individual – you want your name to come up first with relevant and valuable information. If this doesn’t happen, you may want to back-track a bit to build up your digital footprint.
2. Your Online Point of Reference: Build A Website / e-Portfolio
So you’ve met someone who’s interested in what you do and would like to find out more about what you have to offer, what do you do? Sure, you could send them a lengthy email with a bunch of attachments to tell them and show them what it is you do – but wouldn’t it be easier if you had a central point of reference to direct them to?
Of course! If you’re a creative with a strong portfolio of previous work, services like Behance are great tool to showcase your stuff. The same applies for an e-portfolio, which could be your own personal professional space on a blog or website to showcase your work, experience, ideas and thoughts, both within and beyond your industry. Take it a step further by setting up your own website as a central point of contact and source of information.
This will help you to grow your digital presence while providing valuable information to connections and potential employers. My blog has been a great tool that I’ve been able to utilize in a similar way.
3. Your Industry Has You Covered: Attend Networking Events
This one may seem obvious, but couldn’t be more important. Many industries have a central organization or leading entity that puts together networking events. These events are designed for you to meet people within the industry (many who are important!), introduce yourself to others, learn from guest speakers and leave with a pocket filled with new business cards and a mind filled with great ideas.
The Digital Marketing Collective (DMC) in Cape Town is a great example of this. Started by C6 Consulting, the DMC is a monthly cooperative networking event that brings like-minded digital professionals together to connect, collaborate and build a community. I attended the event for the first time last week and (despite being one of the youngest and most nervous in the room) was welcomed warmly, enjoyed meeting many new faces and learned from industry professionals, all in a social and engaging environment.
4. Find A Common Link: Get Introduced
Ever wanted to get in touch with someone important, but not sure how? A polite email with genuine intent often works, but sometimes it’s easier to find a common link. Find someone in the industry who you both know and see if you can get introduced. Etiquette expert, Jacqueline Whitmore, mentions in her book, Poised For Success, that rather than just approaching someone out of the blue, finding mutual acquaintances helps to make a stronger relationship.
I’ve been fortunate enough to get the time and attention of many great guests on my TDDD interviews. Many of these have been set-up through mutual acquaintances, for which I’m truly thankful for!
5. Follow The Leader: Find a Mentor
As a young marketer, it’s easy to get caught up in the theory and readings we’ve learned in class and take that as the gospel. However, in practice, things don’t always go as expected in the industry and it can be difficult to understand this without hands-on industry experience and perspective. This is where your mentor comes in – someone who has experience in your industry and can give you guidance and advice on the many questions and grey areas that you encounter. By the same token, the connections and networks of this mentor may prove to be helpful to you in finding your footing and climbing the first steps of the industry ladder.
This has been a key area of importance to me during my studies. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a number of valuable mentors to guide me along the way – from my brother who is an account director at a major SA marketing agency, professionals and specialists from the agency I interned at as well as university staff and lecturers.
6. Get A Foot In The Door: Apply for Internships
If your CV is packed with lots of great education info, but not much work experience, it’s time to get yourself an internship! Internship programs are a great way to learn the ins and outs of a business in the real working world, within a short space of time. It’s a great way to see how your education shapes up in the industry, to meet valuable contacts and to signal your industry interest and experience to future employers.
I did a short-term internship towards the end of last year, with a great digital marketing agency called Made. I had the chance to work in a team and individually on many exciting projects, learned skills and lessons from a number of specialist departments and met a great group of hard-working, fun-loving professionals who I still keep in contact with. The working experience and lessons that I learned have proved to be invaluable going forward!
7. Get Both Feet In The Door: Apply for Graduate Programs
In a similar regard to the above, there are a lot of great graduate programs available to young graduate marketers. Established agencies and brands are constantly on the look out for young talent to grow into their business vision. These graduate programs generally rotate graduates through departments in the first year, to ensure a well-rounded understanding of the business. From there, they’ll place you according to your strengths and do their best to grow you into an established and experienced marketer.
This point is quite new and exciting to me, as I start looking for work in my final year of studies. I look forward to finding out what lies ahead! The connections and skills that I have gained along the way so far have been truly beneficial.
8. Recruit Me: Get In Touch with a Recruitment Agency
A great way to get in touch with clients and agencies in your industry is through a recruitment agency. Recruitment agencies work hand-in-hand with these businesses to ensure the best possible fit between business and employees. If you have a specific skill set and are the best suited applicant for a particular position, a recruitment agency can introduce you to an employer or help an employer track you down – a great middle man for networking!
I have come into contact with a great digital marketing recruitment agency called Recruit Digital. I was interested to hear about the services they offer and the companies that they work with to ensure a good match.
9. Learn By Teaching: Get Involved in Industry Education
They say the best way to learn something well, is by teaching it. The ability to teach others is something that requires extensive knowledge, understanding and patience. Whether it’s at an industry training level, university lecturing level or just a university tutor level (like me!), the skills that are developed along the way could prove to be valuable in the future. Teaching is a presents a great opportunity to meet students, fellow teachers as well as industry professionals, with great ideas to collaborate and work together on.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed tutoring e-Marketing and Consumer Behaviour at UCT and feel that it has not only equipped me well with a solid understanding of the course material, but also opened up many opportunities for the future.
10. Following Up: Offering and Leveraging Connections
Once you’ve met some industry professionals and made a few valuable connections, it’s important to follow up. This follow-up process should be intent driven and should let your new connection know what you can offer each other. Bring your skills to the table in offering something of value to your connection and it’s more than likely that they’ll be willing to reciprocate. At the end of the day, networking is about new people meeting and helping each other to grow within and beyond the industry. If this is done just right, you’ll be well on your way to building valuable business relationships in the future.