3 back-to-school lessons for marketers

A new generation of marketers, advertisers, public relations pros and other creatives is beginning their collegiate careers, while others are returning for a last semester or two before graduation.

Attending college is a really special time, and is about so much more than just the coursework: lifelong friendships are forged, organizational skills are put to the test and you have the time to perfect your ramen noodle preparation.

When you are in school, you don’t have the perspective to really appreciate all of the skills and knowledge you are gaining each and every day, but there are so many lessons you walk away with that will serve you for your lifetime. Those in the marketing profession are especially prepared for real life as the fast-paced, chaotic world of college can often echo the constant deadlines and shifting projects of the PR and marketing world.

It seems like a fitting time to take stock of some of the key life lessons we learn in college, and how we can take advantage of them within marketing careers and efforts, even after school.

1. Correctly evaluate new opportunities

In college, there is an overwhelming list of activities, clubs, volunteer options and other opportunities to choose from every day. Deciding what to participate in — and what you have time for — takes serious evaluation.

This also is true in the marketing world — there are endless opportunities for professional clubs, conferences and happy hours, but even more importantly, the actual world of marketing is changing more quickly than ever. There are new platforms, tools and ways to connect, seemingly daily. How do you best evaluate if a new opportunity is something you should take advantage of?

When faced with a new option, take time to ask yourself a few questions before plunging in. Will it help you reach a specific key audience? Does it relate to a strategic goal within your business plan? What is the threshold for entry? Will you need to invest significant resources to get it off the ground, or will you be able to fail fast and move on? Sometimes the bright, shiny new tool or activity won’t actually help you achieve your goals. Take time to evaluate.

2. Know your audience every time you speak

In college, presentations and other public speaking assignments generally had one specific target for success: your professor. There might be the occasional peer-review, but more often than not, you only had to convince one person that you knew what you were talking about.

In the marketing world, you have many, many audiences, including your boss, your team, your clients and even your family. Each person and group needs to be communicated with clearly, and to do this, you should be thoughtful about tone, language and how the message is conveyed. And, never forget that communication is a two-way street, so ensuring that your messages are in fact delivered and understood also is key.

This seems so simple, but in the fast-paced professional world it’s easy to fall into the trap of one-size-fits-all communication. If you know the best way to connect with a client is face-to-face, set up a meeting instead of sending an email. If your team responds best via text messages, use that platform for key communication. And don’t use the same canned presentation every time you’re asked to present at a conference; tailor it to the audience.

3. Know how to crush it on little to no sleep

All-nighters seem like something you should never have to do after college, but all it takes is a last-minute project, family emergency, illness, or unexpected Netflix binge to take you right back to walking out of your house with no sleep and a whole day in front of you.

In a perfect world, we would always be able to take a day off following a rough night, but that, unfortunately, isn’t the case in the professional world. Take advantage of what you learned in school to get through these hard days. Eat a healthy breakfast, don’t overdo the caffeine, dress like a professional and get outside and move around.

You also can try to sneak in a 20-minute nap when possible and drink lots of water. Don’t stay sedentary for too long and don’t make big decisions. Break up your day with brisk walks, preferably outside. When you get home, fight the urge to crash so you can re-establish your normal sleeping pattern.

As the school year gets back into full swing, remember the lessons that were learned not from textbooks but from the daily grind, and apply those every single day in the craziness of the marketing industry.

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