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Academy Xi Blog

Why Marketing degrees are often out-dated

By Leola Small

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I’ve been in marketing for 20 years now. I started in a shop-front business which was part of a global conglomerate. A lot of our Marketing Strategy and efforts were driven from our parent company based in the USA. I recall having shared folders and waiting for them to upload promotional campaign collateral for our offices to print and place at our POS and window displays. Back then I thought it was so easy.

Four years into that role saw me become the Head of Marketing at a very young age. Looking back at the role I had, I was basically a Marketing Coordinator for Australia. I took direction from the US and formatted the collateral to fit AU standards and ensured marketing campaigns were running, the sales team had the right sales tools and was the point of contact for inbound enquiries.

You could say that I “fell into” Marketing, and although it certainly wasn’t planned, I found that I enjoyed what I was doing and that I was good at it. Having said that, Marketing is a totally different ball game to what it was then.

I ended up studying Marketing part time while working as I wanted to learn more about the fundamentals. It served me well then, and I felt I understood broader marketing as a concept for various markets and audiences.

That was 15 years ago.

If I walked into a Marketing interview now (in 2021) with the knowledge I had learned while studying in 2006 – I absolutely would not get the job. Heck, I wouldn’t hire me!

So what does that mean for traditional education and degrees? Are they still relevant? Do you need a degree to get a job in Marketing?

As a Marketing Manager, these are the 5 things I consider when hiring:

  1. Passion and Curiosity – My favourite values. Over the years I’ve come to value passion and curiosity so much more. I know I can teach someone a new skill, but I can’t teach them to be passionate about it, or instill curiosity to want to learn more. Lifelong learners are my kind of people.
  2. Relevant & Timely Study – Believe it or not, I never look at degrees or qualifications. The reason I don’t is because I know that marketing, especially Digital Marketing, is continuously evolving. The theory you learned 15 years ago (or even 5 years ago!) is either out-dated or has improved. Look at shorter industry-recognised courses which teach content that is on-trend and up to date – such as the rise of influencers, social media marketing and Google Certifications.
  3. Technology Adoption – This one is quite important when seeking new talent for your Marketing team. Tech adoption matters because it identifies your ability to learn new technologies, if you’re tech-agnostic and it can also provide a gauge as to how quickly you might grasp a new system. Martech is constantly evolving and you should be across most technology, with at least an understanding of the function they perform.
  4. Practical Experience – This is a tricky one, especially for applicants who have never worked in Marketing before. But if you can demonstrate that you’ve used marketing principles or concepts before and understand the logic behind it, then you’re one step closer. You just need to be able to nail your pitch around Marketing Strategy or a Marketing Plan – if you can demonstrate your understanding and explain it in practical terms you’re on the right track.
  5. Cultural fit – I didn’t realise how important cultural fit was until I started building larger teams. This (in my opinion) is just as important as experience. You can hire the most skilled person to do the job, but if they don’t work well with the team, it’ll fall apart.

So, do you need a traditional qualification to work in Marketing? The short answer is no, but  you do need to understand relevant and up-to-date marketing concepts, trends and technology.

Good luck!