How to boost your skills and experience to take the next step in your career

Chorus Executive’s Chris Khor answers marketers’ questions about careers and skills. This time she discusses the various professional development options available for those looking for career progression.

 

Question: For people with around five years’ experience, if their company doesn’t invest in professional development for its staff, how do they go about getting the skills and experience needed to take the next step in their career?

In a highly competitive job market, there is an increasing need for talent to have a diverse skill-set and the ability to function as a hybrid species of worker. For example, nowadays it is not enough to just know marketing; to be competitive in the market, you also need to have an understanding of sales and how the two functions can work together to produce optimal results. It is this expectation that is primarily driving people towards up-skilling and further training.

If your company does not invest in the professional development of its staff, this should not stop you from investing in yourself. There are a myriad of ways you can learn new skills and develop your career and they don’t have to be overly time consuming or costly.

Firstly, let’s look at the skills marketers need to stay relevant and competitive in the current market:

  1. Leadership,
  2. storytelling,
  3. innovation,
  4. consumer psychology, and
  5. data driven analytics.

 

I wrote about these most-desirable skills earlier this year, so for more details, check out my article The must-have marketing skills in 2014.

How you go about obtaining skills in these areas depends on how deep you want to delve. For some people, further study might be the most appealing as they want to broaden their formal qualifications. Increasing job flexibility has also made it easier for people to study or train part time and there is less of a stigma associated with mature age students these days.

I highly recommend completing an MBA if you are looking for a way to round off your qualifications and hone your skills as a hybrid marketer – one that understands all the other facets of a business, can think strategically and has leadership potential.

While returning to study is most likely a prerequisite for any dramatic career or industry change, it is not always a requirement for healthy career progression.

If you cannot commit the time to a degree, then look at short courses to learn a new skill or update an old one. Australia still tends to favour importing digital marketing talent from overseas, so there is an opportunity for marketers to strengthen their social media, digital or SEO skills in order to stay competitive in the digital market.

Short courses on softer skills are also valuable. Leadership, negotiating, communication and presentation courses or workshops demonstrate that you care about your own development and future. Attending a breakfast seminar doesn’t cost a lot these days and won’t impede on your time at work – but it will teach you something!

If your personal budget doesn’t allow for a degree or a range of short courses/workshops, then fear not. There’s still plenty you can do to further yourself – you just need to be creative!

If you’re a creative marketer who needs to become more commercial, we recommend setting up a skills exchange in your office. Spend some time with someone from sales in order to better understand how marketing interacts with sales to result in a profitable business. You will gain insight into how salespeople think and it will help develop that level of commerciality that is highly sought-after in marketing professionals. You can even ask your manager if you can be included in a project for a different part of the business. This may put you outside of your comfort zone but the payoff is that you are exposed to many different skill sets, ways of working and points of view.

Another simple thing that is often overlooked is the benefits of picking someone else’s brain. Whether it is someone from a different industry, sector or part of the business, meeting with someone over coffee and talking about their experience is a fantastic way to pick up new ideas, insights and learnings. And it only costs you a cup of coffee.

 

Christine Khor
BY Christine Khor ON 27 November 2014
Christine Khor is the managing director of Chorus Executive, specialists in talent management and recruitment services for sales, marketing and communications.