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Advice to Recent Graduates + Young Marketers

I live in a small town with just over 1,000 residents. Winters here could be described as quiet, if not barren. But during the summer, restaurants and shops open up, and the streets flood with visitors and seasonal residents. Living here, I’ve met many college students and recent graduates who come to work for the summer. Occasionally, we discuss their school or future career plans, and I always find myself sharing the same five lessons I’ve learned throughout my career.

Focus on what you’re doing, not where you’re doing it 

Whenever I talk with a recent graduate looking to get into the marketing field, I ask them what sort of job they are looking for. And they almost always respond with their ideal industry or company (and it’s usually a well-known, “exciting” brand). When I hear that, my first piece of advice is not to let yourself get too caught up on that dream company. Instead, focus more on the actual work you will be doing.

My first job out of college was working on the marketing team at a logistics company — definitely not the industry I thought I would go into when I was in college. But it was at that job that I got to explore so many different areas of marketing — and where I realized that content and writing were what I loved most. I also learned just how interesting and exciting logistics could be. Who knew? So don’t box yourself in. Be open to career paths in unexpected industries because you never know what might excite and inspire you until you try it.   

Explore opportunities (even when they are outside of your comfort zone)

As a kid, my best subject in school was always math. I enjoyed English, but it didn’t come so naturally to me. I also loved art, and I always looked for any opportunity to be creative. When it came time to choose a major in college, I immediately gravitated toward marketing. I liked the idea that it was an area of business that would allow me to flex both the left and right sides of my brain.

I went through college assuming I would end up in a marketing analytics role, something more focused on numbers and data. But as an intern (at the aforementioned logistics company), I was given the opportunity to write an article for a newsletter. And I ended up loving it, so I wrote another one. And another one after that, until one day, I realized I wanted to focus on content marketing — and I haven’t looked back since. And even as a content writer, I still get to use my math skills to analyze the performance of my content. It’s crazy to think that I would not be on the career path I’m on today (or even writing this blog post) if it weren’t for stepping outside of my comfort zone and writing that first newsletter article.

Prioritize relationships and networking

In college, I was taught the importance of networking. My professors encouraged us to attend university-sponsored networking events and meet people working in the industry. But it wasn’t until after I graduated that I saw first-hand how meaningful networking and building relationships can truly be. When I start a new job, I focus not only on learning about the company and doing good work but on connecting with my coworkers. That also includes people outside of the marketing team. I’ve found that I’ve been most successful at jobs when I’ve built solid working relationships with people across all different departments.

Building your network opens doors and career paths you may have never expected. Every career change I’ve made has been aided by the amazing network of people I’ve met throughout my career. Even today, at Varsity Time, I am working with people I met during my first job out of college.

Remember that learning doesn’t stop just because you graduated  

After 16 years in a classroom, you’re probably eager to get out into the “real world.” But remember that just because you graduated doesn’t mean you stop learning. The industry is constantly changing. Do you think your professors will be teaching the same lessons in five or ten years that they did when you were in school? Of course not. It’s important to learn and evolve with the industry. Read books and articles, listen to podcasts, and talk with marketers in other industries. There’s so much to learn — and that will never stop.

If you’re looking for a place to start, some of the blogs I regularly go back to include:

Find things that inspire you outside of work

I remember hearing the quote, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” and thinking it was such a great outlook to have. And then, I started working in a field I loved and doing work I was excited about, and I realized that it was still work. Even if you manage to take a passion or hobby and turn it into a career, that passion or hobby becomes your work. So, no matter how much you love your job, finding passions outside work is still important.

At one point in my career, I had gotten into a bit of a slump. Work began to feel all-consuming, and I was yearning for other outlets to inspire me. One afternoon, I started looking up art classes in my area and signed up for a pottery class. I loved it so much that I signed up for another one when it ended. And then I got friends to sign up for one too. I also went to the store and bought paint supplies to teach myself watercolor. And now, whenever I’m looking for inspiration, I turn to art — whether it’s making my own or enjoying other people’s masterpieces.

At the end of the day, work will always be work. So do whatever you can to find work that you’re passionate about, but don’t forget that there are so many other things out there that can add to your happiness.

Varsity Time

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