5 Things I Wish I Learned About Marketing In College

Dear college student,

If you talk with any professional who has been out of college for a while and is working in a field that is roughly similar to what they earned a degree in, they’ll likely have a thing or two to say about what their alma mater didn’t teach them. I’m no different. In fact, I would even argue that colleges and universities really aren’t that cutting edge at all and in many fields, college curriculums are 2-3 years behind what is actually happening in the business world.

When I graduated college, I had the fortune of finding out that this was especially true in my field, search engine marketing. Consequently, I’ve put together a list of 5 things I wish I had been taught about marketing (my minor at Purdue University) while in school. You might think: “well obviously you eventually learned them.” To which I say: “I like being ahead of the curve.”

1) ROI is a real thing that businesses use and is basically the only thing that matters in marketing. You can talk about the 4 P’s all you want but at the end of the day everything will center around return on investment, which is what you get out of your marketing dollars. My advice is to learn how to calculate ROI and when to apply it to a situation.

2) Someone will hate your work. You can’t please everyone and in a world of 7 billion people, there are bound to be a few that just think your way of doing things absolutely sucks. Part of becoming a mature adult is accepting this as fact, but more importantly, it’s going to save you frustration if you can accept that your brilliant idea or creation won’t always be received as such by someone else.

3) The avant garde really only works in Europe. You may think you have some great ideas that will really blow minds, but in America, you’ll need to lower your tone. When I was a senior in college, I thought it would make a statement about my “creative genius” to make business cards that say: “I hate Steve Hill” to try to grab the attention of recruiters. Glad a professor talked me off the ledge in a relatively nice way.

4) Some of your peers are blowhards. At the beginning of your career it may seem like the kids who talk the big talk and draw attention to themselves get the best opportunities. If you’re a little more reserved, you may feel pressure to alter who you are and try to do the same. I’ve got good news and bad new for you. The bad news is that in the first 2 or 3 years you guys are all out of school, those blowhards often get cooler opportunities than you do. The good news is that rarely can they talk their way into delivering results, meeting quotas, etc. and by year 3, they’ve hit their ceiling. Just keep grinding away and it will eventually even out.

4.5) No one in the midwest knows what a blowhard is. I learned this one a few days ago. 

5) Pay close attention to bright spots. In college, you’re exposed to tons of case studies, stories, guest speakers, videos, textbook examples and more on organizations that have had success in various areas of marketing. Chances are you’ll be faced with challenges in your new marketing career that are best solved by turning to an example of another firm that solved a similar problem with a very specific strategy. The more things like this you are exposed to, the more techniques and ideas you can probably come up with to help you solve your issue.

So hopefully all that is helpful to you, the college student, looking for some marketing career advice. If you have any thoughts, comments, or concerns, drop me a line today!

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