By Aaron Agius

The Department of Education’s Job Outlook program predicts a strong future for advertising and marketing professionals, stating that, “Over the past 5 years the number of jobs has grown strongly. Strong growth is expected in the future. New jobs and turnover from workers leaving may create between 25,001 and 50,000 job openings over the 5 years to 2020.”

That’s great news for those entering the field, but a diploma alone won’t be enough to land you a top spot. Top marketing agencies want to see more than textbook learning in their new hires. Pairing book smarts with the five skills below will make you a much more attractive applicant.

1. T-shaped knowledge

As your courses have demonstrated, digital marketing encompasses many different channels, from SEO and SEM/PPC, to content marketing, social media marketing and more.

Don’t panic. Agencies aren’t expecting that you’ll have mastered each channel right out of college. But you should have strong working knowledge of at least 1-2 channels. Basically, you want to be what Moz’s Rand Fishkin calls a “T-shaped marketer.

In his words:

“T-Shaped basically refers to having a light level of knowledge in a broad array of skills, and deep knowledge/ability in a single one (or a few).”

Image Source: Moz

Pick 1-2 channels in which you’ll develop deep knowledge, based on your skill set and preferences. Hate writing? Focus on a numbers-heavy discipline like PPC or analytics. Social butterfly? Social media marketing or community management may be better fits.

Build this expertise through your studies and through projects you undertake on your own (another great way to impress a future employer). Maintain a working knowledge of every other channel as well, though, as context is a necessary part of understanding how your chosen discipline can work successfully as part of a larger digital marketing campaign.

2. Ability/willingness to test everything

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is one marketing tactic you may decide to focus on as the pillar of your “T.” But even if you focus elsewhere, developing the curious, analytical mindset that drives good CRO will make you an attractive candidate to marketing agencies.

With how quickly different disciplines of digital marketing evolve, one of the best ways to stay ahead is to constantly question, “How can I be doing this better?”

If you’re focused on PPC, that might mean testing:

  • New ad networks
  • New ad formats
  • New ad creative
  • New targeting options

If you’re in UX, that might mean regularly questioning established “best practices” and testing for yourself which changes produce the biggest lift in visitor engagement and conversion.

There’s opportunity for growth in every field – and it’s up to motivated marketers to find it. Prove to future employers that you’re someone who takes this to heart, and you’ll never struggle to find a job in the field.

3. Customer-centric focus

As my mate Sujan Patel recently noted in an article for Inc. magazine, customer success is the next frontier of marketing:

“Thanks to the increased presence of peer research and online reviews, your existing customers’ power to influence prospects’ buying decisions has skyrocketed. However, the possibilities don’t end there. Discovering, nurturing, and mobilizing your customers as brand advocates creates unbridled potential for generating revenue.”

Simply put, marketing activities don’t happen in a vacuum. Real people are affected by the actions marketers of every type take – whether in a positive way that motivates them to be customers, or in a negative way that turns them off a brand for life.

No matter where you’ve decided to focus, keep in mind the impact of your actions on your ultimate employer: your company’s customers. Keep them happy, and you won’t have any trouble finding marketing or advertising work.

4. Good communication

According to Business Queensland:

“Good marketers are strong communicators and astute business operators. Your team’s communication skills will help them make deals with suppliers and service providers, maintain relationships with your customers, and build valuable networks in your market.”

Good communication skills are clearly critical for professionals focusing on content marketing or social media marketing. But analytics specialists and other number-driven marketers aren’t off the hook.

Communicating with customers is only one part of the picture. Agencies also want to know that you’ll be able to communicate with your team and your supervisors. If you can’t explain your ideas, defend your results or ask for the help you need, your tenure in any professional position will be short.

5. Love of learning

When I think about how much digital marketing has changed in the past 10+ years I’ve been involved, I’m blown away. I can’t predict what’s coming in the next 10 years, but I can confidently say that the only way I’ll be able to keep up is to continue learning as it grows and changes.

Start doing the same now. Digital marketing isn’t something you can go to school for once and then practice for the rest of your life. Even within a year or two, you may see changes that challenge the content you’re studying now. The only way to keep up is to develop a love of learning.

Invest time every week in reading top digital marketing blogs like Moz or Search Engine Journal. Get active on forum sites like Growth Hackers and Inbound. Start going to conferences and making connections now. Whatever time you put into learning isn’t just an investment in the performance of your digital marketing campaigns. It’s an investment in your future as a marketing professional as well.

What are you doing to prepare for life after college?

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