Taking Charge of My Own Learning


I’ve always been the type of person who is eager to learn, and I realized throughout my time in college and beyond that you won’t always be given the opportunity to learn what you want to learn– you have to go seek it out yourself. High school had fed us information and we dutifully processed this information and asked for more. We expected teachers and parents to give us what we need, because instinctively, we believe that they are responsible for our edification.

In college, we are in charge of our own class scheduling. How many of us were filled with stress and anxiety about during our first few semesters. Despite the counseling and the massive amounts of checklists, how did we know we are taking the best class we can possibly need for this subject? How should we know if we should be taking “Economics: A History since 1900″ or “Trends in Business in the 20th Century?”

Or, what if a foreign language has romanced us but it’s not a required subject in our list of major courses? We were easily able to tweak our schedule and fit Spanish Literature 4 around our schedules, no matter what kind of motivation it would take to wake up at 6 am to practice speaking it or go back to school to 7 pm to hear short stories in the language. How many of us had taken a jazz history class in college? Or a poetry class?

Reading a post by Avinash Kashik today made it loud that companies won’t have the time to fully train you and prepare you for the work. They will train you enough so you understand what needs to be done, and make sure the on-boarding process is as smooth as possible. If you’re interested in exploring a specific business topic or area, you won’t get after school lessons in that.

You have to go out there and get trained yourself.

This doesn’t mean you need to go outside of the company just to learn something you’re curious about. Your company may very well be capable of offering you the resources, you just have to source those and fit them into your schedule. An individual project management exercise to implement your personal development, if you will.

While job searching, I see postings for marketing positions and while many don’t require mid-level experience, many list out requirements that takes years to build. For instance, “Must have SEM/SEO/PPC experience, with background in Omniture/Doubleclick/Nielse, full understanding of business operations, and proven success in managing consumer websites with more than a million visitors per month. Recent graduate preferred.” Many of us didn’t have marketing/advertising agency experience and college, and I doubt if a large corporation would hire a colleges student to manage its social media community, unless most members are college students themselves. How do you arm yourself with the necessary background so you can at least qualify for positions like these. (Because you know that once you get on board, you are fully capable of doing what they need you to do, you just have to get past the gate and be let in).

While I don’t claim myself to have the same level of experience as someone who has doing metrics for 5+ years, I know that I am positioned to qualify for entry-level marketing positions. I just have to know how to use the tools, because it seems like that’s the biggest hurdle I have to overcome.

Then again the catch-22 goes: how can I get training in using these tools if no one will hire me because I don’t know these tools?

Omniture and enterprise-class software are extremely expensive, especially for an individual who just need one license to the software in order to play around with it. I don’t think it would be a wise investment for me to buy a license of Omniture. Public libraries don’t offer this. Smaller companies might not even use this because of budget reasons.

What then?

I know it won’t help me to wait for a company that will train me in how to use these tools. That time may not come anytime soon, and the more I wait, the more I can’t move myself forward and apply to available positions. Moreover, every marketer, either on the creative or business side, needs to learn these tools as these have become the norm and companies and customers now meet in digital spaces more than ever.

So I’m tapping into multiple (free) tools that will allow me to understand SEM and analytics and get elbow deep into customer/visitor tracking. I may not have the luxury of working with a tool like Omniture, but tools like Google Analytics and other free tools will give me enough familiarity to position myself as an entry-level or junior level marketer. It will help me craft the right questions and frame my mind to understand the critical metrics needed to answer particular questions. It will help me learn how to think, guide me in the right directions, and put me closer to where I see myself.

There’s a chatty crowd of marketers with experience in SEM/Analytics. I hope to get into the conversation and make them my unsolicited (but hopefully willing) classmates.

One of the most powerful I realized while reflecting on my career and trying to understand where my job search is going:

There will always be people with more experience, more credentials, more resources than me. What I need to focus on is not how much I’m lacking, but the abundance of what I have. What resources are available to me that I can make full use of? Nothing is worse than having plenty of resources around you and not using them. I am always willing to learn and adapt, as I have in so many times in the past. If I don’t know something, it just means I haven’t learned it yet.

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