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Self-Education In Digital Marketing: How to Elevate Your Skills

We've all heard the dreaded two words that circle around the workforce.

Skills gap.

Employees. Leaders. Recruiters. Everyone shudders at this phrase. For employers and recruiters, it means they're not finding candidates who have the skills they need to succeed in their open positions.

On the other side, for candidates, they think about the skills they're lacking, which keeps them in the gloomy hellscape we call the job search. 

There's no denying the existence of the skills gaps throughout the workforce. Udemy's 2017 Skills Gap Report found that nearly 80 percent of Americans agree there is a skills gap, and 35 percent say it affects them personally. What's more, 40 percent say changing skills requirements will have the biggest impact on their job over the next five years. 

When it comes to digital marketing skills, you might be falling into that gap.

The Gap in Digital Marketing Skills

Digital marketing is exploding. According to Forrester research, spending on digital marketing will reach $120 billion by 2021. And with this growth, there are a lot of talented professionals entering the field.

However, fields like digital marketing are evolving so fast that traditional education routes like college are not providing the most up-to-date, relevant information to students. So many recent graduates might be facing a steep uphill climb as they enter the digital marketing workforce. 

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Another population who struggles keeping up with digital marketing skills is older generations who have worked in the marketing world for decades. General Assembly’s 2018 report was based on scores that professionals earned while taking an entry level digital marketing skills assessment. They found that digital-native marketers outscored corporate marketers on average by a whopping 73 percent.

To put it simply, there are a lot of professionals either working in or just joining digital marketing who are not as equipped as they need to be. 

The Top Digital Marketing Skills Today

Employers know what skills to look for when they're assessing candidates for marketing. Many skills that are highly valued now will become more valuable over time. 

Here's a quick glimpse at the top skills that will endure long into the future of digital marketing: 

  • Data analysis – Data is driving marketing decisions more than ever before, and it will play an integral part in the future of business. 
  • Writing – Content creation requires a great deal of written communication skills. Becoming a good writer helps in all aspects of marketing, including internal communications and outreach
  • CRM – Managing contacts is going to be more important as more businesses purchase CRM suites and double down on lead generation efforts. 
  • SEO – Search engines empower consumers to learn on their own. They will be a prominent aspect of digital marketing for a long time.
  • Soft skills - Listening, communication, and leadership are just a few vital soft skills needed in any work environment.

The best way to build and continually develop these in-demand skills is by making self-education a part of your daily life. 

What Is Self-Education?

The concept of autodidacticism, aka self-education or self-learning, is easy to understand. Generally speaking, you simply choose the subject you want to learn about, gather your learning materials, and establish the timeframe and rhythm of your study.

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It’s meant to act as a complement to formal education, but many people use it as an alternative to formal education. And in the digital age, where we carry around access to a plethora of information in our pocket, self-education is easier to pursue than ever before.

If you're a marketer and you're not learning on your own, outside of your daily responsibilities, you risk falling behind. The only person who can set you up for sustainable success in your career is you. 

The Self-Education Route to Developing Digital Marketing Skills

In digital marketing, you need to embrace your role as an independent, lifelong learner. This helps you stay ahead of the game and stay in touch with the latest best practices and technologies.

Here are a few tips to making self-education a part of your routine:

Connect With Mentors.

When you’re in a marketing department, ask questions and learn from leadership. Schedule time for informal one-on-ones with the experts you work alongside. They likely have a ton of wisdom they can share with you. 

If you don’t have access within your job, find people in LinkedIn Groups for marketers, Meetup groups, and other communities both on and offline. The more you network in the digital marketing space, the more access you have to people who exhibit the skills you want to further develop. 

Read. Watch. Listen. Repeat. 

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Books. Blogs. Forums. Podcasts. YouTube channels. 

The possibilities are endless. Thanks to the digital world we live in, you can access so much educational content in an instant. And you can choose any format that best fits your schedule. 

Podcasts and audiobooks are great for your commute time. Books are perfect for those quiet evenings after dinner. Whatever your preference, there's something out there you can learn from. 

But be cautious. This can feel like drinking from a hose, so pace yourself and be deliberate about what content you’re consuming. Otherwise, you might find yourself spread too thin on specific topics and never really fully grasp a speciality that can truly set you apart in your career. 

For example, if you love marketing analytics, focus on consuming content focused on just analytics. It's good to diversify your areas of interest from time to time, but try to find a speciality you love and double down on that. 

As you learn, reflect on the content. Take notes. Read through those notes. Discuss what you learn with coworkers or friends. The more you capture and recollect, the better you are at retaining that information. 

Find Structured Paths Online. 

Maybe you need a little more structure in your self-education journey. One of the best ways to set and follow structure for learning on your own is by joining massive open online courses (MOOCs). 

There are so many excellent resources to choose from, including Udemy, Coursera, EdX, and Khan Academy. Identify what you want to specialize in and start learning it. 

But stay committed and give yourself a timeframe for completing the courses and learning tracks you choose. Otherwise, you might start and stop a lot of online courses never to complete them or gain real value.

Write yourself a learning track and stick to it. You can even document your self-education path online, like through a personal blog or LinkedIn posts. This can help with your personal branding, an essential strategy for every marketer.

When you dedicate time to self-education and stick to it throughout your career, you're setting yourself for sustainable success. Your unwavering commitment to strengthening your digital marketing skills will turn you into an expert and keep you at the top of your game. 

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Jeff Previte

Jeff Previte

I am a Content Manager at Bluleadz. I enjoy spending time outdoors -- camping, hiking, hammocking, and everything in between. I also love reading, writing, and learning how to play guitar.