4 skills marketing students should learn

Thinking about a career in marketing? Learn four skills you can be working on now so you're ready to succeed when you graduate.

Professors in the marketing department

4 skills marketing students should learn

Thinking about a career in marketing? Learn four skills you can be working on now so you're ready to succeed when you graduate.

Professors in the marketing department

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with high school and college students as they carve out careers for themselves. Students often ask me what skills are important to bring to their first job. First, let me preface this by saying learning is cumulative. Being open to learning new things enriches both your personal and professional life and inevitably strengthens your talents. With that being said, the marketing field has an array of professions that span data analytics, web, graphic design and content writing, to name a few. Here are just four ways to develop your marketing abilities.

Learn to understand data

Data helps inform decisions made throughout companies. From human resources to advertisement, data is king. Should we spend more on a particular idea? What does your ideal client need? How does your ideal client spend their time? Are there any other opportunities worth our investment?

Let’s say, for example, you landed a social media job with a small company. Your first assignment is to get more followers on your company’s Instagram page. Your first instinct is to enlist social media influencers to promote your brand. After doing some research, you find that most legitimate influencers charge $5,000 a post. Is it worth it?

Data is a great place to start to mitigate risks and estimate return on investments. Learning how to locate data, separate good from bad data, and make informed decisions based on legitimate information are important skills that will serve you in any marketing profession.

Become an avid reader

Most jobs involve writing. Whether it’s an email, report, article, social media post or text message, we are constantly in communication. We often write in a way that's similar to how we speak. And our speech can be heavily influenced by what we read.

Reading is a powerful tool to build vocabulary and increase your writing ability. A well-built vocabulary can produce a more interesting, compelling or concise piece of work. Here’s an example:

  • A dog ran.
  • The canine darted across the street.
  • The puppy ran through the crowded avenue.
  • The poodle sprinted uncharacteristically across the busy street to avoid the voracious bear pursuing him.

Words matter. So, grab a novel, newspaper, magazine or article and start reading!

Develop different styles of writing

You probably know intuitively that writing differs by occasion. For instance, the style of writing used on a text message is different than what might be on a school research project. Styles of writing can also differ between, static ads (social media images), short video Instagram ads, and longer YouTube ads. It also can differ based on your audience (7-year old versus a 45-year old) or the product you’re selling (a pack of gum or new Apple computer). Newspaper writing can be different than magazine writing, which can be different than catalog writing.

Because people receive information from a number of different places, it’s important you have the agility to carve your writing style to meet those markets. “Journalistic Writing” by Robert M. Knight is a good read to get started.

Understand design

In the age of digital media, design is more important than ever. A powerful image with a simple three-word phrase like “Just Do It” can communicate so much. Careers in marketing are constantly tied to design, whether you’re creating an ad or hosting an event.

Design is a deep field unto itself with a great deal of intricacy. But there are a number of articles on HubSpot and Adobe that you can check out. A book worth picking up is “Non-Designer’s Design Book” by Robin Williams. This book provides a great overview of the four principles of design to get you thinking differently when creating that IG post, flyer or email header.

Learn from experience

And finally, sometimes the best teacher is experience. Testing marketing concepts you learn in class is a way to put words into action. Plan a school event and try to beat last year’s attendance or fundraising goals using marketing principles. Start a small business, social media account or Discord channel and build followers or make extra cash. Build designs and take a poll on which one appeals to the most people. Put yourself out there and give it a try.

Best of luck!


Jeanette Chan-RiveraJeanette Chan-Rivera, M.S. is the Manger of Recruitment and Marketing at the University of Nevada, Reno. Over the last 15years, Jeanette has worked with hundreds of families navigating the admissions, financial aid and college readiness process. Her work also includes marketing and communication on behalf of the University’s Office for Prospective Students.

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