Marketing is a profession which relies heavily on your network. Time and time again, I have heard marketers say: “It's not what you know, it's who you know”. The more people you know, the better your chances of getting your foot in the door of your dream company or landing the position you want.
When I was a student at the University of British Columbia, I took advantage of every opportunity to gain practical exposure to real people in marketing, which helped immensely as I went into the real world of working full-time.
As a student, I went to industry networking events through the UBC Marketing Association. I signed up for a mentorship program through the Vancouver Board of Trade. I bought coffees for the marketing professionals who were willing to sacrifice an hour of their busy day with me, to answer my eager questions about their field. I asked for marketing introductions and connections, which most people I encountered gladly organized for me.
As a student and young marketer, I remember feeling very grateful to all these people who gave me their time of day, when I had nothing to provide them in return at the time. I promised myself as soon as I had a few years as a marketing professional, I would pass on my own time and experiences and “pay it forward” by helping the next wave of students figure out their careers in marketing.
Are you in a similar position to what I described above? If so, below are six ways you can contribute your time to students who are currently studying in your field.
1. Connect With Local Student Organizations
Whether it's engineering or marketing or accounting, most post-secondary institutions have student-run organizations which specialize in a specific field and value connections with the local business community for future opportunities to help out. For example, you could be utilized as an industry representative at a student conference, or a “speed networking” event where students rotate around the room to meet different industry professionals.
Do some poking around and see if you can connect with someone at the local college or university, or ask the admissions team, someone will be able to point you in the right direction.
If there's a student intern at your company, he or she may be a great person to ask about the student organizations at their school.
2. Be a Guest Speaker
If you have a specific area of expertise, see if you can be a guest speaker at a local high school or post-secondary institution. Many schools have student-run conferences and are constantly seeking thought-leadership from an industry insider to share their expertise.
I recently spoke about the impact of social media in marketing to the Simon Fraser University Social Media Network, and enjoyed all the conversations I had with eager, bright students looking to learn more about the field of digital marketing.
3. Be a Mentor
There are several programs in Vancouver which pair up industry professionals with students in the same field. For example, the Vancouver Board of Trade, or the Women in Leadership program.
If you don't have time to commit to a mentorship program, be open to meeting with students who are curious about your field – more often than not, they will gladly take you out for coffee in exchange for an hour of your time.
I don't mean monetary donations, but a prize relevant to your company for student giveaways or fundraisers. For example, when I worked in the marketing department of Metropolis at Metrotown, we would often donate branded swag bags with waterbottles and totebags to student organizations for them to give away as prizes.
5. Offer an Office Tour
If you work in a cool office (think: ad agency), many students would love to get a glimpse of where the magic happens. As a student, I toured the local ad agency Rethink, and was amazed by their astro-turf grass and dog-friendly environment.
6. Hire a Student Intern
If you are in a position where you have the authority and budget to hire seasonal help, hire a student intern. Many post-secondary institutions have co-op or work experience placements, often in 4 month rotations.
Especially with non-conventional positions popping up in creative fields like marketing, many students are overwhelmed by all the options available in a single industry. By taking the time to connect with students and get involved with local post-secondary institutions, you will have the opportunity make a small difference in a young marketer's career.
Hopefully, they'll pay it forward as well.
[NOTE: featured photo came from this link: http://www.edukwest.com/study-proves-that-social-networking-enhances-student-performance]