A Fairygodboss reader who is starting a job search for a position in marketing recently confessed that she feels out of touch with the latest social media trends. Aside from using Facebook in her personal life and maintaining a skeletal LinkedIn profile, she isn’t plugged into the overwhelming world of tweets, insta filters and snaps. “To advance my career in the industry, how social should I be?” she asked on a Fairygodboss discussion board.
A decade ago, marketing professionals didn’t have to know very much about social media. The direct mail and print advertising operations were managed completely apart from whatever social media strategy the “tech people” within a company attempted. The left hand neither knew nor cared what the right hand was doing in most workplaces. Abbreviations like BTW weren’t part of our lexicon.
Social media marketing was just a twinkle in the eyes of MySpace executives, while the rest of us struggled to connect to the internet at 56 kbps. (I’m old enough to vividly recall the agonizing screech of the dial-up modem. It’s no wonder marketing pros didn’t think the “information superhighway” had much potential.)
Since high speed internet became the norm and our mobile devices untethered us, it’s clear that marketing has done a complete turnaround. Social media is integrated into every aspect of the marketing plan, and marketers create campaigns that can be infinitely personalized by tapping into a consumer’s most recent internet search. If you’re hoping to be taken seriously in this particular job market, you will want to acquire adequate social media skills and become informed about the marketing pros and cons of each major platform.
Don’t despair! Here’s where we get old school, ’cause that’s how I roll. (Did I say that right? Have I mentioned I’m pretty old myself?) If you’re a pen-and-paper person, get out your notebook and outline a table, or start a new spreadsheet if you prefer. (Grab your reading glasses if you need to, I’m already wearing mine.) In the first column, list each platform or technical skill you’d like to learn or become more proficient in.
Across the top, indicate time intervals that you think are appropriate. You might identify goals with 2-week, 4-week, and 8-week targets that correspond to tasks of different complexity levels. Think of this as a project management exercise, and work backwards if you have an external deadline.
I suggest my coaching clients set goals that are ambitious but realistic, and avoid a prolonged timeline that stretches into months or years. Sticking with the example of gaining social media proficiency, you might aim to learn how marketers use Facebook groups in the next week, give yourself from week 2 until week 4 to get a handle on Twitter and Instagram, and plan week 3 until week 8 to tackle Snapchat and Pinterest.
If you enjoy this kind of project planning, you can also identify tasks within those goals to keep yourself on track. You might plan to send #MyFirstTweet by week 2, aim for 10 followers and 40 tweets by week 3, and hope for 30 followers plus a successful experiment with tweetchats by week 4. Setting measurable benchmarks helps you celebrate your accomplishments for one goal, even if you’re frustrated by what feels like lack of progress in another.
Whenever you feel discouraged—perhaps when someone types faster with only their thumbs than you thought possible—remember that you started from a much different baseline, and you’ve traveled a longer distance than they have. That in itself can be an advantage for an employer hoping to market to multiple generations. Your breadth of experience, combined with current skills in the latest platforms, will be an enormous asset in the job search!
Before you know it, you’ll be tweeting like @GeorgeTakei. He turns 80 this April, so if he can become a social media expert, you can too. (BTW, happy birthday George! #OhMyyy!)
Lynn Carroll is a career coach who writes about authenticity in the job search, gender equity in the workplace, and inclusion. Follow her @LynnCareerCoach or check out her latest post at www.lynncareercoach.com.
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