The 4 skills CMOs want to see in the new crop of graduates

As the latest graduates start in their first marketing roles, new research reveals what marketing leaders are looking for in the newbies. Clare Kemsley, MD of Hays Marketing, the recruiter behind the study, explains what areas those new to the workforce should focus on.

As the marketing industry steamrolls through an exciting period of transition, largely driven by the explosion of digital media and increasing customer expectations, huge opportunities await this year’s new wave of talented, digitally-savvy graduates.

What I’m not saying is that they will get an easy ride out there; they definitely won’t. In fact, those graduates who want to make it to the top will need to work harder than ever to ensure they meet the expectations of their managers and are bringing the right skills and attributes to the table. 

There are four areas in particular, as identified by nearly 400 marketing leaders in our DNA of a Marketing Leader study, where anyone at the beginning of his or her career would do well to focus.

Be commercially aware
This is something that the brands and agencies I speak to can’t stress enough. In fact, nearly two-thirds (62%) of the marketing leaders in our research considered it the most important characteristic for the next generation of marketing leaders to possess.

It sounds obvious, but what does it actually mean and why does it matter? You need to be completely aligned with an organization’s objectives, have a thorough understanding of the sector, and get deep into your numbers. As one marketing leader puts it, "Always be under the skin of the numbers - that's what makes a marketer credible." Getting these things right means you can build a strong case to influence business planning, helping you gain credibility as a valued stakeholder in the company.

Develop your people skills
Networking has never been so important – 45% of marketing leaders said it was one of their top tips for the next generation of marketing leaders -- but you can’t do this properly by hiding behind a screen. Nothing beats meeting people face-to-face, and the businesses I speak to couldn’t be keener for their new starters to get out there, go to industry events, and roam their own offices to meet colleagues from other departments. 

This can sometimes be a real challenge, especially when you are busy and getting to grips with a new job, but it can put you in a very strong position at the start of your career, helping to promote yourself and the value of your role internally.

Understand your sector and audience
In an industry as fast-moving and ever-changing as marketing, keeping abreast of the latest developments is essential for marketers at all levels, particularly those at the start of their career. But it is not only about understanding the latest developments in marketing; meaningful conversations with your audiences require a deeper understanding of them and the environment you are working in. So make sure you are reading widely, immersed in the latest sector trends and live like your audience if you have to. 

A good word of advice from one marketing leader, which he put to us during our research: "You need a passion for understanding and getting to know your customers so that you can truly understand and develop solutions for them."

Be a true digital native
Our research revealed that only a fifth of marketing leaders (18%) feel their team has the digital skills it needs. The savviest marketers no longer think about digital marketing. It’s just marketing. Helping others in the organization raise their game and fully embed digital in all they do will be crucial. You might feel like you are rocking the boat for some people as they play catch up, but seek guidance from your managers on how to approach this best and ensure you are maximizing your understanding of these channels for the business. You probably know more than you think.

Starting a new job can be very daunting. For those in the marketing sector, however, it has never been so exciting, and there has never been so much opportunity. As the sector continues through a period of transition, those coming into the world of work have a key role to play, and if they hit the mark, and can handle the pressure, there should be plenty of rewards to greet them.

Clare Kemsley is MD of Hays Marketing.

This story originally appeared on Marketing.

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