Staying Relevant, Current, and Employable in Digital Marketing and Advertising

People often ask me how I manage to keep up with the onslaught of change happening in the digital space. This article is inspired by an e-mail from a colleague, a senior manager at an ad agency in New York.

First, let me just say that I feel the same pressures you do to stay current and competitive in the digital marketing and advertising space. In short, booking-a-cruise it ain’t easy. In fact since my reach can, and often does, extend far beyond digital marketing and advertising, sometimes the effort required to stay on top of my game can be somewhat overwhelming.

Please note that I said overwhelming, not impossible.

To keep it all in perspective and find the road map to success that’ll work for you, book a cruise let’s talk generically about my approach. Keep in mind that your mileage may vary. I recommend adopting whatever I share here for your own professional life and style (and lifestyle).

Get Yourself a Good Vantage Point

First, you need to look at things from a high level point-of-view. I like to use the rain forest analogy. I stay at the canopy level, digitalhackingtips where I can get a broad overview of everything that’s going on in the digital space. I’m a generalist – I know a lot about a lot of things, and I find that to be a good place to be. For me.

But that’s not enough to create long-term, sustainable value within my business (or my professional life), so I also focus on things that turn me on – that I’m passionate about – like people, digital technology, and leadership, to name a few. I also have a boatload of contacts in many industries, verticals, and roles in just as many countries who can help me answer questions when I simply don’t know the answer.

When the need arises for me to be more than a generalist, I drop from the canopy to the understory – that point between the canopy and the forest floor. Here, you’re not quite a generalist anymore, but you’re not a true specialist, either.

If the project or situation I’m in requires real specialization, I go all the way to the forest floor and tap my extensive bag of tricks, knowledge, and hands-on practical experience gained from over 20 years of solving problems, developing cool (and very useful) products and services teaching and leading, and working with incredibly smart people in some of the best organizations in the world.

And, as I said above, sometimes I need to reach out and touch someone in my extensive network to get the answers or expertise I need. It’s OK not to know all the answers. That’s where a really robust network can come in handy (you’re working on building your network every day, right?)

Start Here

Start the process by approaching your learning and information gathering from a generalist’s point of view. Then, figure out what you’re passionate about and add that to the mix. For me, it’s constantly learning about all sorts of things and applying that knowledge practically, in all sorts of situations. And that learning and doing never stops. When it does, you die.

And yes, “doing it” is critical. Most important, you need to surround yourself with people who “get it” and can execute, or at least help you to execute. You may not have 100% of the execution chops you need, but like most of what we do in the digital space, it’s cool to be agile, go ugly early, and iterate.

Questions in Search of Answers

There’s nothing worse than being in a situation where everyone’s asking the same questions and offering no answers – it’s like having Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder in a car fighting over who’ll drive. No matter what, it’s probably going to be a debacle. Don’t just stand around and wait for someone else to lead. Go ugly early. Iterate. Be agile (I’ll cover these three items in another post – stay tuned).

Remember, your competitors are just as confused as you are. I find that it’s the ones who can move quickly to gain (and stay current with) relevant, timely information that can and will win.

You need core (digital and other) competencies. If you can’t grow them yourself, you have to find other ways to get them. Take courses, find a mentor or two, read voraciously, surf the web, jump into projects where you have little or no experience so you can get hands-on, practical experience – and whatever else you can come up with to fill your brain with the data you need and get your hands dirty to stay current and competitive.

So, let’s recap. I think you’ll find that keeping up won’t be so daunting a task if you operate as a generalist and stay at the canopy level, dropping down to the understory when required. Get passionate about some topics in your space and focus your efforts on learning and doing. Don’t be afraid to jump in and go ugly early, iterate, and work with an agile approach.



Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *