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What University Didn't Teach Me

They say you make your own opportunities in life, but I fear for those who believe their opportunities will be seized care of what they’ve learnt at university. I fear for those who will walk out of a tertiary institution with $50k of debt, thinking they are adequately prepared for what the employment world throws at them. I’m fearful because from my own experience, university didn’t prepare me for what the reality is – that the real education was in fact just beginning.

Graduation Day

Graduation Day

I’m not one of those guys who never got a college degree, and goes around preaching that the only degree you need is a Bachelor of Life (BLif). What is concerning is the mismatch of academic criteria whilst studying, to the skill set required to succeed in the workforce. Since finishing with a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in Marketing Management at the University of Otago, over the past couple of years I’ve worked at a Canadian-owned technology company and a start-up outsource marketing consultancy.

Since gaining two years’ work experience, much of what I learnt at university has gone out the window. ‘Higher education’ just isn’t keeping up with three key areas I’ve identified as missing during the course of studying for a tertiary degree. Three things that are so vitally important to succeeding upon leaving university:

  • The increasing role of technology

  • Why building confidence is key

  • The birth of the professional hybrid 

An understanding of technology is without a doubt the most crucial aspect of adapting to the world of employment, and it was something I lacked. I’m not talking about mobile phones and Facebook, I’m talking about understanding the world of cloud software applications, and why SaaS suppliers are the preferred choice for most SMEs around the globe to run all facets of their business.

If you’ve never heard of marketing automation, look it up, now. Marketing automation technology has reshaped the role of the marketing department. It allows you to attribute marketing campaigns to leads and sales, and marketing departments are now expected to demonstrate an ROI. Marketing automation is leading the charge in a technology-fueled movement rapidly changing the way people do business.

Whether it be knowing how to shoot and edit online videos, understand how to optimise websites for SEO, being familiar with different CRM tools, creating online campaigns for SEM and LinkedIn, or developing the front and back end of a website, technology is one ally that it is imperative you have on your side.

I’ve never thought that lack of confidence was an issue for me until I was placed in an environment completely unknown to me, asked to present on a topic utterly foreign to me, and to people so terrifyingly senior to me. Work experience whilst studying is essential to stepping out into the real world with some semblance of confidence, and should be incorporated into the curricular. Having some knowledge of what you’re entering into after university will pay dividends, and help you better adapt to the corporate culture without burning out.

Upon us is the age of the Hybrid Professional Marketer. The days of specialising in one area have passed. No longer are we allowed the luxury of simply being a creative, or a copywriter, or web developer, or social media manager, or blogger, or analytics specialist, or a marketing strategist… in the modern world of marketing you now need to have a combination of skillsets, whilst understanding how to address the business issues faced in today’s market. This emerging role has redesigned what is required of a professional marketer, where people need to use both the left and right sides of their brains – where creative and emotional meets logical and rational. (To download the Hybrid Professional Marketer eBook click here).

I loved my time at university, and was easily the best years of my life. But there needs to be a wakeup call for those who think their degree will pave their way to sufficiently knowing what is required from them in the employment world. Sure this may be limited to those studying marketing, and sure it may depend on the university, but if my advice is worth anything – know that the world we are living in is changing at a rate unfamiliar to us. Opportunites come and go, but during this digital revolution we’re experiencing it’s survival of the fittest.

What’s the next step? If you’re ready to look for some work experience, or even to start finding for a job – get some industry standard advice on how to format your CV. Otherwise, talk to the team at Frog Recruitment.



Sam Howie

Sam Howie has given his heart to digital and social marketing and enjoys challenging the norms that traditional advertising agencies have been trading on for years.