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There’s no right or wrong way to become a professional marketer. Some do it by earning a marketing and taking on a role with marketing in the title. Others develop a career in marketing as a side migration from another field – like public relations or graphic design. And still others land in marketing as a result of keeping their business alive – like someone who launches a business or develops a new product.

But for those of you who are intentionally seeking a career in marketing – like many of our listeners here – I want to bring up the idea of apprenticeship.

First let’s explore the different ways you can learn about a career path and acquire the skills to become employed in that area.

Investigating a career:

Interview those who work in the space. Asking them questions about their role and what insights they can share with you about this career path. 

Job shadowing:

Spend a day witnessing someone in action at their work. See firsthand what it is like to work here, determine if it is a right fit for you, and ask valuable questions.

Internship:

Work in a paid or unpaid entry-level position on a temporary basis with the intention of learning about that field and business without the pressures of being on staff. Are there pressures? Sure, but employers understand that by taking on an intern, they are agreeing to the arrangement of working with a student who is not fully qualified, to provide guidance and direction, to help them develop their skills and awareness.

Mentorship:

Study from, talk with, seek guidance from someone in a role you seek to aspire to. Your mentor will share their insights and wisdom from their own experience to help you determine your path. Mentorships could be one-on-one or you could seek guidance from a mastermind group or even conference experience.

Apprenticeship:

Earn while training on the job with leaders invested in grooming you for the profession. Deeper and more extensive than an internship. It leaves you ready to fulfill the responsibilities of the job. An apprenticeship is more than an internship. It adds in the addition of practical training with mentorship and hands-on practicum.

Apprenticeships are not new

Plumbers, electricians, artists, and craft trades have been training up the next generation through apprenticeships for decades. Family run businesses follow much this same model as they groom their children to take on leadership in the business. Even looking back into history books will show you that the apprentice model was followed as a way to rear up future employees. It’s the ideal way to learn on the job, develop the training and insights you need to thrive through hands on work, mentorship, and practical training. It’s the most robust model of acquiring a trade.

If someone would be willing to take me under their wing and mentor me – meaning sit down and talk to me occasionally, sharing their wisdom and experience with me. I would jump on that opportunity. You can learn so much from someone sharing from their own experience.

But if that person were take it a step further and invite me to join their team for a period of time and not only learn from them, but witness how they operate, how they succeed, how the team works, etc. That would obviously provide much more impact. That is a the idea of an apprenticeship.

Although not new, they have fallen out of practice amongst white-collar careers. As the university model grew, apprenticeships faded. Now it appears there is a growing trend to revive them amongst these type of jobs. The New York Times published an article December 10, 2019, entitled, “Want a White-Collar Career Without College Debt? Become an Apprentice.” The focus of the article is to highlight different fields that are embracing the apprenticeship model as an alternative to traditional four-year degrees.

Why?

I see the reasoning behind this as three-fold.

  1. The cost of a college education is rising and people are seeking alternatives to preparing for their career launch.
  2. The skill gap is increasing
    1. If colleges won’t adapt their programs to teach practical skills vs. theories and concepts, employers are better suited training up a new wave of employees the way they need them to perform.
    2. Apprenticeships are also much faster to acquire training and experience, vs. the traditional four to five years of college.
  3. The market is removing the barrier to entry – no longer requiring a college degree for employment.
    1. This is what held up the resurgence of apprenticing amongst white-collar positions, employers used to require a college degree to even apply for a job. Now as the restriction continues to lift in many fields – amongst large and small employers alike – apprenticeship becomes a greater option for training.

One of the quotes in the article from The New York Times presented this concern about apprenticeships:

“The danger is that we’ll create a two-tier system, where you have people who can afford to go to the elite colleges, who get the networks to move into a great career, while you have lower-level pathways for everyone else,” said Marie Cini, president of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, who supports expanding apprenticeships but acknowledges that the effort faces many challenges. “The question that I am starting to hear is ‘O.K., you are from the elite. Would you send your kid to that?’”

First, I acknowledge that the way this quote is phrased is perception based. She obviously believes that elite college provide networks that lower-level pathways cannot acquire. I dispute this.

I don’t deny the power of networks for one minute. But I would point out that networking can only help you open up doors. In most instances, a connection can’t get you the job if you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to be prepared and experienced.

And who’s to say your college experience is going to yield those connections? Why can’t you learn how to network on your own? Take your destiny into your own hands and be responsible for making your own connections? I had a great college experience, but it didn’t yield me any connections. I got the degree and was responsible for opening up my own doors after that. You too can learn how to do that!

I’m also middle class. I was blessed to get a quality education from a small private university, but there was no possibility for me to attend the elite schools mentioned in this article. In fact, most people attending college are doing so at non-ivy league schools. So what are the considerations we should have for them?

So are apprenticeships valuable and worth considering instead of college?

My response to this is, yes. I would 100% encourage my child to take on an apprenticeship – just as I am encouraging you – because of the insights, training, mentorship, professional experience they will develop.

Networking aside, apprenticeships provide a much bigger career leap for someone verses sitting in a classroom for four years acquiring mostly book knowledge.

Yet apprenticeships are not the right fit for everyone. Not every 18-20 year old is mature enough to enter the workplace right from high school – even in the role of an apprenticeship. For some college becomes that transition into adulthood. But for others this is a great option that will provide them a competitive advantage.

If all other criteria were the same, I would hire the person who has the proven training and skills from working on the job vs. someone just graduating with a degree in hand. This is the whole premise to why I launched Marketing Launch Society – to empower you to get more experience and training so you can compete against those who already have it.

And one last comment on networking. Anytime you begin relying on someone else to do something for you that you could do yourself, you begin relinquishing power. Be the driver of your own career. Don’t think that just because you know someone or you attend a particular college that your future is secured. For everyone out there, you have to create the future you want. And that takes perseverance, drive, passion, and experience.

That’s what we help you become inside of Marketing Launch Society.

I hope that after this discussion you start to acknowledge the changes happening in the industry. Marketing careers no longer require marketing degrees to land the job. Skills can be learned on the job as well as developing connections and insights you most likely wouldn’t get from college.

So if that’s the case, you have to ask yourself: what does your college degree prepare you for? What value are you receiving from it? And, how will you be able to apply that gained knowledge to land a career?

If you need help answering that and determining a path for your own success, check out MarketingLaunchsociety.com. We mentor you – serving as your guide as you make the move from college to career – bridging the skill gap – and landing a job in marketing.

Wishing you all the best for your marketing success.

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Link to the article on apprenticeship in The New York Times

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