Marketers: Where Are You Going to Get Your 10,000 Hours of Experience

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One truism in marketing is that the best way to get hired as a marketer is to show that you actually have had experience and success as a marketer. If you buy into Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, a person needs about 10,000 hours of practice to be successful at a particular skill. Some people argue with the 10,000 hour number. I would suspect that for some skills, the number of hours of practice is both higher and lower. But, 10,000 hours still seems like a pretty good target to me.

So, how can you get your 10,000 hours as a marketer? The hard news is that all the time you spend in marketing classes, working on projects, and possibly even in an internship probably don’t count in those 10,000 hours – in these activities, you are mostly learning about doing as opposed to really doing marketing. If you get hired in a marketing job after graduation, it will take about 5 years of working to accrue those 10,000 hours assuming you are doing more than just managing projects (that’s assuming you work 2,000 hours a year). It’s interesting to note that a large number of marketing job postings even require 5+ years’ experience in marketing. Okay, so that’s the tough news. Here’s the good news—there are at least 3 great ways to get marketing experience. Your time at the Kelley School can include experiential education on your way to a marketing degree.

  1. Student clubs – the Kelley School and IUPUI have 14 and 300+ clubs, respectively. Almost all of these clubs have large needs for new members, websites, fundraising and even executed programs. Pick a topic that interests you, roll up your sleeves and put your skills to the test. Make sure you document the impact or your efforts in terms of new members, website traffic, dollars raised and program attendance. Your goal should be to show the impact of using your marketing skills to help this organization.
  2. Local Non-Profits – The Indianapolis Business Journal annually compiles a list of local non-profits. Get a copy of this list and scan the wide variety of non-profits. Find one with that aligns with your passions. Call them up and volunteer to help. You’ll probably have the best luck with non-profits between 10 and 30 employees. Less than 10 employees and they may not be established enough for you have impact. More than 30 employees and they may already have sophisticated marketing programs. You can also check out InternMatch, which lists open internships with non-profits. When I checked today, they had two openings for marketing communications help. Finally, Charitable Advisors publishes a weekly newsletter with non-profits looking for volunteers in Indianapolis. Again, your goal should be to use this time to practice your marketing skills and demonstrate impact.
  3. Market yourself online. One of the advantages of being an IU student is free access to a wide variety of web software (e.g. Adobe Creative Suite, Frontpage, etc.) and a whole bunch of training options to teach you how to use it. So, you should download all the software you can and use it to make yourself an online portfolio – brand yourself and use digital marketing tools to build your own fan base.

Remember that the clock starts when you are actually using your marketing degree and know-how. So, the earlier you start the sooner you’ll be an expert.