Russell Parsons: The next generation of talent shouldn’t have to stumble into marketing

Marketing Week’s annual Career and Salary Survey, which is the most comprehensive study of its kind, this year highlights two major challenges that must be addressed.

It’s January. The time to complete some of the tasks you put on the lengthy to-do list in December with a self-satisfied sense of purpose and giddy sense of possibility.

There are several significant challenges to tackle that are likely to be on your checklist regardless of the size of the brand you steward: the tug of war between efficiency and effectiveness; the continuing quest for influence and impact; and the great big black cloud that sits above UK plc – Brexit – to name just three.

While these are important and pressing challenges that all good marketers will need to have a firm handle on, there are other, longer-term challenges that I want you all to give mind, time and effort to in 2019. These action points stem from the results of our annual Career and Salary Survey.

Now in its 21st year, the Career and Salary Survey acts as a document of the state of marketing as a profession, with respect to salaries and workplace wellbeing. It has also highlighted issues around the health of marketing as an employment destination and the preparedness of those entering the industry.

Here are my two key challenges to you for 2019.

1. Improve social diversity

One of my favourite quotes of 2018 came from The Marketing Academy Foundation’s CEO Daryl Fielding: “The issue is that the industry is relentlessly middle class and if you don’t have class diversity, you’ve got a homogeneous population.”

In other words, marketing is drawing on the same group of people year in, year out. Our survey finds a whopping 90% of marketers are degree educated. There’s nothing wrong with employing those educated to degree level; the issue is with almost exclusively doing so.

Despite the democratisation of higher education, it remains lacking in ethnic and social diversity. Unlike other professions, there is no need for marketers to be educated to degree or postgraduate level. As many of the contributors to our feature on routes into marketing highlight, what is required is the correct attitude – continuous learning will take care of the rest.

There is a chronic lack of awareness of marketing in schools, as we found last year. That 90% of marketers are graduates suggests the industry is not looking for recruits in enough places at enough times.

Just 42% of our survey’s respondents have a marketing degree of some kind. I don’t read this as an indictment of the desirability or usefulness of marketing degrees. I do conclude, however, this means there are a number of graduates stumbling into marketing as an after-thought, or secondary choice, hardly a ringing endorsement for the job of marketing and definitely not a sustainable state of affairs.

READ MORE: Salary Survey 2019 – The majority of marketers don’t have a marketing qualification

2. Make marketing a desirable destination

The second challenge is to make marketing a more desirable career destination.

The Founding 50, which we unveiled at the end of last year, are an army of advocates who are tasked with doing just that for school children. The industry also needs to find a way to make marketing more meaningful for those lucky enough to go to university.

Time spent meeting this challenge is not easy to justify to your finance director, who demands accountability for budgeting decisions. Lending time to such issues when your CEO has tasked you with navigating your brand through category disruption is understandably difficult. But that doesn’t mean these things do not need to be addressed now.

We must maintain a future pipeline of talent that is fit to contribute towards business growth. There are plenty of great initiatives, from helping The Marketing Academy Foundation fund its apprenticeship scheme to engaging with the School of Marketing, which Marketing Week supports.

Whether you’re investing in continuous learning or working with training and education providers to help bridge the gap between theory and practice in academia, there is plenty you can begin to do.

Make it a resolution to do something.

READ MORE: How marketing salaries stack up in 2019

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