Many of us know this moment all too well: that point in our lives when it’s time to make the decision that will set a path for our futures. The decision that makes us work hard to become who we dream to be. The decision on the perfect career. marketing-college-classroom

So what can be said about the marketers of the future? Those pre-twenty-somethings are taking on their educational future to lead them toward a successful career of analytics, strategy, creativity and constant change. But will they be truly prepared to pursue a career in marketing once all the essays and tests are completed?

Likely not. First, students of today are coming from schools that are less supportive of creative curriculum due to severe budget cuts and restrictions. Lack of creative development tends to have a domino effect on industries such as marketing. Furthermore, many marketing and business classes of today teach the values of traditional business.

A new kind of marketing curriculum

Marketing tactics of long ago are still being used as a primary example of what to become as future marketers. Unfortunately, the future of marketing and business is growing so rapidly that most educational systems can’t keep up with relevant curricula. Considering these limitations, it’s difficult to believe that marketing students are actually getting the education they need to pursue their careers in the current marketing landscape.

With such critical factors against them, how are students expected to cope with knowing they may not be getting the education they need to fully prepare for a career in marketing? First, students must understand the economy they live in today: the “do-it-yourself economy”. The idea behind that name comes from the increasing amounts of people learning trades on their own by means of research. So how can students of marketing incorporate this strategy into their own busy curriculum? Here are five ways to future-proof your marketing career.

1. Be adaptable

First, students must understand that the industry they’re pursuing requires an adaptable and flexible professional. Marketing is full of changes that can challenge even the most seasoned veteran. If this idea stresses you out, marketing probably isn’t the best career choice for you

2. Look outside the textbooks

Believe it or not, those books that just cost you a frightening amount of money aren’t going to teach you everything. You have to look in other places for more information. But good news, the Internet just happens to be full of free information from blogs, news sites, databases and more! Start with this Power 150 list from AdAge.

3. Follow influencers

If you don’t know about Twitter yet, do yourself a favor and get to know it. Then, research influential marketers and follow their tweets, blog posts and other social media interactions. And if you’re brave enough, starting a conversation with them would be even better for your professional development!

4. Do your homework: Understand the evolution of your career

No, I don’t necessarily mean you need to know what’s going to happen 20 years from now (though you’d be sitting pretty if you did). Understand and respect that this industry is constantly evolving. Become a part of the evolution through heavy research and creative strategy.

5. Try an internship… or seven

It definitely doesn’t hurt to get out there and see what the experts are working on in the real world. Get at it and learn something new from someone who knows it best. And don’t just limit yourself to one particular agency or company—give yourself a variety of marketing experiences. Hopefully this method will help restore some of the lost creativity from your K-12 days. It’ll also give you a better idea of what you’re in for as a professional.

As marketing continues to evolve faster than the educational systems can keep up, understanding your field through outside sources is now more important than ever. Keep in mind that adaptability might mean learning some things that might intimidate you at first. For example, we’ll see an increase in the merging of marketing and IT industries as technology continues to bring them closer together. Understanding a little bit of IT and technology might not be such a bad idea.

Marketing is an exciting field that really allows professionals to learn and grow with their passion to communicate. If this career is for you, be prepared to do a lot of homework.

Image credit: Doug Kaylor