The IDM: why we're not for profit, simply for talent

Finding and opening up the industry to the next wave of marketing stars is one of the things the IDM does best.

The IDM may be best known for its professional training and quali­fications for marketers, but that’s only part of the story. The other part is about where any profits from the IDM’s professional training go – straight back to where it all starts: toward finding, developing and inspiring the next generation of marketing stars.

How much did you know about marketing when you got your first job in the profession? I’m willing to bet that often the truthful answer is "very little". Now, how much do you expect your graduate recruits to know when they walk through the door on day one? I’m similarly willing to bet that your answer to this will be quite different.

There aren’t many who would disagree that the biggest threat to the health of the marketing profession is the shortage of practitioners with the right breadth of skills to make the most of the huge advances in digital and data-driven activities. But I’d suggest that’s only the second-biggest threat.

The biggest is a lack of the brightest, marketing-savvy graduates entering the business at grass-roots level. If we don’t keep attracting the best new blood to the profession at entry level, we’re always playing catch-up.

It’s simply not good enough to assume that youngsters are digital natives and can "do" Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube in their sleep. Using social for the purely social is a long way from being able to identify, use, monitor and evaluate all the right platforms for an effective social-media campaign for brands.

Moreover, while you can be sure that some graduates with marketing degrees have excellent theoretical knowledge, it’s likely most won’t know the difference between client- and agency-side, planning, data analytics and account management, understand the creative process, pressures of working to constant deadlines, or feel comfortable talking to agencies, clients or suppliers.

The best ones do, however, have a recognisable je ne sais quoi: a combination of team-working, common sense, a can-do attitude, creative eye, flexibility and youthful enthusiasm for the new…

So how do we harness it all? We show the best that marketing is precisely where they can use those skills and engender that enthus­iasm, and if they’re bright, switched-on and talented enough, it can open the door to an exciting, influential and rewarding career. That’s where the IDM’s not-for-profit EmployAbility programme comes in.

For 26 years now, we’ve been a bridge between UK universities and businesses. Building on the excellent theory and academically rigorous syllabus of a higher-education honours degree, we help give students the hands-on experience, the practical advice and the real-world contacts they need not only to get the job above 100 other candidates, but also to hit the ground running when they do.

So what is it about our programmes that makes the students who take them so employable?

In the case of the IDM Marketing Summer School and IDM Data Discovery workshops, it’s all about real-world, hands-on experience. Students who aren’t necessarily studying marketing as part of their degree (if they’re talented, we want them) are immersed in one of the best introductions to the business there is. They learn, direct from expert practi­tioners, about the different marketing roles, disciplines and techniques; they work and pitch on a real client brief; they spend a day at a top London agency and network with the people who hold the key to the jobs.

Every year, the IDM Student Marketing Competition throws up outstanding pro­posals and pitches, to an often complex client brief, from hundreds of university teams across the country. It’s work that’s worthy of many leading agency teams with several years’ experience already.

We collaborate with universities and have the authority to accredit their digital and direct syllabi, meaning students can graduate not only with an honours degree, but an up-to-date pro­fessional marketing qualification, too. For lecturers, we provide support, training and an annual IDM EmployAbility forum to ensure the skills they teach are those the changing workplace needs.

We’re not for profit – just for talent, so next time you need a graduate to hit the ground running the moment they enter your door, look for the IDM on their CV, or contact us to find out how you can get involved in finding the best talent for your business.

Mike Cornwell F IDM is chief executive of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing.

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