Millennial Marketing Class of 2016, You’re Going to Do Great. Here’s Why

June 3, 2016

Marketers of the graduating class of 2016: Wear sunscreen.

Wear sunscreen — seriously

You probably didn’t get that reference, because it’s from a song that came out when you were still in kindergarten. But it was a touchstone for people around my age back in 1998. So I naturally assumed you would find it as deep as I did back then.

I’m sorry to say the Sunscreen song is a good indicator of what you will be up against in the working world. Older people will insist you accept their opinions, their culture, their way of doing things. They will assume their experiences are as significant and relevant to you as to them. It happened to me when I was starting out; now I’m the one complaining how the kids these days don’t appreciate the great music of my youth.

Your most important job in the years ahead is to absolutely not let the old guard—including me—keep you from exploring and innovating. You grew up in a digital world. You’re the present and future of digital marketing. You will shape this industry in ways we Gen Xers can’t yet imagine.

Learn what you can from your elders. Get a good grasp on the fundamentals. Don’t be too quick to throw out time-tested strategies that still work. But don’t even think about stopping there.

So instead of adding to the mountain of advice you’re receiving from every conceivable source, let me take a minute to tell you why you’re going to succeed.

You’re a Force to Be Reckoned With

There are 85 million millennials (people born between 1984 and 2004) in the U.S. You and your generation pack an estimated trillion dollars of purchasing power every year.

But your influence extends far beyond the financial. You’re already shaping the culture in a wider way than my generation did. You made millionaires out of YouTubers and Twitch streamers. You made Snapchat one of the biggest social media platforms out there. Brands are throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at people on Instagram because of you.

No wonder marketers are going crazy trying to figure out how to reach you, relate to you, turn you into brand ambassadors. We all want to know what makes your generation tick. You already have the inside track.

You’re Creating the Future of Work

By 2020, your generation will make up 50% of the workforce. And increasingly you get to decide what the working world looks like. In your ranks is the entrepreneur who will start the next AirBnB or Uber. Your generation has already started turning industries upside-down, and your graduating class will continue that trend. Some of you will revolutionize what marketing is, what it means to an audience, and what it can do.

We have found that millennials on LinkedIn—the slightly older ones who are well-established in their careers—are passionate and driven to succeed. They value challenging work. They’re always looking for the next advancement opportunity. They won’t settle for below-average pay. So as you start in the working world and do extraordinary things, you’re not going to accept a job that doesn’t value or inspire you.

You Already Understand Two Fundamentals of Modern Marketing

Transparency and authenticity are two of the most overused buzzwords in marketing. Even though they’re cliché, though, they represent a valuable idea: Show your customer the people behind your brand.

This idea is second-nature to your generation. You can be forgiven for wondering why it even needs to be said. Just a few years ago, though, the CEO of a corporation wouldn’t have been caught dead on social media. Even now companies try to keep their employees on social media lockdown.

You have lived most of your lives in public. You know the value of putting your best self forward online. You know how to build a community, attract followers and engage them. In short, you’re already doing what your future employers will need you to do for their brands.

You Know How to Market Yourself

As I said in the last paragraph, you already know how to build a transparent, authentic brand. So when it comes to the sometimes tricky process of building a professional brand, you’re ahead of the game. You can use the skills you already have to make yourself irresistible to employers.

Build your professional network the way you built your personal one. Make meaningful connections with peers and mentors. Make your LinkedIn profile a destination for recruiters. Publish your own thoughts on the industry, post links that will inform and entertain, and you can build a professional following.

You Have a Wealth of Resources for Your Continued Education

I like to say there’s a PhD in marketing out there, for free, for anyone who takes the time to go find it. You have more resources available to you than any marketer in the history of marketing. There’s great advice and not-so-great advice. Strategies that will work for you, and strategies that will lead to useful, constructive failure.

The important thing is, you don’t have to stop learning now that you’re out of school. In fact, all of the advantages I’ve talked about in this article won’t help unless you self-direct the next phase of your education.

Learn by reading, by mentorship, by imitating others’ successes. But also learn by doing, by experimenting, by failing, by failing, by failing until you become a monumental success in your own right, on your own terms.

That’s how you will do great things as the next generation of marketers. In a few years, you will be ready to teach me a thing or two. Some of you probably can already. I can’t wait to teach and learn from you as we all pursue this thrilling, challenging, creative, scientific career.

And trust me on the sunscreen.

To learn more about building your professional career, download The Millennial Playbook, a guide for millennials, by millennials.