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Eight Qualities Employers Will Look for in Digital Marketers in 2014

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What an incredible time to be a marketer.

Think about it: Digital marketing is the antithesis of many professions in which you go to school or get training and perform basically the same job throughout your entire career. How many careers are so measurable and immediate? How many careers let you play with the latest cutting-edge technology? How many careers let you try something one day, then scrap it and try something entirely different the next? How many careers allow you to participate in an ever-changing multitude of client projects and campaigns?

2013 was an amazing year for those who've chosen digital marketing as their career path, and 2014 promises more of the same.

Aside from the hands-on, nuts-and-bolts skills that are required for success in e-commerce, SEM, mobile marketing, Web analytics, social media, and email, expect employers in 2014 to put increasing emphasis on these eight key qualities when sizing up candidates.

1. Adaptability

This one sits at the top of the list. Companies have never faced so much uncertainty and risk. In the space of only a few months they can slip from market leader to follower.

The ability to deal with major changes in the workplace, to complete projects with very little direction, endure stress, handle multiple priorities... these are among the most highly sought-after competencies that employers look for.

What might have been considered a crazy idea one day might be the next day's most anticipated experiment. Companies can test new ideas and try out new features on websites and get almost instantaneous results.

All businesses want their marketers to be adaptable, but in digital marketing that's especially important because the only thing that doesn't change is, well, change, so expect change to continue to be the norm in 2014.

2. Collecting and Analyzing Data and Converting It Into Actionable Knowledge

Big data is getting even bigger. Digital marketers pour through mountains of data to understand consumer behavior and identify opportunities. They translate those insights into integrated marketing strategies across channels, with clear and measurable goals. They use advanced analytics to identify the media and audiences that will best reach those goals, and quantify the value of each. They analyze results and optimize to deliver more of what's working and less of what isn't.

If all of this sounds familiar, expect to do even more of it in 2014.

3. Creative Thinking

Some might describe this as "thinking outside the box." defines creative thinking as "a way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions." However you wish to define it, I can't think of too many other professions where this applies more than in digital marketing, where new technologies are emerging at breakneck pace.

It's not always on the job description, but trust me: This will be a high priority for employers in 2014.

4. Comfortable With Technology

Employers have a very strong preference for candidates who are fluent in the technical aspects of digital marketing. That does not mean that you need to be proficient in writing code; that's what programmers do. But technology is to digital marketing as a tailwind is to pilots: It's always pushing you forward, and the best digital marketers (just like good pilots) know how it works and use it to their advantage. Knowing technology also fosters greater collaboration with IT. You'll be using it even more in 2014.

5. Intellectual Curiosity

In 2014, digital marketers will continue to be the trailblazers, the ones usually among the very first to boldly go where no marketer has gone before. Author Mark Goldblatt, who has researched the subject, states that what you know is not always as important as what you want to know. Look for more emphasis on not just the "what" and the "how," but also the "why." Knowing why some tactics work and why others don't, and learning from it to do it better the next time, will matter even more.

6. Thirst for Knowledge

Digital marketing is, by definition, an exercise in lifelong learning, and there will be plenty more to learn in 2014. The day you quit learning is the day you should leave digital marketing as a career. Technologies and solutions that work today could be outdated tomorrow, and those very same innovations have never made it easier for learners to keep informed about the latest advancements with the help of media options like blogs, video, RSS feeds, and social networks.

7. Bridging the Business and Technical Divide

I call these individuals the "techno-marketing hybrid." Can you stand comfortably with your feet in two different buckets—marketing and technology? Everything you do in digital marketing is made possible by the technology that takes place behind the pixels, but it's a theme you'll hear more of in 2014.

This ability to bridge the gap between business and IT and communicate technical ideas clearly and effectively to nontechnical people cannot be overstated. In the coming year, those who have that ability will be at a distinct advantage over those who don't.

8. Business Acumen

Usually when you think of business acumen, you think of senior executives or other managers whose daily decisions and actions leave a direct impact on the operation and performance of the business. But it's becoming more than just a critical competency for leaders.

Companies want all employees to understand that everything they do in some way affects the bottom line. Even for lower-level positions, employers expect candidates to be able to connect the dots between their day-to-day responsibilities and departmental goals.

In 2014, employers will be looking for digital marketers, at all levels, who are more business-savvy and who have a better understanding of how their personal objectives support the company's overall strategy.

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Jerry Bernhart is principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search LLC, specializing in direct marketing, digital marketing, and e-commerce. Jerry is a sought-after speaker on hiring trends and is often quoted by leading industry trade publications and research organizations.

LinkedIn: Jerry Bernhart

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  • by Steve Lubahn Wed Dec 18, 2013 via web

    Jerry, your article is right on target for what we see needed for skills sets for both our agency and our clients to be efficient and successful in digital marketing.

    I am sure you have a tough job finding candidates that meet all those criteria. I was asked to teach a class this spring at Winona State University in Internet Marketing and Social Media, my challenge is to prepare today's business students with the framework and knowledge to grow into the type of digital marketer you describe.

  • by Randy Milanovic Sun Dec 22, 2013 via iphone

    There was a time when being a jack-of-all-trades was a negative. Today's employee simply can't afford to limit their knowledge. Great job capturing these qualities. Just one thing to add: writing or journalism skills are core.

  • by Allen Bourne Thu Dec 26, 2013 via web

    I echo Randy's comment. While technical and analytical skills, as well as curiousity, are important, solid writing skills are paramount.

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