I love the college cycle. Every semester we start anew. A new door. A fresh perspective. New opportunities.
I have written before how lucky I am to be able to teach a wide range of students at the college level — I teach them at all levels — first-year, sophomore, junior and senior. This semester I am once again teaching seniors. I know all of these students and it has been a privilege to get to know them over the past four years. For these students it is an exciting and scary time. They are on the brink of graduation which brings with it a whole new range of responsibilities including entering into their chosen field. It’s a time of new opportunities and a time to face reality. The reality that very soon the structured ways of the educational system will be gone and they will be truly responsible for their own learning. It will be up to them to stay current and not sit around and wait for someone to tell them what is due, how to do it and what will get them an “A”. Grades become meaningless and everything will come down to proving that they can do the job, do it better than anyone else and add value to an organization — over and over again. The reward is a job. The reward is good pay. The reward is the beginning of a very successful career.
And that is where this class comes in. In just 15 weeks it is my job to make sure that each and every one of the students in this class is ready to fly. Every day brings us closer to me kicking them out of the nest and watching them fly on their own. No more safety nets. This is about making sure that by April 30th these seniors are ready to take the world by storm and to be successful.
My goal is to make them ready for YOU. The employer. The graduate school. And this is how I’ve structured a college class to make it happen:
- A client project. On day one (that’s Monday, January 10th at 2:00 p.m.) the students will come into the class and be faced with FOUR clients. These clients are organizations who have marketing challenges. Complex, real challenges that they need help with. The client pitch will provide the students with just enough information to complete the first assignment which is due the next day — write a paper to me that rank orders all the clients in order of which ones they would prefer to work with. In that paper they will have to outline not only what they can bring to that client project but also what they will learn from working with that client. Teams will be formed by Wednesday and the students will spend the rest of the semester helping those clients solve their problem. They do not know who the clients are at this time and won’t find out until class on Monday. It will be up to each team to work with the client, to interview them, to come to agreement on what they can accomplish and how they will get it done, to understand the target market, the organization, the external factors to consider, the financial issues and the resources. They will take everything they have learned over the past four years and bring it to this project. It will test their marketing knowledge, their communication skills and their ability to work under pressure and tight deadlines.
- A personal branding project — aka Social Media Ninja. Last year I launched the “social media ninja” project. I felt it went well and have decided to run it again. Students must read CRUSHIT! by Gary Vaynerchuk the first week of class, then identify their passion and write a social media project plan that will show how they will, using their passion, brand themselves online. They will be required to utilize a host of social tools to accomplish this goal and they will be required to have clear goals and measure their success using various quantitative and qualitative data. Last year this project brought forth the “Hire This Grad” site. I wonder what it will bring forth this semester.
- Read and Analyze a current marketing book (or 2). Students in the class will be required to read a marketing book and to write an in-depth analysis paper that will connect the book to their client project and their personal branding project. The book choice is up to them — the only requirements are that it can’t be one they’ve read before and it has to be something that will help them learn more about marketing. In the past students have read Brian Solis, Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and others.
This is all well and good, but what will happen in the classroom is perhaps the most important.
Every Monday the students will determine what we will be doing. Outside of the first class where it’s about the client projects and several classes during the semester when they will be presenting their progress, the content of the course — the stuff I’m supposed to “lecture” on is completely and utterly up to them. There is NO textbook in this class. There is no structure. They have the first week in which to provide me with information on what they feel they need to learn or do more of in order to get ready. The paradigm is shifted and no longer will I be responsible for telling them what to know (although, to be honest, I will be in some context). The students will be taking their experiences from the past four years, their internships, their part-time jobs, their reading and their personal career goals and looking for and identifying the gaps in their understanding and knowledge.
Everything I am asking from them is designed to help them get ready and to truly become life-long learners.
- Client project: build communication skills, prove they can work well in a team, create deliverables that they can use in their portfolios, network, engage, connect.
- Personal Branding project: show they know how to use social digital tools to manage the most important brand — themselves. If they can do it well for themselves they can do it well for a business and will be able to prove they know the most current tools.
- Choosing their own marketing book and analyzing/applying it to their client: It’s how we all stay on top of current trends in marketing — read, read, read and apply, apply, apply. They do this in this context they will then know how to do this for their job.
- Driving the lessons in the class: They will learn how to critically analyze their own skill gaps and be able to identify how they will address those gaps. It’s something we all have to do every day.
The other day I asked this question on Quora: What are the THREE main skills a graduating marketing major must be able to demonstrate in order to get a job? So far I have gotten four great answers that I will be sharing with my students. I would invite you to answer this question as well.
Also if you want to see what the students are doing throughout the semester, they’ll be tweeting using the class hashtag #ccc410mkt. I’ve created a Paper.li for the class which will come out weekly so you’ll get an idea of the content they are sharing. I’ll also do periodic posts on their client work and their personal branding project and of course, will announce the “Ninjas” at the end of the April.
Wish us luck as we launch and learn!