Why Is It So Hard for Millennials to Become Content Strategists?

People may throw eggs at me for this—or applaud me, depending on their age—but it’s hard out there for millennials. They were raised with all the can-do-it-iveness and ambition that their parents could pack in, but when they finally graduated and entered the job market, the financial crisis walloped them with high unemployment, low wages, and rising housing costs.

The lesson that most millennials have learned is that in order to pay your absurdly high rent with gainful employment, you must:

1. Possess a core skill set

2. Adapt those skills to the needs of the market

In the world of content marketing, there’s good news on this front: Jobs that didn’t exist before are popping up everywhere as brands increasingly become full-fledged digital publishers. A decade ago, nobody knew what a content strategist was; now, there are 5,000 open listings for the position on LinkedIn.

Working as a content strategist can be great. It tends to come with good pay, and it’s not an entry-level title. You get a front-row seat to the inner workings of an organization and a chance to really make an impact by creating a digital strategy.

Unlike other roles in digital journalism and marketing, content strategy has no set path.

Great! you say. That sounds like it aligns with my interests and talents. So where can I learn the skills necessary to get one of these content strategist jobs?

The answer, unfortunately, is nowhere. It’s that annoying catch-22: How can you land a job that requires experience if nobody hires people for the position without experience?

Unlike other roles in digital journalism and marketing, content strategy has no set path. There’s no master’s degree in content strategy, no undergrad major, and no set curriculum to teach it in either undergrad or graduate programs (a problem that I’m currently working to remedy).

All of which means that we have a growing number of jobs in a very tight job market, and a large pool of smart, young, and eager people interested in getting them, but no established way to train these smart people or provide them with relevant experience.

Content strategy isn’t neurosurgery—you don’t need 12 years of school and training to be qualified. But that doesn’t mean you can grow content strategists on trees. The job calls for a healthy mix of editorial talent, analytical abilities, marketing know-how, great communication and management skills, and planning proficiency. Content strategy is not necessarily something you can figure out on the fly.

It’s also not a role that has clear pegs as far as giving employers a sign of what to look for. People who have experience as digital editors don’t necessarily make good content strategists, nor do people who only have marketing or data analysis backgrounds. Moreso than just about every other role in digital media, content strategists are hybrids.

There are some seminars and short courses out there aimed at teaching people about the basics of content strategy and how to do it well. I taught one such course for over a year. I think these can be helpful, but they’re inherently limited. It really isn’t practical to teach content strategy in four or five sessions.

We’re doing employers a disservice by not offering training for a position that they sorely need to fill, and job-seekers a disservice by not training them for a role that could be readily available.

Think of it this way: Content strategy is a mixture of journalism school, a communications degree, a marketing degree, and a data analytics degree. When we talk about really giving someone the tools to succeed when they create a strategy for producing, publishing, and distributing content for a brand, you’re looking at more than four training sessions.

In some respects, most millennials have an advantage. They are “digital natives” (a phrase we all hate but grudgingly use anyway), meaning they already possess skills like an intuitive understanding of social media and audience behavior. Still, we’re doing a disservice to employers by not offering training for a position that they sorely need to fill, and doing a disservice to job seekers by not training them for a role that could be readily available.

Academia needs to keep up with the rapid advancement of technology in every field from digital media to farming. And those of us not in academia need to provide training for people who want to work in an emerging field but lack any means of gaining experience. There must be a better way.

Image by Getty

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