College Grad Advice (Applicable for All Ages and Life Stages)

I Know What You Did Last Summer: You Got Social Certifications

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Note: this was originally written for the Class of 2020, but as we come into 2021, a lot of it holds up. In fact, it all does! Best of luck, Class of 2021!!

In the last few weeks I’ve done a number of video and phone calls with graduating college seniors who are doing a great job setting up informational interviews during this stay-at-home time – building out their networks despite the fact many internships are postponed and there may not be many entry level positions open right now.

It’s easy to share anecdotes about my career and talk about what it was like to work at an agency pre-March 2020. But it’s nearly impossible to offer advice and insights about what post-COVID work will be like in this industry. I have some hunches, but as someone who graduated soon after 9-11, I really empathize with young people graduating into this job market when the future is so uncertain.

What I’ve gravitated toward is making suggestions for continual learning and skill-building that will absolutely be in demand whether you get a job right out of college or have a slower summer until the job market opens up.

I know it could be frustrating to hear “learn more” as advice when you just graduated from lots of learning. But…

When the world moves digital, knowing how digital works is a skill that will pay dividends no matter what happens in the coming months.

There’s a wealth of opportunity to learn hands-on digital skills right now, and even get certifications for them. However, future or current employers will care less about a certification and more about your working knowledge of digital tools, the theory behind them, and how to report on them using critical thinking.

So apply the context of our current situation – the world is digital-everything now – and see if there are some practical skills you can spend your free time learning right now that will pay dividends as you start your career.

And the truth is these aren’t skills confined to new grads. They are things we can all learn as we move into the next digital era of interactive marketing.

Daily Tools:

  • Learn to build decks: You won’t be rolling your eyes when you realize that 80 percent of your career in this business is communicating your strategic and creative ideas through decks and presentations. And ugly decks kill kittens. They just do. So save a kitten and learn the basics of Keynote, PowerPoint, and Google Slides. I use all three weekly.
  • Learn spreadsheets: Have you ever built a pivot table? Used Excel or Google Sheets? Can you sort columns and rows? Please learn how before you get into an office.
  • Get Really Good at Google: Don’t laugh. You need to learn how to be resourceful. And fast.
  • Learn Social Listening using Free Tools: Even if you’re using a free TweetDeck account and only using Twitter or other free tools, spending time building a listening report on a brand can be an extremely valuable learning opportunity. Build a deck featuring key themes, data points, momentum and anecdotes.
  • Learn Audience Planning Tools: If your school or library has accounts with MRI-Simmons or Comscore, now is the time to snap them up and learn them
  • Learn PR Tools: If you can get access to Muckrack or Cision, try your hand building PR lists and running earned media reports.

Social Media:

  • Facebook Blueprint: More than 90 online courses Facebook offers for free, including building customer journeys, buying ads on Facebook and Instagram, lead generation, and more. Prioritize learning Facebook! It’s going to be around for a long time.
  • Twitter Flight School: Twitter’s official free online learning platform, including classes on Twitter ad fundamentals, setting up campaigns, and even reporting.
  • Pinterest Academy: This one requires signing up with your company’s information, but if you can get in, each course is 2-5 minutes and the entire curriculum can be knocked out in about an hour.
  • LinkedIn Learning: Use LinkedIn’s proprietary learning system to learn about LinkedIn itself, including how to build profiles, growing skills, doing promotions and ads. It’s free for the first month, and may just help you land that next job.


  • Google Skill Shop: This is the hub of all of Google’s free e-learning courses, including Google Ads and Ad Manager, Business Profile, Analytics Academy and Waze. Learning Google is never going to be something you’ll regret.
  • Google Ads Certifications: Get Google-certified in Search, Display, Video, Shopping ads and Measurement. Tangible-application and certification in Google is going to be so valuable for you over your career.
  • Google Analytics Academy: Learn the basic features of Google Analytics including how to create an account, implement tracking code, analyze basic reports, and set up goals and campaign tracking. And there’s a separate course on Data Studio, too! Again, no matter your role, knowing how to understand website traffic and customer journeys is now a core skill for marketing and those in the communication arts.


  • Amazon Learning Console: This is the main Amazon hub to gain advertising knowledge, skills, and certifications on Amazon Ad products. Know where the majority of goods are sold right now? Amazon.
  • Amazon Advertising Webinars: Sign up for Amazon’s free webinars on Sponsored Ads 101, campaign tools, reporting and setting up stores.
  • Amazon Alexa Skill Training Course: Learn how to build an Alexa Skill in about two hours. You’ll be surprised how easy and fun it is to make a Skill.


  • Learn Basic Coding with MIT’s Scratch: Understanding the core ideas behind coding is another key skill for the coming future. This is an easy video tutorial and hands-on, drag-and-drop tool that will have you coding in no time. Yes, it’s for kids, but it’s great for adults, too!
  • Build a Chatbot: Learn how to create different bot responses and actions, user entities and attributes. Understanding conversation design is a super secret skill that applies within bots and beyond.
  • Learning About Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Google has a wealth of free online courses where you can learn about Machine Learning Problem Framing, Data Preparation and Feature Engineering, and Gaussian and power law distributions. This is way harder than everything above, but if you have a mind for math and science, learning A.I. is a place to apply those smarts.


  1. Run a small Facebook ad campaign: Find a local nonprofit, coffee shop, brewery, or small business who will give you $50-100 to spend in Facebook ads, build a campaign, target people, serve the ads, and then build a report on them where you have to explain what happened, how you spent the money, and what you would do differently next time.
  2. Build a new social media brand from scratch. Set up the channels, apply creative, architect an editorial calendar, then grow and manage the community. Even if it’s a small start-up or meme account, this experience will be invaluable for understanding how consumers relate and engage with brands today.
  3. Apply your knowledge of Google Places. Odds are there is a small business in your neighborhood who hasn’t claimed or updated their Google Place page for quite some time. Volunteer to help them update photos, hours, website, location and description. You’ll not only get hands-on experience, you’ll help a small business better connect with their potential customers.


There may be a company, brand or role you admire and want to learn more about, and you have a secret pass right now — you’re a graduating senior who is looking to learn more about the world!

You will be surprised how open and helpful people will be if you just ask. It’s not about “grabbing coffee” in today’s climate, but reach out to ask for a 20 minute phone or video call. Don’t be shy about reaching out, and if you don’t hear back, follow-up!

And put that student loan to good use – look through LinkedIn for your college alumni who work at companies you’re interested in and flex that connection.

Best of luck, class of 2020! The future is uncertain, but there will be plenty of opportunities for you to plug-in, learn, grow, and help shape where we’re going. I’m pulling for you.

See you on the internet!

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4 thoughts on “College Grad Advice (Applicable for All Ages and Life Stages)

  1. Extremely useful information shared with us! Thank you so much! :)

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