Posted: Thursday 13th May 2021 in Summit.

Having the relevant skills is vital to any industry or business. Where these skills come from is often surprising. If we cast our minds back to October 2020, the Government’s ‘CyberFirst’ campaign drew a lot of criticism (and memes) for telling a ballerina that her next job could be in cyber. With the Arts industry under attack and amidst widespread budget slashing it was undoubtedly a mis-timed, mis-toned message. But for me it was prophetic. In December last year I stopped applying for jobs lecturing in English literature and started looking for a career where the same skills would be valued. Like many others I found digital marketing.

the government ad for "retraining" during the pandemic showing a ballerina with the text reading; Fatima's next job could be in cyber. She just doesn't know it yet.

CyberFirst inadvertently raised a valuable question: where are the people pursuing digital careers coming from? They’re not coming from marketing degrees according to a 2019 article from The Drum. The Drum’s analysis of senior digital marketers shows that ‘at 150 digital marketing agencies across 15 UK cities’ only a staggering ’10.6% of them had marketing degrees’. That signifies that a lot of successful marketeers undertook less specialised courses at universities or took other routes into the industry. Whereas CyberFirst placed the emphasis on re-training, the more productive topic is to recognise the transferable skills these people can bring with them.

Transferable skills are also called ‘portable skills’ or core skills. They’re the skills you take with you when you change jobs or even careers because they’re so widely utilised. They’re also the fundamental skills we build on as we specialise – this is why there’s an ever-increasing focus on them within higher education. It goes without saying that if you did a history or literature degree you’re probably not breaking out knowledge about representing the past in film or the novel from Austen to Hardy on a daily basis. You will be using the underlying skills that you acquired while gaining that subject knowledge, though, whether you realise it or not. Providing evidence for these skills is where many students struggle fresh out of University. ‘Can you tell me about a time when…’ is a routinely dreaded interview question but may be the only opportunity to give an example of how you’ve used transferable skills in the past. This is why whether you’re applying or hiring it’s essential to be aware of just how important these skills are, and which you should be looking out for.

There are 5 common skills I’ve found of particular use within my first two months of performance marketing. And I’ve focused on commonskills for a reason. The Digital Marketing institute, in contrast, produced this list of ‘in-demand’ transferable skills which is much more specialised. Instead, I wanted to emphasise that there are common skills you’ve likely developed yourself from any well-taught degree or through experience in other fields – this is not intended to read like a cover letter, nor is it by any means comprehensive.

Without further ado, then, here are 5 areas I’m very glad I was versed in before starting!

Spoken Communication

Teamwork is one of Summit’s five core values, and good communication is a big part of that. With Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts replacing a lot of previous face-to-face interaction good verbal communication is perhaps more important than ever. Not only do these platforms typically give us finite time to say what we want to, but they also isolate elements we usually rely on like posture and body language. My new colleagues are still in the dark about my dedication to gesturing when presenting. They’ll learn.

Written Communication

The way we write, and what we write, is forever changing. When I started my undergraduate course, blogging seemed a pretty niche activity and I didn’t even have social media. Now it is where a lot of students see their future as writers. We don’t know what we’ll be asked to write in the future, so the capacity to write flexibly, and for difference audiences and purposes, has been of immeasurable value. Whether it was writing about Dracula for wider audiences or creating process documents for colleagues, I have to draw on the same basic ability to convey information through text.


Research isn’t always just research. We tend to think of it in quite formal terms – gathering information for a specific purpose. But in truth having good research skills just means the capacity to find things out independently. Every essay you’ve ever written or anything you’ve been asked to Google has been building on your skills to find things out for yourself. My first weeks were training heavy and I made a lot of notes that I still use on pretty much a daily basis. It’s also worth remembering there’s an element of transparency to good research practice – and Summit prides itself on honesty. Information should be verifiable and clearly presented.

Skills Development

It’s a fact of life that there is always something else to learn. Keeping a positive attitude to learning and seeking out further opportunities for training is a skill in itself. I was pleased to find a culture of development and knowledge sharing at Summit, internally and with clients. There’s already been opportunities for me to be trained and support other teams with tasks outside of my role. Beyond this Summit run specialist webinars such as The Retail Reset series which area ideally placed for updating your knowledge.

Anything Else!

There’s a lot to be said for having a broad skill set – personally, and as a business. You can’t always predict what will be useful tomorrow, or essential in a few months. I don’t want to talk about global pandemics anymore than I have to, but it’s an apt example of how quickly and thoroughly our working practices can have to adapt. This isn’t just a case of having an amateur plumber nearby in case the toilet breaks. It’s an immeasurable benefit to having as many different backgrounds within the workplace as possible. Having colleagues with varied skills and interests makes for a vibrant atmosphere.

In my first few months I’ve had co-workers share their love of hobbies like movies, photography and gardening with me. Hobbies are where many of us are at our most creative and most passionate (hey, another core Summit value!) and its great to work somewhere people bring that with them. Even if Fatima the ballerina’s future is in ‘cyber’ I’m sure they’ve a lot to bring to the table. I’ve yet to see an interpretive dance in a meeting, but I live for that moment.

If you’re interested in a career in Performance Marketing, take a look at our recruitment page and see if there is an opportunity for you.