Studying? Sarah Hernandez shares 5 ways to succeed

“Just over ten years ago, I was a student myself at The Marketers’ Forum in London, studying for my Diploma”, explains CIM tutor, Sarah Hernandez. “So, I really empathise with CIM studying members. It’s a tough challenge to balance study for a professional qualification whilst working. Here are my top five tips to make the most your investment, in terms of time and money, and become CIM-qualified.”

Meet Sarah

Some descriptionSome descriptionSarah Hernandez is currently CMO at The Key, a leading edtech company providing information and online solutions to schools and named by the Sunday Times as one of the companies making a ‘big impact on Britain’. Previously, Sarah worked in fast growth digital companies across martech, adtech and ecommerce and has 15 years’ experience in the delivery of effective marketing strategies for start-up, SME and global companies. In 2016, Sarah was named one of the top 100 B2B tech marketers in Europe by Hot Topics.

The wisdom of hindsight

“I’m currently a tutor at The Marketers’ Forum in London, teaching the Diploma and Certificate level CIM courses. It’s a great pleasure to share advice with studying members whilst as you prepare for your exams and submit course work.

Looking back, I wasn’t exactly the most diligent student…although I didn’t think that then! I made all the classic mistakes, which I am now going to urge you not to do.

I thought I could take the same approach to learning and writing my course work as I did at Uni. Except I wasn’t at Uni so throwing all-nighters when you have to go into work at 9am is not such a good idea. I thought I would put off reading my giant course text book that was the size of two laptops until I really needed to do my course work. I knew I hadn’t opened it in a while when the first time I did, I discovered a mummified mouse squashed under it…I think the cat chased it and the weight of the text book did the rest. I thought that I could hit my deadlines whilst not looking at my work social calendar. Only to realise my work Christmas party was the day before course work submission day…the list goes on.

Luckily, I had my study centre, The Marketers’ Forum, to pick up the pieces and keep me on track. Anywhere else, I think I would have ended up with a fail! The centre is known for its high pass rate. I think success lies in the ability to deliver a structured programme with excellent content, coupled with a supportive learning environment that understands the challenges professional students face, and mitigates against the risks.

From my experience as a student and a tutor, here are my 5 top tips for making the most out of your time studying for your CIM qualification.”

Top tip 1: Draw upon tutor experience and interact with your class

“I urge you to take advantage of the experience of your tutor and actively engage in class. At The Marketers’ Forum, as elsewhere, courses are delivered by professionals who are working in their specialist field. This means that students benefit from classes that are delivered by experienced marketers who can give practical, up-to-date advice on all aspects of the course. As a student, I built up a strong rapport with my tutors by asking lots of questions both in class and in coffee breaks. Active engagement sounds like an obvious thing but some students hold back, don’t ask questions, and, as a result, don’t get as much out of each session. The added advantage to actively engaging is you are helping your fellow students by asking a question they haven’t thought of and vice versa. You can also share experiences. This is one of the reasons collective learning is so powerful.”

Top tip 2: Plan your time…prioritise your studies like you do your day job

“It is easy to think you will do your study work tomorrow, when you are less tired, less busy, less stressed. And that you can do it on Sunday after a heavy weekend. Nope. The CIM is a professional qualification for a reason. It separates out the dedicated and the focused from the rest. So, you can’t leave your studies to chance.

You also can’t leave deadlines to the last minute and expect to be able to juggle a full day at work and then write a first-class piece of course work. If your study centre provides a structured learning curriculum, listen to your tutor’s recommendations and factor in the time that they advise into your schedule. It’s not for ever – it’s for a year max. Treat it like you are aiming for a promotion and put the hours in.”

Top tip 3: Read, read, read…

“There is no way of getting out of this one. It is really important you stay on top of your reading and don’t accumulate a load of reading debt. Again, prioritise the time. My students find the commute to and from work a good time to catch up. I also recommend you mix up your reading and practice active reading. Highlight key points, make notes, and check you are digesting.

On top of your core reading and the course text books, I recommend you discover and subscribe to marketing blogs. These are particularly good for recent case studies on product launches and campaigns, and will give you inspiration. I use Feedly to discover and aggregate all my blog subscriptions into one place, and again you can read on your mobile whilst on the go.”

Top tip 4: Develop your network

“So, this one isn’t directly related to the CIM course but it’s one of the benefits of studying through a centre, and one that I and my students value highly. Take advantage of the great network of marketers you are meeting whilst you study. At The Marketers’ Forum for example, we have lovely study centres which are great environments for a coffee with other delegates. I have groups who set up WhatsApp groups and share notes, articles and study tips before exams. I am still in touch with some of the students in my old study group and it’s a great way to build a network in marketing when you’re just starting out in the profession.”

Top tip 5: Remember why you are doing this

“When the going gets tough before you submit an essay or prep for an exam, it’s important to remember why you are doing this. The foundations you learn in your CIM qualification will set you up in your career and stand the test of time. You are investing in yourself and your future career development, and it’s really rewarding. I have relied on the knowledge I learnt in my Diploma in all my roles, and I have invested in the same qualification for my direct reports who have also valued it highly. It can have a transformative effect on your confidence. It also demonstrates to your current or future employers that you are dedicated to the marketing profession, which has a hugely positive impact.”

Find Sarah on LinkedIn  Some descriptionSome description

More study tips

Read: Studying? Fifteen things I wish I’d known!

See: Studying? how to meet the examiner’s expectations

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