Surviving the AI Apocalypse in Marketing: A No-Holds-Barred Guide

Recently, I had dinner with a friend, a senior editor at one of the US’s largest and most prestigious publications. He told me they’ve been struggling to find up-and-coming journalists because many local papers, where these journalists used to cut their teeth, no longer exist. This hit me hard because I realised the same thing is about to happen to marketers.

Picture this: You’re fresh out of college, armed with a shiny new degree and a head full of dreams. You land an entry-level marketing job, eager to make your mark. But here’s the brutal truth—your job is very likely to be replaced by AI in the very near future. AI tools are already writing copy, designing ads, and analysing data faster and more accurately than any junior marketer can.

And here’s the real kicker: there’s a backlash happening as we speak. New graduates are frustrated because they’re being asked for experience and expertise straight out of college. Job specs and qualifications are so overblown that marketers are expected to do everything right out of the gate. The market is saturated with freshly minted graduates who have theoretical knowledge but zero practical experience, and they’re being met with unrealistic expectations from employers.

So what can you do? Here are four strategies to survive and thrive in the AI-dominated marketing landscape—and these are not just for new marketers.

1. Upskill Relentlessly

The average half-life of a skill is now less than five years and even shorter in tech. Just like athletes train constantly to stay at the top of their game, marketers must do the same to survive. The best piece of advice I can give? Upskill, upskill, upskill. The growth mindset concept is thrown around so loosely these days that it’s lost its lustre, but don’t ignore it. Back when I worked at LinkedIn, we came up with the idea of the hybrid marketer—a marketer who’s not an expert in any one thing but understands how all the different disciplines of marketing fit together and what success looks like. Everyone said, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” which really pissed me off.

Now, with AI taking over many of these one-dimensional tasks, those “experts” are scrambling to adapt. You can see this as SEO consultants are now content experts, demand gen gurus are now brand experts, and so on. The marketers who will rise to the top are the ones who know how to tie it all together and bring others along for the ride. They will know what great looks like and paint the picture for the rest of the team while spending less time on planning and more on executing.

The future of marketing leadership depends on versatility. Upskilling not only applies to technical skills, but the biggest opportunity is around soft skills. There are a ton of smart people in every organisation, but there is a clear lack of empathy, relationship-building, and many other soft skills that often get overlooked. Be a hybrid marketer, constantly upskill, and be ready to pivot as technology evolves. Those who can adapt will lead, and those who can’t will be left behind.

2. Embrace the Exposure Bucks, At Least in the Beginning

Unfortunately, you might have to do some work for free. I understand this isn’t possible for everyone and it may sound like it’s coming from a place of privilege, but it’s not. I love exposure bucks; I wouldn’t be here today without them. While exposure bucks can’t pay the bills, they can be stepping stones. Early on, gaining recognition through free work can lead to paying gigs down the line. Just be strategic—balance exposure opportunities with projects that pay your worth. I’ve written hundreds of blogs, authored books, and done numerous speaking sessions, all for free. It not only gave me experience but also built my personal brand, and I was learning along the way by throwing myself into the deep end.

Doing free work, especially early in your career, can open doors, build your portfolio, and expand your network. Yes, it’s frustrating that we’ve come to this, but the value of the experience and connections you gain is priceless. Don’t listen to the “influencers” who rage on about invoicing for “picking their brain.” There used to be a time when marketers would help other marketers without having to nickel and dime everyone. Again, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t charge for your time, but it’s also not the end of the world to help someone who’s genuinely in need. This is about gaining experience and building relationships so that you can get access and opportunity.

3. Don’t Get Caught Up in Sexy Job Titles or the “Cool” Companies. 

Go somewhere that you can make a difference, where you are needed. When I moved from Marketo to LinkedIn, I got a ton of crap, and quite frankly, no one gave a sh*t about LinkedIn. I remember the running joke around Halloween, “Want to see a real ghost town? Go to your LinkedIn feed.” But, many of us saw the potential. There were several years when LinkedIn wasn’t cool, but we stuck with it. While not all of these stories will turn out like LinkedIn, you need to take risks if you can afford to do so. Find that company, find that brand—the one that’s the underdog or the one that’s just getting started with a great idea and an excellent product-market fit—and throw yourself in. Don’t worry about a fancy job title; no one gives a crap about your job title—they care about what you can deliver, what you can bring to the team, and what you can execute without causing drama or becoming the problem child. 

The reality is that not only are you competing with AI, but there are a ton of very smart and talented people on the market right now, and many of them are looking for anything. You’ll likely have to settle, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The key is to find a place that shares your values, that isn’t toxic, and that has a CEO with a vision. These are things that are absolutely within your control and will lay the best foundation for you to be successful and, more importantly, happy. No job is worth the mental stress that comes with being in a toxic environment. Trust me on this one, or just go to Reddit and search “toxic jobs and stress vs. money.”

4. Utilize Company Resources

This isn’t all on you. It’s also up to companies to ensure they bake in training programs and offer additional learning opportunities. When I was at Sony Music, they had a $5,000 per year education reimbursement program that hardly anyone knew about. I used it for three years to get advanced digital, SEO, and research marketing certificates. It was a game-changer for me. Lots of startups offer educational reimbursement as well, so dig into your benefits and use them!

Or just go premium on LinkedIn and get access to LinkedIn Learning. There are a million ways to run with this, but it’s up to you. Are you going to spend your time trying to go viral on LinkedIn or become Instagram famous? Or are you going to double down on upskilling and applying what you learn to advance your career? For the record, the LinkedIn “gurus” are wrong. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. 

The Hard Truth

Truth be told, you are going to learn 90% of marketing in a marketing role, from doing, executing, taking risks, and, of course, failing. All this experience blows any university degree out of the water, and the results, both good and bad, will differentiate you from the masses and help you land your next gig. Embrace the chaos, dive into the unknown, and don’t be afraid to take on a few unpaid opportunities for exposure if it means gaining invaluable experience and building relationships. 

Be yourself, bring opinions, ask the tough questions, challenge leadership, and most importantly, get shit done and move the needle. Oh, and have some fun while you’re at it. That’s the entire reason you chose marketing, right? It’s supposed to be fun, not a stress-inducing mental drain. The future belongs to the versatile, the resilient, and the relentless. The AI apocalypse isn’t coming; it’s already here. 

Are you ready to step up?

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Jason Miller
Jason Miller

Jason Miller is a leading digital B2B marketer, who’s held senior roles at LinkedIn, Marketo, and ActiveCampaign. Before entering the B2B space, he spent ten years at Sony, developing and executing marketing campaigns around the biggest names in music. He is a prolific keynote speaker, digital marketing instructor at UC Berkeley, and best-selling author. Also an accomplished rock concert photographer, his work appears in books, magazines, and album covers.

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