May 6, 2022

10 Tips on How To Kickstart Your Digital Marketing Career (and Free Checklist)

Written by Clodagh O’Brien

At different stages in everybody’s career, thoughts turn to the next steps. Maybe you’re considering ‘moving up’ in your current organization. Perhaps you’re eying up opportunities in other companies. Or you might even be considering a complete pivot and embarking on a whole new career path or starting up on your own.

In our Digital Marketing Career Kickstart podcast, Morgan Cummins (director of TalentHub) and Paul Farrer (founder of global consultancy Aspire) discuss the importance, or not, of values, getting support from within your current job, inclusion issues, and the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’. And they examine the skills you need to develop to make yourself attractive to employers

We’ve distilled their wealth of information into ten key points that will help you plot the next steps on your career journey and supercharge your marketing skills. And you can download our printable checklist of this 10 pro tips to start your digital marketing career off with a BANG! 

  1. Develop your soft skills
  2. Conduct a SWOT analysis
  3. Tell your story
  4. Don’t be afraid to take criticism
  5. Know your attitudes and values
  6. Know your purpose
  7. Understand how you can give value
  8. Overcome imposter syndrome
  9. Don’t assume you’re over-qualified
  10. Don’t accept rejection
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1. Develop your soft skills

When applying for any job, you obviously need to demonstrate that you have the skills and competencies required to do the job. However, so-called ‘soft skills’ are becoming increasingly important in recruitment. These are personal and people skills that you can apply to any role, and include communication, time management, teamwork, emotional intelligence, public speaking, and strategic thinking.

No matter what role you’re in, you should try to hone these skills, even outside of work. Maybe you want to develop your teamwork skills, or volunteer with a group towards a shared goal.

Want to develop your public speaking skills? Join Toastmasters or a similar speaking group. Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone!

Pro Tip: An appraisal is a great way to get feedback on your soft skills. When preparing for an appraisal meeting, collect evidence of your soft skills in action. You can also ask your employer about which soft skills you need to work on, and for recommendations on what training courses would help you develop them.

2. Conduct a SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is a great way for an organization to get a clearer sense of its position in the market. However, you can also conduct a personal SWOT analysis of yourself. In particular, this can help you unearth your strengths as you prepare for your next career move.

If you struggle to identify your strengths, ask colleagues or trusted friends for feedback. Choose people whom you respect and then gather data about yourself.

Pro Tip: Once you’ve identified your strengths, work on developing them further. Gather evidence of these strengths in action that you can bring to your next interview.

3. Tell your story

In an interview, you need to promote yourself, and one of the best ways to do this is to tell a compelling story. From your SWOT analysis, you should be able to develop a breadcrumb trail of your strengths in action. Make your story concrete by including examples of how your strengths benefited the organization.

Pro Tip: Have a group of referees who can ‘back up’ your story. Don’t just rely on LinkedIn recommendations. Find out who will be a convincing advocate for you. And don’t wait for the recruiter to ask for the references. Offer them during the interview!

4. Don’t be afraid to take criticism

It can feel very pleasant to learn about your strengths and discover how much people like you! However, when canvassing for feedback, be prepared to hear some negative feedback too. Sometimes, we are unaware of our own weaknesses and need to have them pointed out to us.

Being receptive to criticism is actually an essential soft skill to develop. It is also important to be able to show a prospective employer that you learn from criticism and are proactive about improving yourself.

Pro Tip: If you feel that people are hesitant to criticize you, prompt them by asking them direct questions about your performance. For example, “Can you think of a time when you felt that my performance let you down?”

5. Know your attitudes and values

As well as hiring people based on their skills, competencies, and soft skills, many organizations hire people based on their values. This move towards values-based recruitment means it’s important that you have a good understanding of your personal attitudes and values. This can involve embarking on a journey of self-discovery, as you aim to unearth what is really important to you.

Organizations are looking for people who will ‘fit in’ with their company culture and who have the mindset to thrive in the work environment. In an interview, you need to exhibit the attitudes and values that will resonate with the recruiter. Show them that you’re excited by the opportunity.

Pro Tip: Remember, tell a story. Show how your values align with the organization’s values. For example, “I’m a committed environmentalist, and I’ve been really impressed by how your organization has reduced its carbon footprint in recent years.”

6. Know your purpose

When applying for a new position, you often ask, “What does this organization want from me?” However, you should also ask, “What do I want from this job?” Life coaches and wellness experts emphasize the importance of knowing your purpose. When you know what motivates you, you can then try to make life choices that align with that purpose.

Purposeful living is equally important in the recruitment process. What is important to you when looking for a job? Do you want to be able to work from home? Is the salary the deal breaker? Or perhaps being respected and allowed to self-manage your work is more important? Some people aim for a broader purpose, such as a job that enables them to find a healthy work-life balance.

Pro Tip: The 5 Whys is a useful tool in project management for uncovering the root causes of a problem. However, it can also be used to help you dig deeper into your personal motivations. Asking yourself five times why a job appeals to you can help you clarify why you feel the need for a career move.

7. Understand how you can give value

Companies are not just hiring resources to fill a role. They are looking for people who can give value to the organization. They’re looking for people who fit in with their culture and whose values align with theirs.

By researching the company and conducting self-analysis, you can find out where there’s overlap between your values and theirs. Consider how you can add value to an organization and help it differentiate itself from its competitors.

Pro Tip: Companies don’t just hire the best person for the role. They’re looking for the best person for the organization. How can you differentiate yourself from other applicants by showing how your values are in sync with the organizational culture?

8. Overcome imposter syndrome

A surprising number of people feel that they are actually unable to do their jobs properly. This inferiority complex, known as imposter syndrome, stems from a belief that someone is ‘winging it’ at work and one day will be discovered to be an incompetent fraud. They may believe that they landed the job by sheer luck and will one day be ‘found out’. They compare themselves to their colleagues and feel inadequate.

This can become a real obstacle during recruitment because you may feel deep down that you’re unable to do the job you’re applying for, and this lack of confidence could seep through during the interview. Remember, the organization wouldn’t have asked to interview you if they thought you couldn’t do the job! And if you’ve done your SWOT analysis and asked for feedback, you should have enough evidence to dispel your imposter syndrome.

Pro Tip: If you land the job and are still plagued by self-limiting doubts, don’t ignore them. Raise your concerns with the hiring manager and learn more about the onboarding process. Don’t be afraid to ask why the organization hired you. Perhaps they saw strengths in you that you were blind to!

9. Don’t assume you’re over-qualified

When you make changes further along your career path, you’ve probably built up many years of experience and expertise. You may want to change your career path, but feel that you’re now over-qualified for the roles that appeal to you. This can become a problem during recruitment as hiring managers may be reluctant to hire people who appear to be overqualified.

Once again, it’s useful to be honest with the recruiter and express your concerns. Assure them that you’re interested in the role, even though you may appear to be over-qualified. Explain why you think the role is the right move for you at this stage in your career. And dispel any concerns that they may have about your willingness to report to people who may be younger or less experienced than you.

Pro Tip: Analyze the job spec to find out exactly what skills that organization is looking for, and then show how your skill set aligns with that list. And remember, no matter how experienced you are, you’ll still need to learn new things on a new job. Show that you are still willing to learn, no matter how qualified you are.

10. Don’t accept rejection

It’s not easy handling rejection, in life or in work. But guess what? Maybe you don’t have to accept it!

If you’re unsuccessful, your first step (once you’ve allowed yourself time to get over the initial disappointment) should be to find out why you were rejected. This is when your ability to accept criticism will pay off. Show that you’re strong enough to hear the reasons for the rejection. This information will prove valuable the next time you apply for a job.

Also, keep the door open. Let the organization know that you’re still interested in the role or similar roles in the organization. Ask to be re-considered if the position opens up again. Show your passion for the role.

Pro Tip: Don’t be combative. Engage in a dialogue with the organization to let them know that you don’t regard this rejection as the end of the role. Make sure they see you as a potential solution to their problems – if not now, then perhaps in the future.

Expert take-aways

Here are Morgan’s three expert take-aways:

  1. Set goals: Know what you want to achieve in your career in the next year.
  2. Write down the goals: This helps to cement the goals in your subconscious.
  3. Find an accountability partner: Choose someone whom you trust to check in on your progress.

And Paul gave his three tips:

  1. Identify what you want to achieve: Have a clear target in your mind.
  2. Set a timetable: This will enable you to track your progress.
  3. Create a plan: Be realistic and celebrate your achievements.

Interested in learning more? Check out our 2022 Digital Skills and Job Trends article.

You may also enjoy this eBook about kickstarting your digital marketing career through one of a number of specialist roles, from SEO manager to brand specialist to influencer.


Updated 2022

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Clodagh O’Brien
Clodagh O’Brien

Clodagh O'Brien is a content creator and strategist. Over the last 12 years, she has created and managed content for many SMEs and global brands. She's passionate about digital marketing and the impact of technology on culture and society. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.  

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