Jun 29, 2018

How to Get Your Digital Marketing Career Started

by Digital Marketing Institute

Digital marketing skills are very valuable these days, as the industry continues to boom.

According to Smart Insights, digital marketing, content creation, and content strategy are three key areas that are expected to continue to be in demand in the next few years.

If you are a recent graduate or current student, you should already know a bit about what digital marketing is. Therefore, we’ll skip the basic introduction and give you some pointers on how you can leverage those skills to build your dream career.

Show Your Skills

When it comes to your career, you’re going to need to do more than just talk about your ideas to get noticed – and this means marketing yourself.

If you’re a digital marketer, you can practice and leverage those skills to market and brand yourself in order to connect with your dream agency or even move into a career as a successful independent entrepreneur.

Having a website and a blog is essential, of course! But what else? You need to hone in on what you do best, and find a framework to share your brand story. If you are working independently, you need to find plenty of people to collaborate with and learn from, as well as devote some resources to developing a professional website and marketing strategy.

Talk to People

You’ve already learned a lot from your training, and that’s great! The trouble is that no one else is going to understand what you do unless you put yourself out there.

Informational interviews, connecting with colleagues, and attending events are all things you can do to network and collaborate. And in fact, you should hone in on other people who do exactly what you do (but better), and follow them and engage via social media. You never know when you’re going to see a fantastic volunteer, internship, or career opportunity pop up on their Twitter feed.

Consider joining associations and attending conferences to understand your particular focus or industry better.

Here are a few suggested professional digital marketing associations and groups:

  • The Internet Marketing Association offers plenty of opportunity to stay abreast of everything happening in the industry, including giving you everything you need to know about important industry events.
  • LinkedIn Groups are the perfect place for connecting with others in your field. Usually, people in these groups are very active with discussions. And, because the website itself has a professional framework, most people in the groups are very focused and on-topic.
  • SEMPO comes complete with a full directory, as well as plenty of awesome advice on career building and events. They are focused on networking, outreach, and training. Even if you don’t join right away, it’s worth following their blog as they have amazing articles and information available for free.
  • The Mobile Marketing Association is an excellent resource for those digital marketing specialists who have a mobile focus. They are committed to teaching others how to drive growth specifically on mobile platforms, and their website is chock full of information and resources.

Be (Somewhat) Tech-Savvy and Data-Driven

Everyone in digital marketing must be able to, at least to some extent, see and use content as data. This might be difficult for those who lean towards the creative end of things, but it really is an essential set of skills for any digital marketers.

The good news is that, with a little practice, it’s not that hard!

The tricky part is showing your potential employers or clients exactly how you have succeeded in this area if you don’t have lots of job experience.

One idea is to practice building websites (and you can do this for free on WordPress). Then dig into specific search engine optimization (SEO) parameters, trying out A/B testing techniques along the way.

You need to be familiar with how to monitor and apply analytics (play around with Google Analytics at home), and have some understanding of basic website building and HTML.

You can also join forces with those who are more experienced and ask to volunteer or shadow them.

Skills Differentiation

Today, a lot of people are involved in some element of digital marketing. Many are freelance copywriters, some are graphic designers, and others are people with marketing backgrounds who are working on leveraging their existing skills.

Once you have a basic knowledge of a broad range of areas (email, pay per click (PPC), display, social media, and SEO, to name a few), which you likely got via your digital marketing courses, you should start to specialize in an area that you are already knowledgeable and passionate about. The point here is not to make a lot of money (unless of course you are genuinely passionate about that) but more to find a way to differentiate yourself while you build a career that you love.

Experts such as Rand Fishkin suggest building your expertise based on a T-shaped model, which means having a breadth of knowledge across all areas, and then choosing a few related areas to specialize deeply in.  

Are Internships Worth it?

If you are a younger person who is graduating from a post-secondary situation and you have the time and resources to consider an internship program, and something opens up at your dream agency, of course you should consider it.

But even if you can afford it, taking on an unpaid internship could easily lead to burnout and feeling undervalued.

If you’re considering an internship, be sure to ask about whether there are real opportunities to get hired – for instance, you can check and see how many interns that company has hired in the past.

Rather than entering into a full-time, unpaid situation, you may be better off collaborating with colleagues or volunteering at a smaller-scale level to learn more about your career. This way you have more control over your valuable time and energy.

You Are Your Own Case Study

You probably studied some case studies in marketing school and so you understand how effective they can be as educational and marketing tools. To this end, you should think of yourself as a case study.

Share your story, build your portfolio, talk to plenty of experts, write content, and get a guest post somewhere with a big audience. Build your social media presence, make sure it’s on brand, and track everything. As you are going through this whole experiment of marketing yourself and essentially setting up your own business (even if it’s not official), you can write about everything as you aim to build authority.

You can also write about your experiences volunteering, doing informational interviews, and collaborating on projects with others.  

These are the ways you’ll market your own skills while demonstrating that you can make money for others by marketing their products.

A Few Hot Jobs

Digital Media or Digital Project Management

If you have a managerial background and are able to run projects using software as a service (SaaS) tools like Basecamp and Trello, consider digital project or media management or even content management as a career focus. These jobs are great for creative extroverts with strong leadership skills who thrive on teamwork and variety. For digital media management, you should have a strong understanding of analytics and lead generation.

SEO/SEM Specialist

This type of work will always be in demand and has the potential for a high salary because almost all of digital marketing relies heavily on data, and every business is looking to improve their ranking in Google. If you understand how to create a strategy or campaign based on analytics and an effective combination of SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) tactics (or you understand just one of those areas in depth), you’ll likely be in demand for years to come.  

Content Strategist

In order to get to the level of being a content strategist, you’ll have to work in the field for a while as a content manager or managing editor. It’s also useful to have a formal background in writing or communications.

The Bottom Line

Having an internship on your résumé isn’t really that impressive because anyone can do it. What’s more impressive is having some detailed and innovative projects in your portfolio and showing what you created, what the results were, and how you got from point A to point B. You need to show that you can market yourself, think for yourself, problem-solve, and read metrics.

You also need to differentiate yourself from the crowd, and that means creating your own brand. For instance, there are plenty of plain old “writers” out there, but if you’re a wordsmith with a deep background in business management and a passion for analytics, that’s a highly unique combination and one that you should be shouting about from the rooftops.        

If you build a unique digital presence that showcases not only your unique skill set but your style and philosophy and focus on making connections and developing useful content consistently, you’re bound to be noticed.   

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