Dec 30, 2019

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New Year, New Ambitions: How to Give Your Career a Boost

There is no doubt that the beginning of the new year is an excellent time to consider a change in your career path. 

There are several factors at play in this. Many employees return to work after the Christmas break with fresh plans and ambitions in mind, perhaps having spent time reflecting on their current role and career path during the festive season, and inspired and motivated to make progress during the year ahead. They may also have fresh budgets!

Either way, whether your desire for change is rooted in positive or negative incentives, January is a good time to act on these thoughts and make more solid plans, as it is a busy time in the jobs market. Management and recruiters are also setting their stall out for the year, looking to fill vacancies, put teams in place, bring in junior staff, and promote employees to more senior roles.

This is especially true in digital marketing, with major growth predicted to continue. Recent research shows that the skills gap in the sector is a major concern for senior management. Further research conducted in a major white paper by the DMI in collaboration with The Economist Group revealed an ever-present need for 'soft skills' among marketers.

As digital technologies continue to evolve, the knowledge and capabilities of employees are lagging behind, leaving many organizations playing catch-up. Over half of CMOs and senior marketers report struggling with the shifting of the digital landscape, and voice concerns about how their department and business will keep up with these developments.

There are major skills shortages in areas such as analytics, social media, and search marketing, as well as great opportunities presented by the emergence of specialties such as user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX), along with the challenges and opportunities presented by exciting tech advances in areas like virtual reality (VR), voice search and artificial intelligence (AI). The brands that execute well on this stand to reap the rewards over the next few years.

Of course, this all represents a great opportunity for those looking to enter the digital marketing sector or secure a new role in the industry, whether that be within your current organization or another one.

Assessing Your Options

Rather than jumping head-first into your next move or hastily deciding that you’ve had enough of your current predicament, a more sensible, prudent approach is to sit down and do a calm, factual assessment of your current position and career path, as well as your options.

Many people may have already begun this mental process of future planning during the Christmas break or before it, perhaps just thinking through options or having a casual chat about it with friends or family members, but you now need to go about it more deeply and thoroughly.

Crucially, this should include an honest appraisal of your current prospects, your suitability for new roles and the skills you may need to develop to make yourself a viable candidate for them. You may be looking for a wholesale change to your job role, or you may simply feel the time is right to pursue a more senior position in your current organization.

For example, you might work as a social media executive for an agency, and would like to secure a move to work in-house for a major company/brand as a social media manager. Or you could be currently working as a writer or editor for a print publication and looking to secure your first role in digital marketing, as a content marketer or email marketer.

There are different degrees of change involved here, requiring different approaches and strategies. Take the time to put your little career audit down in writing, including where you are right now, where you would like to be in say three months, and the steps required to bridge this gap and secure your next move. We’ll look at these specific steps in more detail below.

Your CV, Research and Online Professional Branding

If you are considering your career options, it’s important to always have your CV/resume up-to-date, but the new year is a great time to give it a deeper overview and make updates and improvements where possible. Consider fleshing out the experience and skills you have gained in your current role, as well as adding any skills or qualifications gained recently. You could also include a link to an online portfolio of your work and pay attention to your cover letters.

This is particularly important in digital marketing, which is growing and evolving at a rapid pace, meaning you need to show that your skills are current and relevant to prospective employers. Even small online courses and accreditations, as well as experience with software packages, should be included, provided they are relevant to your specialism.

Another thing to be mindful of is editing your CV when putting it forward for a particular job so that it is tailored and optimized for that role. This doesn’t mean falsifying your resume – it just means leveraging it wisely by including the information and experience which is most appropriate to that particular role. CV writing these days is actually something of an exercise in SEO. As resumes are now often being filtered digitally in the initial stages, rather than being read in full by recruiters, you should include the keywords and skills which are most relevant to the role.

If you are looking to secure a move, the next step is to build a routine for finding new roles and opening that interest you. This means checking new job postings online through recruitment websites and agencies, especially those which have a strong digital focus and are very active in your country and city.

Glassdoor, Jobbio, Seek, and Indeed are major job sites in the digital space, but there are many others. Filter your searches so that the website does a lot of the work automatically and brings up results for roles that are most relevant to you. Then you can decide which ones you actually want to apply for.

However, these days there is a lot more to job hunting than updating your CV and applying for positions directly through these websites. You need to keep yourself in circulation online and highly visible to recruiters. LinkedIn is crucial here in terms of your professional profile and building a strong professional brand for yourself on the platform. Further practical guidance on this can be found here.

Taking the time to improve and optimize your profile is a smart investment, as it means that recruiters and employers can find you easily online, get a positive first impression, and reach out to you directly. Adding the ‘Open to New Opportunities’ setting on your LinkedIn profile also helps to put you in the shop window.

You should also research and join up professional groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, as these are another rich resource for information on industry developments and new roles. 

We have outlined some useful ideas for managing your online reputation.

Online and Offline Networking

In addition to doing your research and building your profile in the digital environment, you can increase your networking efforts. Connect with key industry contacts on the social platforms, and reach out to them at an appropriate time, either on social or via email.

At the very least, this may put you on their radar and in consideration for any new roles that may fit your particular skill set. Publishing and sharing new, interesting industry content is one good way to impress contacts by showing your finger is on the pulse.

And even in today’s busy digital world, offline networking is still very important in seeking out new opportunities. By attending conferences, you will not only gain new insights but also have a chance to meet and chat with industry peers in a relatively relaxed setting. Again, this keeps you in circulation. Joining relevant groups in your area on Meetup.com is another great outlet for networking and gaining new insights and don't forget your very own DMI member community.

Once you have established initial contact (online or offline), you can take the chance to invite people for a coffee at a later stage, which provides a chance to discuss ideas further, get information and make your case (gently!) for any upcoming work, if that’s a possibility.

If your goal is to secure promotion in your current organization, the dynamic is somewhat different, but the same principles largely apply. In this scenario you should be looking to impress management by performing beyond the call of duty where possible, seeking constructive feedback on your performance, and demonstrating the competence to take on increased responsibility. There may be no immediate reward for this, but it helps to show the right attitude.

Upskilling and Self-Improvement

The new year is also a time when many of us look at our skillset and consider where we need to add to it. It can be a great time to take on a new course, online or offline, as you can set yourself an achievable target of completing it within the first few months of the year.

There is no shortage of options for education in the digital marketing space these days. You can choose to take on a major commitment such as a Master’s degree, a specialist diploma, or look at smaller online options that fulfil a particular skills gap for you. You can go the more traditional route by purchasing instructional books to read in your spare time, or simply making a commitment to read new, industry-specific online content and listen to informative podcasts on a regular basis.

Whatever course or content you choose, it can serve a dual purpose of sharpening your technical skills for a new role and showing prospective employers that you are actively upskilling, which is always sure to give a positive impression.

Final Thoughts

The new year is a great time to set your stall out and lay the foundations for career progression. However, like anything else, you need to stay informed and take the appropriate practical steps in order to get on the right path.

There is also no substitute for putting in the time and effort. Research shows that many new year’s resolutions don’t survive past mid-January, with the second Friday of the year’s first month identified as “Quitters’ Day” – a somewhat alarming finding.

With that and your career ambitions in mind, it seems wiser and more sustainable to think less in terms of dramatic resolutions and more about building new, effective habits that will positively influence your prospects, rather than looking for massive immediate change. While the approach will vary for every individual, following the above principles and ideas should provide a solid foundation to start with.

The odds are stacked far more in your favor if you do the right things over a course of weeks and months – and then you might just catch that sudden break you’ve been hoping for! 

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Conor Ward

Conor is a content producer and writer, and former Membership Content Executive at the Digital Marketing Institute. In that position he played a key role in building and managing an extensive library of specialist digital marketing content for the Membership platform. He is an experienced writer and editor, both for print publications and digital platforms, with a passion for content marketing, major brands and career topics. He can be found on LinkedIn here


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