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With a 10% growth rate and an estimated industry value of $185.4 billion by the end of 2017, the digital marketing industry is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative job markets for young professionals to enter.
Like any industry, developing a career in digital marketing requires a mix of skills, from hands-on digital knowledge to social and networking abilities, promotional savvy, technical skills and much more.
Below, we’ve listed seven of the best ways to build your digital career and establish yourself as a successful digital professional. If you’re looking to break into the digital marketing industry, these strategies will improve your odds and get you started.
1. Develop a specific, in-demand digital skill set
The most effective way to build a successful digital career is to arm yourself with a skill set that’s in demand among digital employers.
Skills and knowledge in fields like web development, social media and performance marketing are highly valued by employers. Possessing them -- or better, specializing in a certain skill - is often all it takes to set you apart as a great candidate for a digital career.
If you’re looking for an effective way to start your career as a digital professional, try developing a specialized skill set that positions you as one of the best people in your industry at one specific discipline, whether it’s analysis and campaign optimization or pay-per-click advertising.
Because these are digital skills, many of them can even be learned online. Our guide to getting the most from online learning can help you develop specific skills faster and build a skill set that makes you a top candidate for any digital marketing position.
2. Network with other digital professionals
As the saying goes, at the end of the day “it’s people that are going to hire you.” No matter how strong your digital skill set might be, your chances of building a digital career are fairly slim if you aren’t willing to get out and network with other people.
By networking with other digital professionals, you’ll make friends and contacts in the industry and turn yourself into a potential candidate for new positions and jobs that need to be filled.
Don’t know how to network? No problem. Mac’s List has a useful template for creating a plan for your networking process, while websites like Meetup.com are perfect for taking part in industry events with digital professionals.
You can also take a professional course such as our Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing, which gives you access to a global network of marketing professionals to learn from and mentor.
3. View yourself as a brand for people to remember
One of the best ways to set yourself apart and stand out from the crowd while applying for digital marketing jobs is to think of yourself as a brand, just like you would a large company or organization.
When you view yourself as a brand, you begin to think more strategically about developing your career. Events become opportunities to strengthen your network, and opportunities to contribute to websites and publications become valuable sources of personal publicity.
Sometimes, establishing a career is equal parts mindset and action. Thinking of yourself as a brand will change your focus from getting results in the short term to positioning yourself as a real leader in your field - a change that can improve your level of access to digital marketing jobs.
4. Create a blog to show people what you’re capable of
An easy way to put the above tip into action is to start your own blog. Having your own digital marketing blog can help you set yourself apart from others in the industry and stand out when you need to contact an influencer or potential employer.
In short, blogging is a great way to strengthen your personal brand and create a much more compelling, engaging value proposition for yourself as a professional.
Agencies and brands love hiring doers, so having a blog with years of high quality, engaging content is also a great way to show that you’re seriously committed to digital marketing and really know your stuff.
As always, it’s important to follow the “rules” of blogging. Avoid being overly self-promotional, unfocused or blogging just for the sake of blogging. Instead, focus on creating content that’s designed to showcase your unique skill set and position you as a digital marketing expert.
5. Acquire a broad range of digital marketing skills
In our first point, we recommended acquiring a very specialized skill set built around one or two digital marketing skills that most people don’t possess, such as PPC advertising or marketing automation.
While this is a great way to stand out to big employers and agencies, it’s rarely the best way to establish your digital marketing career when joining a smaller business.
Many startups and small businesses don’t have the resources to hire specialists, and instead want to hire digital marketing professionals with a broad range of skills - people that can take care of everything from email marketing to lead generation, social media and more.
Great skills never go out of fashion. Develop a strong skill set that’s built around the traditional marketing skills businesses and organizations depend on and you’ll always be in demand as a digital marketing professional.
6. Develop your HTML, CSS and coding skills
While there’s no need to be a master web developer, having some HTML and coding skills can help make your life significantly easier as a marketer.
With basic HTML and CSS skills, you’ll be able to make edits to landing pages without having to depend on software, install and configure WordPress themes without any issues and gain a new level of understanding over the websites and applications you use on a daily basis.
Having some simple coding knowledge also sets you apart from most marketers and make it far easier for you to work with developers as part of your career.
Luckily, these skills are fairly easy to acquire. Websites like Codecademy and Treehouse offer free or highly affordable content on everything from simple HTML to PHP, Ruby on Rails and a lot more, making it easy to add design and development to your digital marketing skill set.
7. Master the art of analysis, optimization and producing results
One of the best ways to strengthen your digital career is to establish yourself as someone who can produce real, measurable results.
Digital employers that use pay-per-click advertising and platforms like Facebook Ads are always on the lookout for people that can dig into data and discover opportunities for generating higher returns, reducing costs and increasing lead quality.
Are you a data enthusiast? If you can develop a track record for being able to analyze campaign data and make profitable changes, you’ll stand out to digital employers as someone worth hiring for the long term.
Better yet, if you can keep your skills updated and take advantage of new advertising features as they come out, such as the new AdWords interface or Instagram ad formats, you’ll become a hot commodity for businesses that depend on paid traffic to create traffic, generate leads and produce revenue.
Learn more about digital careers
Want to learn more about how you can build a successful career in digital marketing? Our blog is packed with information on digital careers, from top tips for your marketing C.V. to influencers you can follow for actionable and effective career advice.