Are you thinking about starting a career in digital marketing? I’m excited you are here. Many post-grads fantasize about life in this industry. They see themselves working as a modern-day Peggy Olson managing  brands on social media from a cafe by the beach. Although this image of life as a digital nomad might not be entirely accurate, there is plenty to love about being a career marketer in 2020, such as:

In this guide, we’ll explain how to start a career in digital marketing, whether you’re in college, a recent graduate, exploring new career paths, or a seasoned marketer hoping to give yourself an edge in the marketplace. What are you looking to learn about?

  1. If digital marketing is the right career for you. 
  2. Specialties within the marketing field and how to narrow in on your interests. 
  3. Free resources for self-education and need-to-know trends.
  4. How to leverage social media to prepare you for your career.
  5. Tactics for hands-on experience before your first job.  
  6. How to get a job in digital marketing. 

Are You Fit for a Career in Digital Marketing?    

I knew since high school that I wanted to be a marketer. Social media was becoming mainstream with Myspace, and Wi-Fi access was still a rare luxury. At that age, I couldn’t anticipate what the internet would become or how it would direct my future career. Nor could I know how right digital marketing was for me. 

Is it right for you, too? 

With a broad spectrum of duties stretching from creative to analytics, there are roles for all personality types (which is another joy of the industry). Depending on your perspective, some realities of being a digital marketer could be considered pros or cons. Let's talk about a few.

Are You Competitive / Goal-Oriented?

There is a wealth of free certifications, courses, and content to help you prepare for a career in digital marketing. (we’ll get to those in a minute), This lends some relative simplicity to starting your education. All you really need is a computer and internet access!

The flipside of this coin is that it can be competitive. Hands-on experience and showing results are your best leverage when competing for a job, so you’ll need to harness a professionally competitive disposition. 

Are You Flexible? 

Constant change is the nature of the game when it comes to digital. In the SEO world, Google’s formula for search results changes daily. On the social media front, managers must be wary as organic reach decreases on Facebook or a new platform enters the ecosystem. Rapid change is now an accepted fact in modern marketing that keeps everyone on their toes.

The flexibility required in digital marketing can be frustrating, but it can also be thrilling. Your personality will be the judge. 

How Do Feel About Trial and Error? 

Despite the volume of on-line strategies and tactics, there is rarely a cookie-cutter approach in digital marketing. Thousands of factors influence your intended markets’ buying behavior. The technology you use to communicate is ever-changing as well. For these reasons, most marketers are simply figuring it out as we go, testing and retesting. It comes with the territory.

Even perfectionists can find a comfortable home in this field, though. Testing itself becomes a constant you can hold onto.

4 Steps to Starting a Career in Marketing

If the notions of constant change and competition haven’t scared you away—which they shouldn’t, because they make marketing all the more exciting—keep reading. Here are some actionable steps to take toward starting a career in digital marketing. 

Step 1: Narrow in on your area of interest.   

Marketers used to have just print, TV, and radio. Now we have websites, streaming apps, social media, Google search, and that's barely scratching the surface. With these innumerable channels marketers have at their disposal for reaching their audience, comes the varying forms of creative content needed for those channels: copy, photography, video, live streaming, infographics, and more. 

Here’s a quick rundown of trending areas within digital marketing. Keep in mind there is lots of overlap within these roles. Even if you specialize, you may find yourself dipping your toes into more than one area. 

Specialties Within Digital Marketing


Search Engine Optimization

SEO is all about improving the content, authority, and technical elements of a website to increase its visibility in search engines for specific key phrases. You can learn the basics in a short time, but there are hundreds of factors that determine how Google ranks websites. Generating results with optimization tactics (much like becoming an expert) is not something that will happen overnight. 

Here are a few common responsibilities of an SEO: 

SEO is a long game. It can be a lot of work, and I might be biased, but earning an organic search win can be one of the most satisfying accomplishments in the marketing space.


Social Media Marketing

Social Media might be the medium that you're most familiar with. The landscape is massive; 3.8 billion people use social media and it's become an essential component for businesses. Managing a brand's presence on social media is quite different from a personal profile and there are many different roles you may have depending on the platform. 

Here are a few common responsibilities of a social media marketer: 

Social media will be part of almost any business's digital strategy. There is a ton of noise, and standing out is not as simple as scheduling a few posts and responding to messages. You need to have some creativity in your blood! There is a ton of demand to specialize in this field, but like with SEO, the platforms and algorithms change frequently.


Email Marketing & Automation

Email marketing is still one of the most direct methods for engaging customers. Email helps establish a brand and nurture audience members into becoming paying customers. 

Here are a few common responsibilities of a marketer specializing in email and automation: 

Most companies are doing something with email. An in-house role at a large organization might have a dedicated role for email marketing. For smaller companies, email might be just one of many hats you wear. Even if it's not your favorite channel, an understanding of how it works is essential. 


Digital Advertising

Digital advertising (traditionally referred to as media buying) presents opportunities to reach your target audience in web search, social media, on other websites, and more. Digital ads help businesses display messages to very specific segments backed with measurable data to gauge success. 

Since there are many different channels to choose from, your ad expertise will often relate to your other roles. For example, if you work in SEO, it's an easier transition to learn search engine marketing (SEM) because you're already familiar with keyword research and understanding search intent. The same could be said for a social media manager learning to run ads on Facebook or other platforms. 

A few common responsibilities of a media buyer or digital advertiser include:


Content Development & Content Marketing

One of the best ways to build a brand online is by creating and distributing content your audience finds valuable. Content Development is probably the broadest category we have listed. The opportunities with content marketing range significantly for every organization and target audience. 

Here are a few responsibilities of a content marketer: 

Content marketing responsibilities can range significantly depending on the organization. In a content role, you will often be working with other departments such as design, SEO, and social media, making it important that you have a foundational understanding of how those specialties work.


Analytics & Data

Even if your role only involves one specialty from the above list, you will most likely be required to report on success and failures. This helps determine what's working and where adjustments are needed. An understanding of the Google Analytics platform and terminology is often the best starting point. We will cover that more in the later sections. 

Here are a few responsibilities related to analytics you’ll find in most marketing jobs: 

There are other areas in the digital marketing world such as web developers and designers that we didn’t fully outline above. They integrate into these roles, but are less often what would be defined as a “marketer,” though there are many marketers out there that started as graphic designers or vice versa. 

How to choose?

It’s important to find the right mix of what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing. Pick a specialization and move toward it.If you’re new to the industry, it’s typically unwise to spread yourself too thin. Take a moment to understand that you can’t be an “expert” in all areas of digital marketing

Let that sink in. These unicorn marketers don’t exist (though you’ll encounter plenty of businesses trying to find them). 

An early concept of the T-shaped marketer remains a popular approach to digital career growth. Gain deep knowledge and specialize in a few areas, but gain a foundational understanding of related marketing areas. This helps you communicate better with other marketers in various fields, which will go a long way when working toward a goal with a team. Having foundational experience also makes it easier to pivot if you find you want to change your specialization down the road. We also like the concept of the I Shaped Marketer from Ross Simmonds. It follows a similar framework but includes important soft skills such as account management and communication. 
 

T-Shaped Marketer Concept

Working for an Agency vs. an In-House Marketing Team

Besides picking a specialization, consider whether you want to work for a marketing agency or for a brand as you develop your marketing career. Workplace cultures will vary from company to company, but when it comes to career trajectory, there is a stark difference between working at an agency or working on an in-house marketing team:

Agency

In-House

Working with multiple industries and client types—B2B, B2C, e-commerce, etc.—gives you broader experience.Working in-house may limit you to one industry, but it allows you to dig deeper into the growth of your brand.
Your role may be limited to one or two specialties, allowing you to become an expert in that area.In-house team members often “wear many hats,” giving you experience in different facets of marketing. 
Your influence on a brand will only reach as far as your scope of work allows; sometimes you will have to swallow missed opportunities.Your influence on a brand can extend beyond your specific area of expertise.
The day-to-day can range significantly as you jump from account to account, put out fires or work on gaining new clients. The day-to-day is fairly predictable and focused. 

Keep in mind that these are generalizations. Company size plays a major role in corporate culture. For example, if you work at a small agency you may have fewer clients and still have to wear many hats. On the other hand, if you work for a very large in-house team, you might play a more defined role, focused on one product, persona or task.

Working as an Independent Contractor

There is a third option for aspiring marketers if agency life and brand life don’t fit into your idea of a dream career. You could choose to work as a freelancer, contracting work project to project. As a freelancer, you have complete control over your lifestyle. Work anytime, anywhere. Besides clients, the only person you have to answer to is yourself.

If you’re in a position to work part-time, operating as a freelancer allows you that flexibility. You get to decide how many projects to take on in a week or month based on your financial goals or the number of hours you can set aside. Ramp up projects to make more money, or decline opportunities when you need to clear your plate. It’s your call. 

As an independent contractor, you’d often find yourself supporting an in-house marketing team or a growing agency that doesn’t require a full-time employee in your area of expertise. To make freelancing your primary gig, you’ll need to really excel in one or two areas of marketing. 

Independent contracting may be a good option for gaining experience if you’re having trouble landing your first job, too. Many companies in the infancy stage of digital are looking for more affordable marketing assistance. These are good targets for independent contract work. 

Step 2: Invest in ongoing digital marketing education.  

One of the coolest things about the digital marketing industry is that everything is... well... digital. There are plenty of online resources for you to digest, and most of the time, they are free to access. 

Since trends, platforms and tactics change so quickly, you don’t necessarily need to understand how things worked ten years ago to know how to do your job today (though it can help in small ways). But staying up-to-date on current trends and technology is paramount. 

How do you like to stay current in your industry? How do you learn best? Take your pick and get started:

Blogs, Guides, Ebooks and More   

The world wide web is your best friend. Search for just about any topic and you’re sure to find an expert or two (or ten) writing about it. You’ll notice that software companies in the marketing space tend to carry the flag for decent marketing educational resources. This makes sense from a content marketing perspective. If they’re marketing to marketers, their content ought to educate marketers on the latest trends and technologies.

Here are some of our favorite marketing article sources, sorted by topic: 

Digital Marketing (General)

SEO, SEM, & CRO

Social Media

Content Marketing


Add to this list agencies whose content you find respectable and useful and you’ve got a wealth of knowledge from which to learn.  We realize this list is long. How can you keep up? We recommend tools like Feedly or The Old Reader that help consolidate all your favorite sources into one feed. That way, you’ll be able to scan headlines for topics relevant to you. You’ll save a ton of time and rarely miss important news. 

Feedly Dashboard for Digital Marketing

We also recommend checking out Sparktoro’s Trending tool, the self-proclaimed “Front Page of the Web Marketing World.”  
 

Sparktoro Trending Page


Webinars & Video  

If learning from video/audio experiences works better for you, you won’t be left wanting. YouTube and LinkedIn Learning are great places to start. 

➤At Cheddar, we’re a bit obsessed with search, so if you’re entering the SEO world, Moz’s Whiteboard Friday is a must-watch. 

If you’re looking for a little back-and-forth with industry experts, webinars and mini-conferences are the way to go. The improvements in remote technology and connectivity allow a much more seamless experience than ever before. It’s only getting easier to attend a mini-conference from your home office or living room. Like an in-person conference, most sessions end in a Q&A where you can ask questions directly to the presenters. 

Can’t make it? There is often a recording available that you can listen to on your own time. I only attend 50% of the webinars I sign up for and often watch the recordings on my own time.

Podcasts  

Switching from music to podcasts as I drive has evolved my commute. Not only am I learning, but I’m also relaxing. My mind focuses on something other than my crazy schedule and expectations for the day. I save music for when I’m working and dedicate my drive time to podcasts that get me ready for the day and expand my knowledge of the industry.   

Listen to one-on-one interviews with people discussing new tactics and technologies and how they’ve found success. Pick up on prominent book releases and learn of new people to follow going forward.

Podcasts we’d recommend:

Old-Fashioned Books  

In an industry where technical skills and tactics change so rapidly, purchasing physical books or even ebooks can seem unjustifiable. However, marketing fundamentals, writing skills, leadership, general industry shifts and history don’t change. Written literature is a tremendous delivery method for topics such as these because you get an in-depth rendition. 

Before you have your own experiences to speak of, soak up others’ through biographies. You’ll be surprised down the road when the stories you’ve read influence your decision making, almost as if you were calling on your own experience. Your eyes may welcome a break from screen time, too.

If you’re not sure where to start, choose a title by an author you follow or ask your network for recommendations. 

Here are a few books that have inspired us:

Local Events  

A quick search of your location on Google or social media should surface a few upcoming local events that provide the opportunity for education and networking. If you’re trying to emerge as a marketer, connecting with locals already in the industry or meeting other business owners trying to gain knowledge could benefit you in multiple ways. You may stumble across a local business owner trying to improve his marketing and you are able to help. Maybe you meet a marketer from a local agency that can put in a good word for you for an upcoming internship. 

The availability and quality of these types of events will vary depending on your city, but if you can find them, take the time to attend.

Courses & Certifications  

College Courses

Digital Marketing is becoming a more prevalent course offering at colleges and universities. A degree in business, marketing or communication can help you focus in on an area of interest, and position you above other job candidates down the road. Keep in mind, educators are challenged by the rapidly evolving field of marketing. Most full degree programs offer little hands-on experience and tend to lean heavily on teaching the fundamentals. 

Some schools are starting to offer micro degrees or certifications in digital marketing that provide instructor based paid training, either online or in-person. 

Here are a few that I recommend: 

Online Courses & Certifications 

There are many digital certification courses available for those looking to sharpen their skills and show potential employers your commitment to comprehension in the industry. Both paid and unpaid, these include: 

Conferences  

If you’re still just trying to break into the marketing world, then conferences may not be an option for you, considering the cost of travel and event tickets. However, it’s worth noting that many major conferences are going virtual and have become much more accessible. 

Conferences put you in front of the industry’s finest and get you up to speed with trends and technologies that non-attendees will have to wait for. 

While an online course may be slightly outdated and generalized to fit a large audience, conference seminars are as up to date as you can get, and offer the opportunity for speakers to focus on their audiences’ particular needs. Add in the networking, and you’ve got everything you need to start a career in digital marketing all under one roof!

If you’re already in an entry-level marketing position, jump at any opportunity to attend conferences if your employer is willing to pay. Even if the event is geared toward a specialization of marketing other than the one that interests you, there are bound to be learning opportunities for you there. At the very least, you’ll have the chance to connect with other marketers. 

Step 3: Build a social identity.  

There is no way around it: if you want to start a career in digital marketing, you’ll have to understand the role social media plays in business in 2020. Getting social also poses a few advantages for you as a job seeker. You can:

Each social media platform offers something a little different. Here’s how to leverage each one to make these crucial strides in starting your career. 

LinkedIn

As uninteresting as scrolling through a LinkedIn feed may seem compared to the appeal of Instagram or Facebook, there is no better place to build a personal brand for your professional self online. LinkedIn continues to grow its relevance as a platform. Your organic reach on this channel will significantly outperform other networks, meaning your posts have a greater likelihood of being seen here. For this reason, if you have time to post, this is the platform to do it on. 

Tips for LinkedIn:

Twitter

Believe it or not, Twitter is a friendlier version of LinkedIn for marketers. The same content sharing that takes place on LinkedIn is happening here, along with plenty of bite-sized nuggets of info and a healthy dose of comedic relief. Experts are easily accessible on Twitter and are willing to dive into conversation if you pose your questions or comments genuinely. 

Tips for Twitter:

Reddit 

Reddit often gets a bad rap for poor opinions, low-quality conversations and how fast things get “off-topic.” Even so, it’s still worth your time to check out the marketing subreddits, especially if you already spend time on Reddit. Many niches within marketing have tribes that regularly gather on Reddit to discuss their work and help one another through challenges. 

Tips for Reddit: 

Instagram

We suspect you may already spend some time here. One billion people do, after all. Instagram is a platform that can’t be leveraged as clearly for establishing a personal brand, but there are still a few benefits to gain from it as you prepare for your career in marketing. 

Tips for Instagram:

Slack

Yes, Slack, the team communication tool. Slack channels are bringing together marketers for conversation, feedback and more. 

Since an increasing number of businesses are using Slack for internal communication, it wouldn’t hurt to get accustomed to the platform and connect with fellow marketers at the same time. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get hired on an in-house team that could benefit from using Slack. All of a sudden, you are the subject matter expert and can spearhead an implementation plan. 

Slack channels are handy if you aren’t a social media lover. You can seek out communities that suit you, join—usually by invitation only—and avoid the extra nonsense you’d find on other social networks. 

Here are a few popular channels for marketers and how to join them. We expect more communities like these to surface, so keep your eyes peeled for new ones! 

Facebook

It’s hard to ignore a platform with 1.59 billion daily active users. Facebook is a very personal and noisy platform making it a little more difficult to leverage for personal brand.  At the same time, there is plenty of learning that can be done. 

Tips for Facebook:

A Final Note on Social Media

We covered six popular networks in this guide, but there are hundreds of networks that could possibly be important to your future work, depending on your specialization. Whether it’s TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat or Medium, seek out other channels that relate to your specialization and become a consumer of content. There are few better ways to learn how to target a message to an audience besides reading/watching thousands of posts and ads over time. 

Step 4: Get your hands dirty.   

You can educate and network yourself to death, but in the end, employers are looking for actions and results. It is essential to practice the skills and information you’ve learned and showcase successes, and even failures. But how can you get experience in digital marketing if you can’t get a job without experience? 

There are many ways to gain experience in digital marketing on your own volition to prepare you for a real deal job. Here are some ideas for playing to your strengths and getting your hands dirty.

1. Build a website. / Start a blog.

But what will your site/blog consist of, you ask? Unless you have enough to say on one topic to fill out an entire blog, build yourself a digital portfolio. At the very least, you can treat your personal website like a resume. Include writing samples, photos of you “in the field,” links to your social media profiles, and details on any hands-on experience you do have. If you’ve managed to complete a few digital marketing projects in the past, whether through internships or side work, get permission from your clients to create case studies of your work with them. 

Content management tools such as Wordpress, Squarespace, Shopify and Wix have made it easy to build simple websites in a short period of time. Let your work be the showcase. Plus, get extra hands-on experience through the process. 

2. Live and breathe analytics.

Even you creatives out there need to read this suggestion. No matter what career path you take in digital marketing, experience with and understanding of analytics is almost always necessary. Whether you’re developing content for social media, doing SEO, or trying to improve UX with conversion optimization, data is key for showcasing successes and failures. 

For example, writing for a blog isn't technically analytical, but having data points such as scroll depth and time on page can help you become a better writer by helping you understand what writing is engaging or not. 

So how can you sharpen your data chops before getting hired? We recommend starting with Google Analytics, which you can do most thoroughly with the GA certification we mentioned earlier. If you take our advice and build yourself a site, you’ll have your own data to work with. If not, Google allows its Google merchandise store demo account for public use. 

With tools like Google Data Studio, we are able to take the awesome data we get from web marketing platforms and blend them to provide some of the most accurate marketing ROI data that we’ve ever been able to show. Play around with your traffic data and try to build out your own report. 

3. Interact with brands.

Interact with brands every time you enter an establishment.

Whether its local eatery, store, repair shop or whatever, check their online presence. Can you find them on Google? How does their Google My Business profile look? Do they have social media accounts? Is their site fast and helpful to potential customers? Look for whatever aspect of their online footprint you are most savvy in. 

If their site says “Welcome to our website,” and the META title is “home,” you know they need SEO help. If they're posting on social 3 - 5 times a week but have no engagement, maybe they could use some help prioritizing and organizing a strategy. If they don’t even have a website or social profiles in the first place, the opportunity for you to step in and help is blatant. 

When you find glaring issues like these, consider bringing it up to a manager or the owner. Your input just might get shared with their team and they’ll work on fixing it. Maybe you leave your information and they decide to reach out to you for help! 

In this way, you can start to gain experience interacting with people and speaking on your expertise. The more comfortable you get, the better prepared you will be for interviews as well as in the workplace. 

This is one of our favorite ways to collect new clients here at Cheddar. We experience a product or service that blows us away and then we notice their web strategy needs serious help. That’s a project we can really get passionate about and we can easily communicate that to the business owner. 

Interact with brands when browsing the web. 

How much time do we spend browsing on our phones each day? Approach this time with a marketing mindset. As you visit a company’s website for information, judge it. See what they're doing, how well they're optimized and what issues they may be having.

You should know the elements that make a website good or bad simply on instinct, as well as from whatever research you’ve done up to this point. Part of developing that natural understanding simply involves spending more time analyzing what's out there. 

Think of how often you encounter a broken page or a website error when searching the web. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve visited local businesses’ websites and then brought up our issues to an employee or manager later on. This won't always lead to a project, but showcasing that you have an understanding of the web is always great practice. You may need to do this with future agency clients or a direct report in an in-house role.

You see things from the customer's side and also from a marketing perspective. That kind of perspective is invaluable to business owners who have trouble seeing the customer’s side of things.

4. Search for internships.

Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door and gain some hands-on experience for the resume. Don’t be afraid to take an unpaid internship for the right opportunity. We can’t stress this enough; think of all the time you may spend in college paying for classes. 

Employers want real-world experience. If you get an internship, paid or unpaid, work your butt off. At the very least, you will earn a great reference for your next opportunity. Prove to be a rockstar and the company may even offer you a more permanent role down the road.

5. Network.

Taking advantage of networking opportunities near you could provide you with experience opportunities in the short term. You just might find a business owner in need of some free or low-cost assistance on a project in your wheelhouse. 

Meeting fellow business owners and digital marketers will pay off in spades later on in your career, too. Imagine you walk into a business and they need SEO—your specialty—but they also need web design. What would you do? It’s always helpful to have a network of experts, especially when you’re on the outside looking in. 

No marketer will be able to do all aspects of their work on their own. Having a network allows you to get more done, and done well, because you have the right people to assist you and make your projects better.

Another way a robust network could pay off down the road is for crowdsourcing. Have your connections review your portfolio website. Get their input on actual client projects in the future. Staying in front of fellow digital marketers in your area will keep you top of mind and show initiative. They’ll be reaching out to you for help or opportunities in no time.

6. Freelance.

If you’re ready to dive in with paid projects as a way of gaining work experience, and your network isn’t coming through for you, consider listing yourself on one of the many freelancer sites. Some of the most common include Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer and Guru.

7. Work for free.

Working for free is not ideal, we know. But if you have no workplace experience, it can be hard to get hired for even entry-level marketing roles. Consider developing your own internship of sorts by lending a hand to an entrepreneur in need. 

Maybe you have a family member or friend who started a small business. Do they need help optimizing their websites or managing their social media accounts? Maybe they work for a small business that could use some help but can’t afford a full-time role. 

Working on a side project or two can be very helpful in the interim. The great thing about digital is that, if you’re tracking your data, it can be much easier to showcase your progress than in other industries or even traditional marketing roles. If you have positive data to showcase your work, it can be just as powerful as an internship where your responsibilities may have been less tactical. 

Nobody likes working for free, but helping out a friend or a nonprofit you are passionate about while gaining work experience will be worth it. Going the extra mile for your first few projects isn’t something to worry about when you’re trying to get your first full-time opportunity. What’s more, it’s true that what goes around comes around in the business world. Your willingness to help a friend for free, besides being gratifying and giving you experience, may pay off in the long run. Perhaps they end up hiring you because of how well you completed their project. Maybe they have a referral for you or work down the road, or maybe they choose to pay you afterward because you did so well. You never know where your generosity can take you!

8. Improve your writing and communication skills.

All marketers must be able to present their experience and ideas in ways that others can understand. And this goes beyond copywriting for social media posts, blog content and ad copy. Being able to write clearly is essential. 

As a digital marketer, you’ll use a plethora of digital communication tools such as email, instant messaging apps, conference calls and more that require you to write. It helps to start your career with an understanding of the etiquette of these platforms

In agency roles, you may often be communicating directly with the client either in-person, over the phone or via email. Be equipped to handle these conversations. Go in with confidence. In many cases, you will be talking with people who know less than you do about the tactical execution of the job. Presenting your experience and value in a way they can understand is the key. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! 

If you happen to be a fantastic writer already, then you have a huge advantage on the path to starting a career in digital marketing. If not, there are ways you can improve as you search for your first job.

Writing was a huge challenge for me when entering the industry. I still consider myself a work in progress. Here are a few resources that I find helpful: 

Writing a little every day, whether in a journal, on a blog or on social media, is a concrete way to develop your ability to express your thoughts via the written word. 

Another way to improve as a writer is to read. Read for fun to expand your vocabulary and expand your awareness of sentence structures. 

It can be intimidating to read, even for fun. Technology has rewired our brains in a way that makes it hard to focus on text on a page for prolonged periods of time. What technology has done to our brains can be undone by flexing your muscles in the opposite direction, though. Challenge yourself to read just ten minutes a day. By the end of a week, you’ll find it’s much easier, and perhaps enjoyable again. You’re conversations and writing will naturally improve with time. 

9. Familiarize yourself with project management software.

The Coronavirus pandemic pushed the issue of project management software upon businesses in 2020; if a marketing team wasn’t using one before the pandemic, they most likely are now. 

Project management tools like ClickUp, and Asana allow teams to stay in constant virtual contact with one another about the status of projects. Most are very similar in function and interface, so familiarizing yourself with one will help you prep for your first marketing placement, no matter what software they use. 

Create a free account for yourself and start using it to track school projects, your job search, household chores—anything! Even if you are the only user in there, the exercise will give you an understanding of the layout and purpose of PM tools. You’ll probably pick up on task management best practices that can be applied in all facets of life along the way, such as setting deadlines and managing workloads.

How to Get a Job in Digital Marketing   

Once you’ve honed in on your area of interest, started your digital marketing education, spruced up your online presence and gotten your hands a little dirty, you’re more than ready to start your job search. We can’t leave you hanging at this point! Here are some pointers on applying for marketing jobs and nailing interviews.

10 Tips for Applying to Marketing Jobs:

  1. Check job boards frequently. This industry is in high demand! 
     
  2. Always submit a personalized cover letter as you apply to jobs.
     
  3. Make sure your resume showcases SOME kind of metrics/data. Whatever you can scrape together from your experience so far, use it. 
     
  4. If you made yourself a portfolio website, include the URL on your resume, cover letters, and professional social profiles.
     
  5. If you're looking to stay in a particular area, bookmark career pages of local digital agencies’ websites so you can check back weekly in case their post doesn't make it to Indeed or LinkedIn. Some agencies will allow you to submit your information for future openings. If they don’t have a careers page, reach out to them to find out if they have any opportunities. Show the initiative. If you need help finding marketing companies, check out agency listing websites like Upcity and Clutch
     
  6. Before or after an interview, connect with the interviewer on LinkedIn. Include a thoughtful note politely showing your interest in the role. Even if you never hear back from the job, being connected could keep your personal brand in their feed down the road. Just don’t spam the whole company with invitations to connect! 
     
  7. Even if a role seems slightly more advanced than your skillset, apply anyway. This is especially true for entry-level in-house roles at small- to medium-sized businesses. In these situations, hiring managers are often hoping to find a “unicorn marketer” — someone who can bring personality to their social profiles while at the same time coding their website AND developing strategy. Their expectations can be a little lofty. Rather than ignoring the opportunity completely because you feel unqualified in one or two areas, talk up your personal strengths and willingness to learn. If you’ve brushed up on the latest trends, you’ll probably know more than them walking into an interview, anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? Any interview experience is positive experience and helps prepare you even more for the next one. 
     
  8. If your eyes are dead set on a specialty but you struggle to land a role, don’t be afraid to apply for complementary roles. There might be an opportunity to pivot once you get hired and establish credibility. If not, you’re at least staying industry-relevant and broadening your skillset until the right role comes along. 
     
  9. Entry-level roles and even internships rarely fall into your lap. If there's a lack of digital agencies or in-house positions in your area, don’t get discouraged. You may need to dig deeper for the opportunities. I can guarantee there are businesses left and right in your area that need web help. 
     
  10. Get creative. Have you found a role that seems perfect for you? Spend the time to create a custom video telling the employer why you would be a great fit.  Keep it short and to the point. Employers and recruiters don't have the time or energy to watch a 5+ minute video.

5 Tips for Interviewing

  1. Prepare for an interview at an agency by reviewing their portfolio. You’ll be able to plan a few talking points that relate to the industries and clients they serve. Go one step further and review the work they’ve put out for clients. Note suggestions you would make or ideas for future projects. Don’t shy away from analyzing the agency’s website and inbound efforts as well. Agencies often prioritize client work over their own brand and fall behind.
     
  2. When interviewing for in-house roles, keep in mind: Unless the company is huge, you will most likely wear a few hats. Take the time to digest their entire web presence. Signup for their newsletters, fill out forms, read content, and put yourself in the shoes of a web customer AND marketer.
     
  3. Mention your knowledge in other areas of digital marketing, alongside your specialization.  Say you are interviewing for a social media manager position. In the event you have a foundational understanding of an area (SEO) and notice they lack that expertise on their team, add this to the interview. You can even negotiate a higher salary because of it! This is notable if you’re applying for an in-house role at a smaller company that hasn’t built much of a digital team. Even your basic knowledge in a few areas of digital could exceed their understanding.
     
  4. You can slightly inflate your experience and learn to catch up. Again, many late adopters of digital marketing have a traditional mindset and think that you can find a “unicorn marketer” that specializes in everything under the sun. Tread carefully with these opportunities and don't over-promise. Unrealistic expectations will leave you doomed from the start. 
     
  5. Showcase why you’re right for the job and then ask for it. Use any data you have to support past successes. If you don’t have a lot of prior experience, focus discussions on how you can help with specific examples. Past experience is important, however, presenting solutions with a plan should be music to their ears.

Related: 100 Questions Employers Might Ask You in an Interview for a Marketing Role

Settling into a Career

If you’ve made it this far and landed yourself a job in digital marketing, CONGRATS! 🎉  Even though your career has only just begun it still requires tender loving care. Here’s how to continue growing toward your career goals.

Stay fresh on trends and your personal brand. 

Some roles provide time and resources for further education, but it's not something to rely on. You are doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t dedicating a little time outside of work for self-education and personal branding.

You can never be quite sure where your new job will take you. Continue to establish yourself on social media and at networking events.

If the role is not ideal... 

You won’t always get it right the first time. Work environments will vary. Upper-management might struggle to see the value you bring or give you the autonomy you need. Maybe you feel like you’d be a better fit in-house rather than in an agency role. What do you do now? 

During your next performance review, be open about concerns or aspects of the job that dilute your happiness. Be sure to choose what's important to your job health vs. dumping a list of everything under the sun that makes life unpleasant. If you voice your concerns but happen to really enjoy the place of work, there could be other opportunities within the company for you. Businesses are getting better at creating time and space to have these conversations, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to make the first move.

Loyalty is important, but try not to get too comfortable in an ill-fitting role or toxic workplace. If your employer fails to acknowledge your concerns or offer resolutions to your struggles, don’t be afraid to peruse the job boards. An opportunity that better suits your personal health and goals is out there.

Gouda Luck!

In a growing industry that keeps us on our toes, you couldn’t pick a better time to consider starting a career in digital marketing. The amount of businesses that have yet to shift their focus from traditional to digital is startling.

We hope this guide has been useful in your quest to be a marketer. What hurdles did you overcome as you jumped into your career? Did we leave anything out? This is a topic we’re really passionate about at Cheddar! Feel free to contact us with suggestions. Interested in a role at Cheddar? Send your resume to careers@cheddar.consulting We’d be happy to consider you for our team. 


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