I’ve recently had a few conversations with people who want to know how to get a job in digital marketing.
Whether you’re looking for a career in social media or want to get an entry level job as a SEO or PPC professional, there are a few key things I’ve learned over the years that would be helpful to anyone looking to change directions in their career.
When I made the transition to a full-time day job in digital marketing in 2014, I was 30 years old and had no formal training in what I now do for a living. However, as an entrepreneur, I had uniquely positioned myself to get a new job in the digital marketing field.
Here are my top 7 tips for how to break into digital marketing and land the job you want:
I created this blog and personal brand Miss Malaprop way back in 2006. While my original goal was to develop it into a brick & mortar and e-commerce store for handmade and eco-friendly goods, a strong personal brand has served many other purposes for me over the years.
If you want to do marketing for a living, you must first get great at marketing yourself. No matter what type of job opportunity you are applying for these days, potential employers will be checking your social media profiles and online reputation.
You are in control of what they see, so make sure your online presence is putting your best foot forward.
If you want to work in digital marketing, and your LinkedIn profile looks abandoned or doesn’t exist, it’s going to reflect badly on you.
Think of LinkedIn as your resume on steroids. Fill out as many of the fields as possible, and use your profile to sell yourself to potential employers.
In sales, people talk about selling benefits over features of a product. You must think about yourself in the same way when writing your resume or updating your LinkedIn profile. Think about the benefits you brought to past jobs, not just the mundane features of the jobs you performed.
Use a professional, but eye-catching headshot, not a photo that looks like it was taken during a night out partying and you cropped out someone else’s head.
If you need more help, my friend Nicole offers a great LinkedIn course and consulting packages called Find Your Sparkle on LinkedIn.
If you want to work in digital marketing, you need to keep all of your other social media profiles presentable.
Either lock them down tight so that random people and potential employers can’t find those drunken photos or political rants or better yet, create a public social media presence that you’d be proud for anyone to see.
I’m a pretty private person in a lot of ways. I don’t post a lot of personal stuff to my social media profiles. I do, however, keep all of my profiles publicly visible. And I carefully curate the messages that I want to present to the world.
Your social media message is your calling card. What does it say about you?
Consider creating a personal website, blog or online portfolio to show off your personality, expertise and past experience.
For most companies, personality and how you fit with the existing company culture are just as important as your knowledge and experience. If you come off as rude, entitled or immature online, you’re going to give potential employers reason to pause.
Although some coding experience is definitely a plus if you’re going into this field, you don’t have to be an expert web developer to create a beautiful, professional website. While I’m personally a huge fan of WordPress, I’ve been using it since 2004, way before simpler one-stop solutions like Squarespace existed. If I had to start over from scratch today and needed to build a portfolio, I’d totally go with Squarespace.
Squarespace is a fully hosted solution, which means that you don’t have to figure out the basics of web hosting AND how to set up your website software AND then design and create the content for your website. They offer lots of beautiful templates that make it super easy to create a home base on the web in minutes.
(I’m seriously not being paid to say this, I promise. I’ve seen too many small businesses and solopreneurs pay big bucks for websites that they couldn’t update themselves and didn’t know how to manage. Squarespace is absolutely a better solution for most micro-business owners and freelancers.)
One of the things we pride ourselves on at my day job at FSC Interactive is that we as a company are constantly learning, testing and staying on top of the latest changes and digital marketing industry trends.
Change is a constant, both in life and in this industry. The more you can diversify your skill set, the faster you can move up your career ladder and the more indispensable you will be to employers.
If you feel confident in your knowledge of social media management best practices but aren’t familiar with SEO or paid search strategy, learn more about those sides of the industry. Learn the basics of code. (Codecademy has lots of free, awesome resources.)
Stay curious and be open to always learning new things.
Here are a few resources to check out:
If you’re having trouble getting full-time jobs at social media agencies because you don’t have enough experience, seek out freelance gigs for small businesses to build your experience and pad your resume.
Working with smaller companies will usually lead you to learn a wider range of skills. It can also force you to be more entrepreneurial, as you’re usually working with a smaller advertising budget. You’ll need to be more creative to get better results.
Keep track of your projects, but more importantly, keep track of your results and wins.
If you manage a campaign for a small company that grows their Instagram account by thousands of real followers in a few short months, create a case study about how you did it and show off the results of your efforts on your website.
This same methodology is often how big social media agencies land big corporate clients, but it can also work for you in your job search.
As much as we’d all like to think that it doesn’t matter who you know, it does.
When I applied at FSC Interactive, I had an edge because I’d already worked with the company a few years earlier when I invited them to be on a panel I was organizing at a local conference. I inadvertently made a connection to my potential employer a few years before I needed it.
Knowing the right people helps you hear about opportunities earlier and often gives you a better chance at getting them.
As I mentioned before, many companies hire based on how you fit with their existing company culture. If all things are equal between you and another candidate in terms of experience, but you went to high school with one of the staff and you are a great fit with the vibe of the company, 9 times out of 10 you’re going to be the one to land the job.
Who you know doesn’t just land in your lap however. Especially when you’re just getting started, you need to put yourself out there and make connections.
Here’s the caveat: networking gets a bad rap because so many people do it badly.
Whether it’s an in-person networking event or a Facebook group for like-minded professionals, you can’t just go in and immediately try to sell yourself.
Act like a human. Be nice. Be friendly. Be helpful.
No one wants to help someone who is needy or whiny. People do, however, usually feel indebted to help people who have helped them first.
When you’re young, or in the early stages of a career transition, you must hustle hard but it must come from a place of giving and helping others.
Look for people who have done what you want to do, or people further along in their career.
Don’t just ask to “pick their brain.” Figure out what you can offer them to make it worth their time. And be respectful of their time. (It’s the most precious gift any of us have.)
Here are a few in-person and online resources to check out and start meeting cool people in this industry:
Okay, so you met the people, you have the skills and you got the interview. Now what?
Nailing the job interview and negotiating the job offer are learned skills, just like anything else.
When I was interviewing for my current job at FSC Interactive, you can bet your bottom dollar that I studied the art of interviewing and negotiation.
For women especially, I cannot stress what an important skill this is. If you don’t ask for what you want, you’ll never get it, and I guarantee you that most men do ask for it.
Here are some job interview and salary negotiation resources I recommend:
Most people give up pursuing what they want right before it happens. Half of success is just hanging in there.
If you want something, put it out into the universe. Mention it to other people – you never know who might come across the right opportunity for you and be ready to send it your way.
People are often very willing to help, but you have to make it easy for them. Let them know the types of jobs you’re looking for and the skills you have. Give them a reason to root for you, and they very often will.
Don’t give up. So many people expect things to come easily or fast. We’ve been sold on the idea of get-rick-quick schemes, but those are just that. Schemes.
If there is a job you really want or a company you really want to work for, don’t let one “no” turn into the final no. (Unless, of course, the company has said, it’s not a good fit.) But if you know that you got turned down because of lack of experience or something else that you can work on and change, do it. Go home, study and get that experience and go back to apply again.
Attitude is everything. Most companies would rather hire someone who is motivated and open and willing to learn than someone who thinks they know everything already.
This bonus tip comes from long-time reader Justine Grey. Like me, Justine took a non-traditional, self-taught path into the world of digital marketing. She started out selling handmade jewelry on Etsy but after blogging about her experience getting her products into retail stores, Justine eventually shifted to paid blogging and affiliate marketing through her first site CreateHype.com. So when she got her first real digital marketing job at FreshBooks in 2012, she knew she’d have to get creative to get the gig.
In her words, here’s how she did it:
“Although the traditional resume I submitted got the recruiter’s interest, I knew it wouldn’t wow the interviewers making the hiring decision. My situation was unlike most of the people they were meeting and I felt these two things might work against me:
With that in mind, I got to work creating a document that organized everything I wanted interviewers to know in priority order. While it had portfolio elements, I tried to incorporate a lot more including:
Although I could have emailed this doc to my recruiter and hope she passed it along, I needed to guarantee they’d see it. So I had the document printed professionally and brought in copies for every interviewer. The reactions were amazing – they quickly disregarded my boring resume and happily leafed through the upgraded version. There were lots of oohs and ahhs, and one guy even got distracted by it in a good way.
Later, I found out the document played a huge part in me getting the job. But it turned out, it was less about the info it contained (though they loved how I curated everything) and more about the obvious time I put in. In the end, I set myself apart from other candidates and got the gig by making it easy for the decision makers to see my value.”
There you have it! I hope this post has been helpful for you. Now…
Go forth. Be awesome. Show potential employers how awesome you are (without sounding like a pompous jerk), and get that job.
P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like The Elusive Glamour of Quitting Your Day Job and Create Your Destiny [10 Steps to Start Achieving Your Dreams].
Mallory Whitfield has been making things and performing for as long as she can remember. She started blogging at MissMalaprop.com in 2006, and currently hosts the Badass Creatives podcast. Throughout her journey as a creative entrepreneur, Mallory has worn many hats, including blogger, visual artist, upcycled clothing creator, performance artist, jewelry designer, craft show vendor, creative strategist, speaker, teacher and consultant to other small business owners. She worked as Content Analyst at FSC Interactive, a leading digital marketing agency, prior to taking on her current role as Director of Marketing at LookFar, a New Orleans-based startup studio which builds digital products and visionary companies.
Do you believe that art, creativity, innovation, and kindness can change the world? If you answered “Heck yeah!” then this is the podcast for you.
Badass Creatives is hosted by Mallory Whitfield and features marketing and business advice for creatives, as well as interviews with a diverse range of handmade artists, performers, makers, and creative entrepreneurs.
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