How I got started
Before I started working in digital marketing full time, I worked as a recruitment consultant for an engineering recruitment business. Everything was going well and it was a good company to work for. I was quite happy in my job and received a couple of promotions, so I was on a reasonably good salary considering that I only had a small amount of experience.
Growing up I always had a passion for IT and was completely obsessed with the internet from the moment that I first used it. Working in recruitment and sales positions also led to me gain an interest in sales, psychology and marketing, and I was extremely keen to combine all my skills and build a career around them.
One day I saw an advert on a job site for an SEO/PPC Analyst position, and something instantly clicked. I knew it was the job for me, as the position seemed to encapsulate my skills and interests perfectly. I had dabbled in SEO in the past; it was more of a hobby, and I used my skills to help out friends and family, so when I saw that someone was willing to pay me to do something I loved, I jumped at the chance. Fast forward a few years and I now work as a Digital Marketing Manager at a large PLC business.
I’d now like to share with you some advice that I feel helped me during my career in digital marketing.
I discovered the importance of personal branding from an ex-colleague called Matthew Marley that I worked with during my first full-time job at 360innovate.
Matthew spent a lot of time on social media, and when he wasn’t sharing pictures of his usually unhealthy, breakfast, lunch and dinner, he would create some excellent digital marketing related content that would be shared within the community. This led to him receiving a lot of freelance opportunities and he was constantly being head-hunted.
The turning point for me that made me focus more on personal branding was when I was asked at an interview whether I blogged. When I told the interviewer that I blogged on behalf of my clients but didn’t do it myself, they seemed quite unimpressed.
I decided to spend more time focusing on blogging and a pivotal point for me from a personal branding perspective was when I got my first article published in The Guardian. An outline of how I managed to do this can be found here.
Spending a little time blogging and guest blogging can go a long way. It doesn’t cost a lot to set up your own domain and WordPress blog; you can do it for under £30 a year. It can lead to freelance opportunities, and if you do it well enough, potential employers will start trying to recruit you.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “you can’t get the job without experience, and you can’t get the experience without the job.” This is something that is true in several industries, but thankfully when it comes to digital marketing, you are able to gain experience without actually getting the job.
Before I landed my first job in digital marketing I helped build and optimise websites for free. If I hadn’t have done this I doubt I would have ever got my ‘foot in the door’, so I would urge anyone else that doesn’t have the experience required to do some voluntary work. I know working for free is a bit of a taboo subject, but having some experience will make your CV more marketable.
This next piece of advice will likely sound obvious, but if you want to work in digital marketing, most of the material that you need to learn can be found online for free. Sites such as Inbound.org are a great place to scan on a daily basis as important industry news usually gets voted to the top. If you are happy to pay to learn digital marketing, websites such as Distilled U are a great place to start.
Keep your eyes peeled for local digital marketing meetups. Meetups are a great way to learn, network, and are usually quite good fun. If I’m honest, I probably don’t attend as many of these as I should, but the ones I have attended have been massively valuable.
I used to work in recruitment, which meant I dedicated a lot of time to studying how to come across well during an interview. The below techniques are ones I’ve used that I believe have helped me in the past.
Overcome objections before they happen
If you know that there is something that might prevent you from getting the job, such as possibly not having as much experience as other candidates, try to mention this near the beginning of the interview.
The reason this is so important is that if you are coming across well and towards the end of the interview the interviewer manages to uncover something that is slightly negative, it may put a dampener on things. If you volunteer this information at the start, and come across well during the rest of the interview, it will be less likely that it will stick in the interviewer’s mind and will also demonstrate that you are honest.
Do your research
Researching the business is extremely important, and you would be surprised at how many people don’t actually do it before interviewing. Dropping in golden nuggets of information from time to time during your interview will help you stand out from the other candidates and show that you want the position more.
I tend to spend a few hours on research before any interview.
Prepare a presentation
I like to present at an interview even if I’m not asked to. If the job is SEO related, I would usually prepare an audit related to this and benchmark the business against competitors. This is a great way to add some structure to the interview and it demonstrates again how much you want the position.
If you plan to point out anything negative, it is important that this is done in a careful manner, as the person who is interviewing you may be responsible for this piece of work. This could make both parties uncomfortable, and if the interviewer disagrees with your findings it could hamper your chances of getting the job, so just be careful with this one.
Be sure to bring along hard copies of your presentation in case there isn’t a project or computer screen available.
Last impressions count
During the interview it is tempting to get all your achievements out as quickly as possible, but it is important to remember that last impressions, just before the interview ends, can make a huge difference.
If you have achieved something that you think will help you get the job, share this information towards the end of the interview. Doing so will keep you front of mind with your potential new boss and could increase the chances of you being successful.
Once the interview is over, make sure you send a follow-up email, but don’t act too desperate. Thank the people interviewing you for their time and make a few additional points about why you think you are right for the position.
What if you’ve never worked in digital marketing before?
If you are trying to land your first job in digital marketing, even an entry-level job, having at least some freelance experience will go a long way.
It is extremely important to demonstrate that you are keen to learn even if it means doing so in your spare time. You need to show that you are proactive and enthusiastic about digital marketing. Also, don’t be afraid to demonstrate any achievements that don’t include digital marketing, and try to also show any positive soft-skills that you have.
You’re going to have to work harder than other candidates that have experience to get this job, so you might want to do some additional research on the business and their marketing strategy.
Try to find out things like what CMS they use. Do they currently advertise via PPC? Do they do any display advertising?
Here are some more things that might improve your chances of landing your first digital role:
- If you really want a job in digital marketing do some voluntary freelance work to gain experience
- If you are unable to find anyone that you can do freelance work for, set up a website or blog of your own
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from other digital marketers; most of them will be happy to help
- Find out if there are any skill-shortages in your local area for specific digital marketing disciplines; having these skills could make you a more desirable candidate
One of the first websites I made related to job interview preparation. I spent a lot time researching how to perform well in interviews and I’m sure this helped me feel a lot more confident during the process, which in turn contributed to me being offered jobs.
What I’ve learned while working in digital marketing
The digital marketing industry is filled with a lot of ambitious individuals. If you want to be part of this industry, it is important that you are prepared to continuously learn and never rest on your laurels.
Although experience in this industry is vitally important, it’s possible to climb the ranks fairly quickly and overtake some of the more experienced people if you are willing to put in the time and effort to produce excellent results for your client or employer.
Don’t expect anyone to hold your hand and teach you about digital marketing. There is a chance that you will have on-the-job training, but if you expect to succeed on that alone then you will probably be left disappointed. A lot of the information needed to learn digital marketing can be found online, so if you want to get ahead of your colleagues, better get your head down and start studying.
It is important that you continuously develop your digital marketing skills through self-study. The online space is constantly evolving – it is one of the things that keeps the job interesting, but you can quickly fall behind if you are unwilling to keep learning.
When it comes to digital marketing, although you can choose to specialise in a specific discipline, I always try to gain an understand of as many areas as possible as I feel having an eclectic range of skills can lead to more senior positions.
Digital marketing is quite a close-knit industry, so if you decide to move on from a position, try to do it professionally and don’t burn any bridges. I left a company once on good terms, which in turn led to a lot of freelance work from them and additional job offers.
Working in digital can be extremely rewarding, and is a lot more interesting than previous positions I’ve worked in. There appears to be an increasing demand for digital marketing professionals which has led to a bit of a skill-shortage in some areas, so I believe that now is a great time to be working in digital.