Preparing for your first job in digital marketing
How to land a job in digital marketing without any experience
So you’ve decided a career in digital marketing is for you. Maybe you are straight out of university, or you’ve taken a different career path that doesn’t excite you anymore. Perhaps the world of digital marketing is a lure too much for you to ignore. Whatever your situation, digital marketing has a variety of opportunities for anyone, of any age or background, to grow and develop in.
Now the whole “experience” thing has been playing on your mind. “I wont get a role without experience”, or “they will only interview me if I’ve done something similar before.” This isnt always the case. So it's important for you to prepare yourself properly when looking to secure that first role. Don’t just aimlessly send your CV over speculatively, or apply for a role on Indeed that you have seen. Planning and researching is a key part of any new job application process, and it's no different in this situation.
I’m going to share some hints and tips to help you secure that 1st role in digital marketing. I have recruited digital marketers for over 15 years, so these pointers are my take on the experiences I’ve been involved in, good and bad.
1. To specialise, or not to specialise
Whilst you’re looking for your first role in digital, you might have an idea of the area you want to go into, or you might not. In this scenario, that's ok; how are you going to know if you’re prepared to devote a big chunk of your working life to a discipline you have never really executed before?
A tip here would be to list out the things in life that you like, and are good at. If you’re not mathematically blessed, but are good with people, there will be something for you. If you’re efforts at a self portrait look like some roadkill, but you have a real way with words, you can find a path somewhere.
Whatever it is that you note down, make sure that you LOVE doing that / those things. There is nothing worse than trying to seal a job when you don’t exude passion and interest for it. Doing this will make sure your true self comes out, and you will immediately project a confident outlook as it's something you are really into.
Once you have that list, start to research online about the type of roles that would suit you in digital marketing.
2. Research, research, research
This should really go without saying. But you would be surprised by the number of times I’ve seen a CV, thought this person is worth a shout, and then met them, only to find that they know nothing about what the company I work for does, what their brand is about, what services they offer etc. Pretty poor.
So research is really important. Research the types or roles you might suit in digital marketing. Would you want to work in an agency, client side, or consultancy environment? How will you know what will suit you?
Visit company websites and social channels to get a feel for what they would be like to work for. Speak to friends, associates, pals of your auntie who work in these businesses. Ask them and question them on what you might find interesting, or what might appeal to you.
Do all this, and when you do land that interview, you will have background research to fall back on. Conversation starters. Things you can drop into an interview at the right time. Context is key, so if you can demonstrate you understand this, and you have spent your time at your MacBook wisely, this will stand you in good stead.
3. Use your mouth and ears
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you know, or vaguely know, and ask them about their experiences in digital marketing. You will be surprised at how many people will be happy to offer you 10 minutes of wisdom. Listen carefully to what they say, make notes if you have to.
If you don’t know anyone who works in this area, ask friends, family and neighbours if they know or anyone who’s ear you can bend for 10 minutes. Going out of your way to seek information, and being persistent is a great skill to learn and be able to demonstrate. It shows determination and a willingness to go out of your comfort zone. All valuable skills to a prospective employer.
4. Social watch
There is virtually nothing you can’t find out about a company nowadays. Take social media channels and accounts for examples. Companies often update these with the latest goings on within their business. Follow their social accounts, look back on content they have posted before. Form an opinion on it, and think about what your take would be, or what else they could do with such content. Being able to use this in an application or interview could show an employer you have gone the extra mile.
If these aren’t brimmed with useful nuggets of information, try the companies website, or run Google searches on them. Signing up to Google Alerts is also a good way of finding out what they are up to.
5. Go back to school
Okay, so exams aren’t everyone's cup of tea. But some simple online exams will help in your quest for an initial role in digital marketing. The Google suite of exams on Google Analytics, Paid Search, YouTube and the like are really good to gain a base knowledge of digital marketing. Sure you will have to do some research to pass them, but gaining these “qualifications” will impress a potential employer, and will make you stand out from the rest of the applicants for that role.
6. Have a hit list
You probably have an idea of what sort of location of where you want your first role to be. So set yourself up for success here, by deciding how you are going to commute to different locations from your base, and make a list of all the businesses within your catchment area that you want to work for.
Yes, Covid has meant that remote working has become more the norm. But for an entry level role, the employer will probably want you to be in the office more often than not, so they can show you the ropes, introduce you to working practices, and grow your relationships with new colleagues.
So create a list so you know where to start, and think about how you are going to approach these businesses...
7. Go direct
I’d massively recommend applying directly to companies on your hit list. Don't use a recruiter or job boards to start with, as these are “easily ignorable” applications for employers. A direct application shows that you have sought out the company and how to contact them of your own back. This might seem like a small thing, but if you tailor your approach to them (see next section) then this could be the difference.
Contacting the right people over LinkedIn is also not a bad option, to get you noticed. You may find that you get a generic “info@” email address on a company website, which will likely go to 4 or 5 people in the business, and will be used for sales approaches, invites to events and all sorts of other things. So looking for the right contacts on LinkedIn is a great way of approaching businesses directly.
8. Tailor your approach
This one is probably the most important. You need to stand out from the crowd. So don't just change the name of the person you are emailing and copy and paste from the last email. This is a sure fire way to ensure you are ignored.
Use something from your research to highlight you know something about the company. Some recent news, some client work they have done, some content they have shared. Put your slant on it, say what you liked about it, or what you could have done in addition.
Outline how you feel you could add to the business, what your strengths and passions are, and where you feel you would fit in the company. If you have any relevant experience in these areas then feel free to outline these, even if they were in a school project, helping out your mates dad, or anything like that.
Don’t be afraid to be creative either. All employees get the same standard CV and layout, but in today’s world, you have so many different options. Design your CV like a social media account, film yourself saying why you would be a good fit for the business, build a web page which hosts your CV. Years ago these would have all been tough things to do, but the tools that exist online now make this much easier.
9. Find your own experience
A brilliant way of gaining experience in the area you want to go into, is to actually have a stab at doing some of it. This could be trying something out yourself, offering to do something for a mates business, or family members. Look to offer yourself for unpaid work experiences, for short 2 week bursts. You will learn so much more by trying to experience this for yourself, and these are experiences you can draw on when you are seeking out full employment.
This will also impress potential employers as you have gone out and done something off your own back, and not just waited for something to fall into your lap. It shows drive, determination, desire, passion, and willingness, which are all attributes that employers want to see in their employees.
10. Be a Dragon
A lot of people talk about an “elevator pitch”. What would you say to the MD of your dream business if you were stuck in an elevator with them for 5 minutes? You have that time to sell yourself, so use it wisely.
Work on how you are going to get key points across, such as your desired area to work in, why you are right for it, why you think it's right for you, what else you would bring to the role. This is good practice for how you could open a potential interview, or initial phone call about a role. Prepare for this, polish what you are going to say.
Watch as many episodes of Dragon’s Den as you can, to see how entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to the Dragons. This will help you see how (most) of these types of people get their USP’s (unique selling points) and key benefits across to investors. Most focus on what problem their product or service solves, which is always a good way to identify how you could fit into a business.
11. Polish your paperwork
Make sure your CV and cover letter are up to scratch, neatly formatted, grammatically correct and with no spelling mistakes. This shows attention to detail which in entry level roles, is really important.
If you are using links to websites in your paperwork, make sure the links work and point to the right web pages. Check fonts are all the same, and the right size, with alignment all the same.
And finally make sure that all your contact details are correct, so a potential employer can get in touch with you. And answer the phone when an odd number rings, making sure you answer it professionally. “Hello, Jess speaking” is a perfectly acceptable way to answer the phone to an unknown number, but make sure you answer it, as you could be just one person in a long line of people that are being called that day.
12. Plan your performance
Google Trends and Think with Google. Your best friends. You can find out so much about what is trending and what isn't at the moment, which will help give your conversations context. This can be useful in many different ways.
Make sure you apply what you learn and find out and not just recite it. Try and define how you think what you have found out will relate to their business or clients, as with anything like this, there will be an element of “so what” if such research is not applied in the right way.
Hopefully this has been a useful guide. All these elements will help you improve your confidence when approaching businesses about potential roles, and don’t worry too much if the first approaches don’t go the way you want. The important thing is you learn from each approach and improve for the next time.