Digital media is now so deeply embedded into society it’s impossible to ignore the effects. We’re so chronically attached to our phones, to social media, to Googling things, that these things have just become extensions of our lives.
That’s why digital marketing is one of the fastest growing professions in the world. In fact, in the last few years alone, digital marketing has occupied multiple top 20 most in-demand jobs on LinkedIn, with research showing 39% of companies had hired a digital marketing, with these hiring trends not abating any time soon.
This trend is driven heavily by companies realising how effective digital marketing can be. Not only can companies now reach customers in ways that were previously impossible, they can now build powerful, mutually beneficial relationships that have fundamentally changed how we live our lives.
While internships and volunteer positions will give you invaluable experience and are obvious stepping stones to getting a full-time job, you’ll want a little more to give you an edge over the competition. These are 7 qualities you need to display that will help you score your first job as a digital marketer.
1. Read everything and anything you can get your hands on
Digital marketing is a field that is rapidly evolving. New platforms appear and change the entire landscape before suddenly disappearing into the ether. Algorithms change weekly, and major rules can appear suddenly, completely changing how digital marketers work. These changes often happen in just a matter of months and weeks.
Digital marketers need to constantly keep their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening, keeping up to date with new developments, trends and reports.
Looking beyond digital marketing into other disciplines and ways of thinking will help you look at problems from a unique perspective. For example, becoming familiar with design thinking, the lean methodology, and innovation theory will help you employ different to solve problems. Having a thirst to learn as much as possible is one of the most important quality a new marketer can have, and this is a quality that will definitely stand-out in interviews.
2. Be a problem solver
Digital marketers are often thought about as creative people who dream up of big, ambitious and colourful campaigns. However the primary day-to-day job of a digital marketer is to solve problems, from micro-problems (“we’ve had a sudden dip/spike in traffic. Why?) to macro problems (“how do I get people to keep buying my products?”).
In a recent report by McKinsey, the most important quality potential employers look out for in potential digital marketers is the ability to problem solve. Constantly asking “why?” and figuring out how you can turn qualitative and quantitative data - even if it’s from mundane conversations with customers - into actionable insights, is something digital marketers need to do on a constant basis. Understanding why your customers do or do not buy from you lies at the core of what digital marketers do.
Digital marketing is also all about experimentation. You need to be able to methodically draw up hypotheses, strategically conduct experiments and draw strong conclusions about what does and doesn’t work, and why.
3. Build your own following
When it comes to landing your first job, there’s always the chicken-or-egg conundrum; you can’t get a job without experience, but you won’t have experience if you don’t have a job.
However, what people often don’t realise is because new digital marketing is relatively a new field, many employers don’t necessarily expect potential recruits to have years of experience. Many companies have also come to realise degrees from traditional institutions don’t mean much either.
So how will employees gauge how capable a potential employee might be?
One of the ways you can stand out from the crowd is to develop your own online following. You can do this many ways including blogging, vlogging, building an Instagram, or even building a website for yourself.
Doing so serves multiple purposes. Firstly, you demonstrate to your potential employees you are proactive and aren’t afraid of just jumping into things and getting things done. Secondly, you’ll learn invaluable lessons just trying to do things yourself, lessons which will most likely stick much better than if you’d learnt them in a classroom environment. You’ll then be able to take these learnings to your new job and put to good use. Lastly, building a personal brand will always be an invaluable asset. While strong personal branding will take time to build, if you’re persistent, your efforts will pay dividends further down the track.
But how do you build a personal brand, especially when you have no experiences to create content about? That’s no problem! You can kill two birds with one stone by reading prominent digital marketing blogs and books, and then start a Medium account and write about what you learn. You can even write informative guides about your hobbies, or your journey finding a job. Or you start an Instagram and just curate photos you particularly like. The key is to not worry too much about what you’re going to talk about - what’s important is just getting out there and doing it. There are numerous ways to start, so find something you’re interested in, and get into the habit of talking about it.
4. Get certifications
Certifications are the new black.
Many of the major digital marketing platforms you will use, such as Google and Hubspot, will offer courses on using their software and associated strategies. Upon completion the platform will then give you a certification which you can then put on your resume and display on LinkedIn. For example, CRM and marketing platform Hubspot provides courses on inbound marketing - strategies that are platform agnostic (although having good inbound strategy will improve a Hubspot user’s effectiveness using their software).
The reason why certifications will often carry more weight than bachelor degrees is because the platforms that issue them represent the vanguard of new digital marketing technologies. Google and Hubspot are platforms that are universally recognised and used, so gaining a certification from them means you understand how to use software used by companies worldwide.
Getting certifications before you even land your first job also shows your future employers you are keen to learn. As we mentioned before, companies often don’t expect you to have years of experience under your belt. Rather, attitude and drive are more important than anything else so doing courses and earning certifications is one of the best ways to demonstrate this.
5. Develop T-Shaped Skills
A lot of people worry about specialising in a specific type of marketing straight away. However, while traditionally marketing efforts might have been siloed (meaning every department working independently), digital marketing requires a blend of skills - making specialising no longer the best way to do things.
This is where t-shaped skills come into play.
Someone with T-Shaped skills, as described as Tim Brown from IDEO, is someone who has broad knowledge in a wide range of disciplines (symbolised by the top cross of the T), but also a deep understanding of a specific skill. For example a digital marketer might have a deep understanding of PPC advertising but they should also have a broad understanding of how content marketing, SEO and social media works.
One reason is that digital marketing fields all rely on each other. For example, a person who wants to specialise in SEO must understand how content marketing work, and vice versa. Content marketing is deeply rooted in social media. You can’t also do social media without understanding how advertising works. Every area of specialisation is interconnected - ignoring one field is limiting your field of vision.
This integrated nature also applies on a macro level. More and more companies are shifting towards a collaborative and integrated environment. That means digital marketers will work more closely with other professionals such as UX/UI designers, web developers, project managers, and more. To make the most out of these collaborations, team members will need to be adaptive and flexible, capable of talking the talk everyone they work with. This ensures everyone can work towards a common goal together.
6. Understand digital marketing ROI
For a while, digital marketing ROI was shrouded in fog and uncertainty (and it still sometimes is). That’s why initially many people regarded digital marketing as a passing fad - a scam that promised so much but just robbed people of their money.
While now there is irrefutable evidence digital marketing does produce excellent results, tracking the returns isn’t always straight forward, although now there are countless tools out there that will help you.
While every company and the campaigns they are unique, you need to have a working understanding of how you’re going to demonstrate digital marketing ROI as this directly correlates to how much value you’re going to bring to the company.
Some of the key things you’ll need to know are for example, how tracking pixels, custom URLs and analytics work together to show results. You should understand you need to maximise your content marketing reach through strategic distribution and influencer outreach. Knowing which analytics tools to use (particularly free ones), such as Google Analytics, Hotjar and Sumome, also equips with the knowledge you can go straight into an organisation and start tracking your impact.
7. Have working coding knowledge
Digital marketers work closely with websites all the time, from sending traffic to landing pages to optimising websites to convert visitors better. Having an understanding of how coding works will vastly increase your ability to work independently without having to rely on an external development team to do you favours.
Adding scripts to your website, using tag managers and even configuring forms are all important parts of what a digital marketer does. You’ll also often be tasked to work with other web developers. These processes are all made easier if you are able to read and at least write a little bit of code and understand general coding structure and logic.
As the profession becomes more competitive, having competent web development skills will be what sets digital marketers apart from one another.
These are 7 things you should do to help you score your first digital marketing job. Because there is so much demand, there will be a lot of opportunities out there - just make sure you take them as they come. And as long as you keep learning and developing yourself, the trickle of opportunities will soon become a stream of jobs and offers.
Written by: Josh Li
Digital Marketer at Institute of Code