Digital marketing is a popular career choice for ambitious, bright people who want to work in an exciting and ever-changing industry. The rewards for those that are successful include great remuneration, opportunities to become known in the industry, getting to work with and for exciting companies and making a measurable difference to those organisations that they work for and with. For some building their career can also mean the opportunity for travel and remote working. Being a well rewarded, exciting career also means that it isn’t easy to break into and also to make those all important early steps to build a career in digital marketing.
Building a career in digital marketing
The first thing to remember is that as a knowledge-based industry, digital marketing can operate wherever the knowledge can be connected. This means that you are not just competing for the best roles with the people in your town, city or even country, but the pool of talent that businesses can choose from is international. You need to be good and present yourself in the best way. This blog should give you some solid advice on how to get a job, or if you are already in the industry, a better job in digital marketing.
Make sure your CV is quality & mistake free
It is still surprising to me how many people don’t seem to put much effort into their CV. It is the only thing that gets you through the door for an interview. If you don’t care enough to ensure there are no spelling errors on your CV and that it is properly formatted then I don’t care to interview you. There is real logic to this. If you don’t care about yourself and landing a great job in digital marketing enough to do these small things then employers know that you are not going to care about their business, their clients and being a great member of their team. Once you have eliminated all of the spelling and grammatical errors then make sure your use of fonts and layout makes the document look attractive. You are applying for a marketing job after all!
Make your CV real & interesting – add evidence
“Socialising with friends” is not a hobby, so don’t bother saying it. Include information in your CV because it is useful to the person reading it, not to pad it out. Don’t make stuff up either, you’ll get found out. The best CVs have the following:
• What you have learnt
• What you have achieved
• What kind of a person you are
• Evidence to support the above
The importance of evidence
If you can provide evidence of what you have achieved then this will help get the attention of digital marketing recruiters. The reason for this is that digital marketing is about proving a return on investment (ROI) and using data to support that what you have done works. If a candidate comes along and shows in their CV that they understand the importance of evidencing what they have achieved, then the business knows that they will be strong at using evidence and data to prove their digital marketing works.
The importance of the type of person
Digital marketing is a team endeavour; it relies on people working together. When looking to recruit into a digital marketing team either agency or client side the employer is going to be conscious of the team they are looking to build. The best teams are built on diversity; you don’t want everybody being the same as that stifles innovation and is less productive. You need doers just as much as you need ideas people. Same with followers and leaders.
Help the recruiter by letting them know what type of person you are and how you work best. It will help you as you are more likely to get the type of role that suits you. The phrase “I work equally as well in teams as I do on my own” means nothing and is so over used in CV’s. Don’t use it, explain who you are and how you work best.
Applying for digital marketing roles
Client Side or Agency Side?
Do you want to work client side or agency side? They both have positive and negatives, but you need to think about your preferences and your career. If you have worked only client side early in your career you might want to go to agency side for at least a few years, even if you go back to client side later. The experience you will get is invaluable. Same the other way – just working for agencies won’t give you the whole picture of digital marketing. Agency side is often seen as more glamorous. It is certainly more varied, but can also be more demanding of your time and energy – but be careful of generalisations! What you do get with agency side work is that you will typically work on multiple clients and if you get things right, multiple sectors, but it is worth considering the agency size in terms of your career goals.
Big agency or small agency?
Big agencies are names that you know, working with brands that your friends will recognise when you chat down the pub, often based in posh offices in the centre of cities. So surely it’s a no brainer to go and work for a big digital marketing agency right? Not if you want diversity of both clients and tasks. You go into an organisation with 100 people and you may only ever work on one or two of their clients and you are likely to be doing the same sort of thing over and over. This is simply because the tasks pie (to use an analogy) gets sliced very thinly for each of the 100 people in that organisation. Then think about an agency with 10 people; each of the task slices is 10x bigger.
More diversity of your work = more opportunity to develop your own skills and talent.
Small agencies are also more likely to need you to work across lots of clients because if you are the PPC / SEO / inbound or whatever expert in the agency you will need to deliver this to all of their clients. The benefit in your career of working across more clients is that each one will be different in their digital marketing needs and the way they operate. This will fuel your learning and develop your skills in both what you are doing and how to work with many different people and business goals. While having to ‘muck in’ and do things outside your normal remit in a small agency, on-the-whole smaller and mid-sized agencies give their staff better opportunities to have a varied work set and learn at a faster rate. This is why you often find that people who were tempted to leave a small agency for the bright lights and bigger wages of a big agency end up coming back to smaller agencies for personal fulfilment (and they realise that they can earn the same without having to invest in the travel time and costs).
Not all small agencies are the same
A word of warning, not all small agencies are the same. How long has the agency been this size? Is the agency small because it wants to be small or because it can’t grow? It might be that the agency isn’t being run well and therefore it is not breaking through into the next level. Is the agency reliant on one or two big clients? In which case it has a lot of business risk (if one leaves the agency could fail) and you won’t get that lovely diversity of clients.
Ideally you should be looking for a digital marketing agency that is growing at a sensible rate with a broad spread of clients. Agencies that are growing too fast often don’t scale their processes and structures quickly enough and then have a sudden shock that results in them downsizing even more rapidly – you don’t want to land what you think is your dream job to only find six months down the line you are made redundant through no fault of your own.
Equally agencies that aren’t growing might have stagnated because the owners/leaders have got really comfortable and no longer have the drive and passion to move the business forward. While this might seem like a safe bet for a long-term job it might be reflective of their attitude to innovation, change and training people and that the ‘status quo’ is their preferred option. Your career isn’t going to flourish here and you are unlikely to have internal career progression opportunities in a company that isn’t creating roles within the business by growing.
Judge the Company’s Attitude to Staff
Regardless of business size and whether they are client side or agency, you want to join a business that values its staff. You should make a judgement on this throughout the application process. Ask yourself – ‘Are they going to WANT to make me happy?’
There are websites like Glassdoor that you can read reviews from employees, however note that these are often biased towards negative reviews as employees that were fired or never really got on there, blame their failure on the business. You need to take a balanced view and multiple judgement points. If you can speak to one or more people who work at a company that is great. Connect with someone on LinkedIn at a similar level to the role you are applying for and say that you are thinking about applying and wondered what they think of the company. You’ll be surprised how helpful most people will be – and you never know they might be able to influence the person who is making the hiring decisions!
Training as a Measure of Staff Value
Another way to judge a company’s attitude to staff is what they invest in training them. This is a good measure as training costs companies both time and money, and they are expecting to get a return on this over the long-run. Companies that put an emphasis on staff training are looking to build the human capital within the business and want people to be the best they can. This is the type of company you want to be working for to build your digital marketing career. If they are going to invest in your training and development they will value you as an individual, not simply as a replaceable cog in a machine.
There are awards such as Investors in People that are good indicators of companies’ commitment to training. This tends to be for bigger companies, so with smaller companies look at what training is mentioned on the job spec or ask in the interview what training is likely to be provided to the right candidate. For digital marketing roles being trained in industry recognised qualifications such as the Google Adwords and Google Analytics qualifications is great. At Innovation Visual we not only put people through these exams, but also as a Hubspot Partner all of our staff also take a range of their Inbound Marketing qualifications. Further training opportunities include the Google Squared course for those staff that want to keep developing their skills to the highest level.
Other employee perks
Other employee perks that show that an employer is serious about its staff can range from having your birthday off (like Innovation Visual do for its staff) through to gym membership like Opus Digital in London do for theirs. Not every business can afford the free canteens and draws full or chocolate like Google or six different types of beers on tap as you can get in the Hubspot offices in Dublin. However, it is worth asking what has been / will be provided. One of the best examples of employee perks I have seen was by the Intranet software company Unily that took all of its staff skiing to the Austrian alps.
You want to work at X – Now apply properly
Just seeing a job ad on LinkedIn and clicking ‘apply’ might be easy, but the recruiter knows this. If you can’t be bothered to add a personal covering letter or send a message directly to them you are not going to stand out from the crowd. Take your time to apply for the roles that you really want. Customise your CV, add a covering letter / email pointing out some relevant points in your CV that correlate with what they are looking for in the job description. Going back to the digital marketing labour market and being competitive for the best jobs – if you want to get ahead of the competition you need to put the effort in!
Be professional & be responsive
In all of your dealings with a recruiter be professional and be responsive. This is important as you are representing yourself and they will judge how well you might represent their business by your communications. Don't rush off a one line email on your phone in the pub without thinking through how that is going to be interpreted. Also, don’t be slow in your responses. Taking more than a day to respond to a message such as an invite for interview will make the recruiter think that you aren’t that bothered about working for them. If we haven’t heard back from someone within 36 hours of being offered an interview we withdraw that offer of the interview and remove them from the process permanently.
It is very easy to apply for lots of jobs via the online job boards and LinkedIn. They have made it like that for a reason. However, be careful about rubbing potential employers up the wrong way by applying for roles that you are clearly not suited for (read the requirements of the role!) or by not responding to any replies. You may decide that you don’t want to work for them now, but if you do in the future you may well find yourself qualified out of future opportunities by not being professional in previous dealings with the company.
Speculative Applications – They Work
Want to join a great growing digital marketing agency like Innovation Visual? Great. Send them your CV and a letter / email. That’s right, you don’t have to wait for a job vacancy to be advertised. If you find a company that you want to work for then let them know right away. If they are growing and value talent then your CV will get read and it is quite likely that you will at least get an interview and you may even get your dream digital marketing role.
I have personally created roles for people in businesses based entirely on them applying speculatively to join the business because of their CV and their can do attitude. In my mind, if someone has the initiative and desire to get in touch out of the blue looking for a job then they are the kind of people we want. Digital marketing is fast paced and forever changing which means we are used to skilling people up through training. The mantra that "you can train skills, but you can’t train attitude" does resonate and if you show a growing digital marketing agency that you have got the right attitude then they will often find a place for you and then give you the skills to deliver on that job.
If you want to get a (better) digital marketing job then you should be doing this right now because it also heads off the competition. You get to be interviewed and no-one else does – so no one better can come along and grab that dream job you want! It just takes effort and determination, and if you show it, you are ahead of the game already.
If you don’t prepare properly for an interview you don’t deserve the job. Full stop, no excuse, no ifs, buts or anything. Preparation is not looking at the website for 5 minutes on the way to the interview either. You need to properly understand the business you want to join. You need to know the following as a minimum:
• What are their main products or services?
• Who are they targeting with these products or services?
• Who are their biggest clients? Read the case studies they have on their website
• How are they marketing themselves? (remember you are applying for a digital marketing job!)
• Where are they based / headquartered / have locations?
• Who is the current boss?
• Who is the boss of the department you are applying to join? This might be the person interviewing you.
• How big are they? Turnover / employees etc
And the big one…
What questions are they likely going to ask me?
Now the interviewer knows you are not a mind reader, but will expect you to have answers to questions relating to your experience and your ability to undertake the tasks and responsibilities listed on the job description. Take some time to go through each of these and have an answer about what experience / proof of your abilities you have in each of these. It will pay off as then you won’t be fumbling for examples and instances when you… used Google Adwords / undertook an SEO audit of a website / had to train someone / created a great piece of content / worked well in a team / had your proudest moment / got the best stats for an email marketing campaign etc. etc..
This digital marketing role needs to work for you too
Part of your preparation should be to get a list of questions you want to ask about the job, the company, its future and the team you will be joining. You want to make sure that you are joining a winning team and one that will help you develop. These questions are important to you and also asking them will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are both serious about the role and that you are an intelligent thinker that can be an asset to their business.
Why preparation counts
Preparation shows. Don’t wing it as that is not what an employer is looking for. They don’t want someone who tries to scrape by with the minimum. They want the person that takes pride in everything they do, prepares fully to the brief, goes in armed with the answers and is the person who knows they can succeed. Do you know why? It's because that is what you need to be able to do day-in day-out in the highly competitive market of digital marketing.
Are you ready to get that dream digital marketing job?
If you have read this blog post all the way to the end you have invested time and shown that you are serious about getting a great job in digital marketing and building a successful digital career. A great job is the one that helps you be the best you can and rewards you for that. We think we are a pretty great place to build a digital marketing career, so why don’t you apply to work for Innovation Visual? Our current vacancies are posted on this page - https://www.innovationvisual.com/why-who-how/job-vacancies but remember what I wrote about speculative applications – if there isn’t exactly the right role for you on this page apply anyway. Send an email saying why you would make a great employee and what kind of role you want along with your CV to email@example.com.
What’s stopping you? You have nothing but a small amount of time to lose.