Not too long ago, I wrote an article for DigitalGrads on how I got started in digital marketing. It got me thinking about the things people can do in order to put themselves ahead of the competition.
I’m sure we’ve all seen that viral illustration on social media where there’s the endless cycle of ‘need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience’. The thing is, there are ways to get that necessary experience. It doesn’t have to be through unpaid internships that require weeks of interviews only to find out you didn’t get the position, I promise.
Here are some creative ways in which you can get your digital marketing career off the ground. I have personally had experience with all of them, so this isn’t a list of impossible ideas that I’ve picked off the top of my head.
I truly believe that if I hadn’t have done all of these things, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Some of these may work against your current commitments, so I don’t expect you to do them all at once. But I hope you will be able to do at least one or two of these.
1. Attend Networking Meetings
I’m starting with possibly the most intimidating idea, but if you feel confident enough to stand up in front of an audience or enjoy meeting new people, I fully recommend giving this a shot.
Most networking meetings will run very early in the morning and finish by 8:30 or 9am. The reason is so that the attendees can get to their respective offices in time for their usual start, as if it were any other day of the week.
A large proportion of the people who attend these networking meetings will be business owners and because they attend networking events, they will be well-connected. You never know, they could be the contact you need to get in with your dream company.
One contact I made at a networking event was a content writer, who I gained a lot of valuable help from. The best part was that because I made the effort to get to a networking event at 6:30am every Wednesday, she trusted me enough to send some paid work
my way. She noticed my work ethic and I was rewarded.
Just as a mental note here: Anything you do and anywhere you go are networking opportunities. Even DigitalGrads is a networking opportunity, as well as a learning experience.
2. Network on LinkedIn
If meeting people face-to-face is a little too daunting for you, there’s always LinkedIn. The useful thing about LinkedIn is that you can target very specific people.
For me, I’ve always wanted to work in an agency, so I targeted those working in the jobs I wanted to do and asking them for advice. I’d just express why I was contacting them (they’re in a career position that I’d like to progress towards) and present my question.
The important part to remember here is that you should only dedicate your time to those who are willing to help. If somebody doesn’t want to help you, just thank them for the response and move onto the next person.
My feeling on the matter is that if somebody wants to help, it’s no bother to them to take five-minutes out of their day to respond to you message. In fact, it’d take the same amount of time to answer a person’s question as it would be to say you’re too busy.
Think about targeting the owners of small, local agencies, as they have the hiring power and could be willing to see you for a chat.
Never forget the power of networking. It’ll be very helpful when you secure an interview as you’ll know what to say.
3. Ask to Shadow People
This is an interesting one that I never actually got to fully do, which I found frustrating. But I would be interested in hearing somebody’s story if they did manage to achieve this. My experience with this was that I’d attended a networking event in Worthing and made sure I was put in front of this woman who ran her own digital marketing agency. I set up a meeting so that I could “pick her brains” as I’d put it.
Unfortunately, I turned up to the meeting and she was at a marketing conference for the day. However, she had informed one of her colleagues, who was very apologetic and chatted with me for about an hour to answer my questions and provide some valuable resources. I attempted to call her again in order to set up some proper shadowing, but I didn’t get a response.
This may not have been the greatest success for me, but to be perfectly honest I just didn’t put a lot of effort into it. Perhaps if I’d enquired with a few other agencies, I would have been able to do some shadowing. Different tactics will produce different results for each person, so this is still worth trying.
4. Offer to Do Some Work for Free
Networking is a big part of progressing your career, but sometimes you’re doing it without even realising it. For me, I’ve been active in the Brighton music scene since 2011, which has helped me to pick up a few contacts over the years. One of my earliest starts in digital marketing was to use these valuable contacts as a means for building my portfolio.
I knew one guy who ran a TV production company based around music. He would film sessions with local artists and had also partnered with a local record store to create a monthly chart show. I had known him for about a year when I offered to handle his social media channels for free.
He accepted and we worked together to grow his presence. What this did for me was provide real-life evidence to future employers that I could do the job, as well as a very favourable and relevant reference.
After a while, this TV production company really started to pick up steam and they took over the production of two very well-respected International music events. This helped to give my work more credibility, and also gave him some budget to be able to pay me.
It wasn’t a lot, but I will always be grateful for his help and regularly remind him that he’s the reason why I managed to get a job in the industry.
Working for free does not devalue your services. It’s an investment of time and as your client takes off, so will your career.
5. Write Guest Articles Online
This is another way to build your portfolio, but the difference compared to working for your local contacts is that you are expanding your horizons and will be able to show a large volume of work, managing different briefs and working with various industries.
Also, if you manage to get an article published by a well-known brand such as Hubspot, who do accept guest articles, your credibility goes through the roof. I managed to get some articles published on a well-respected guitar website, which is an accomplishment I still take pride in.
Think about which industries you are most interested in, then type it into Google with ‘+ write for us’ afterwards. As an example, if you’re interested in writing about travel, just type ‘travel blog + write for us’ into Google. You’ll get plenty of results coming back!
As a further incentive to do this, you may be offered paid work if somebody notices you. It’s not a guarantee, but the more blogs you contribute to (don’t stick to just one), the easier it is to find people.
6. Be Friendly
This should go without saying, but I just wanted to put this in to really drill the message home. The people you believe to be the least valuable to your career are probably those you will need the most.
Anybody within your chosen industry should be considered a friend, rather than a competitor. I had a fellow content writer send me some paid work when she was too busy to do it!
Beyond simply being nice to people in the initial stages, always remain grateful towards those who have helped you and give credit where credit is due. There are so many people that have helped me get to where I am today, including those at DigitalGrads, and I will never forget it.
I try to remind people how much I appreciate their help back when I was struggling. You can argue that I don’t have to do that, but they didn’t have to help me when they did.
If you are friendly to those who have helped you, they will be willing to refer you for more work. Make them feel rewarded for their
My aim with this article is to help people get their start in what I believe is one of the most exciting industries in the world. I absolutely love my job and working in digital marketing was the best career move I could have made, so I hope this can help you to be able to make that move.
I want to know your stories and I would be more than happy to help if you have any questions, whether it be about the industry or something more technical. Just leave a comment below and I will get back to you. If you don’t wish to have your questions shown publicly, you can always find me on LinkedIn.