Breaking into a Career in Digital Marketing: An Insider’s Guide

How to get started in digital marketing

When I first decided to make the move to Digital Marketing over two years ago, I remember Googling “How to get started in digital How to get started in digital marketingmarketing” After all, making a career change is a difficult decision, especially when you’re moving across the country to do so.

At the time, I found this Mashable article with tips for aspiring digital marketers which was my jumping off point, but I wasn’t able to find a more personal view of what it’s like to get started in a new career in digital marketing.

Fast forward to a few days ago, a friend at the non-profit which I’m a board member for, reached out to me to see if I’d be willing to provide some advice for someone he knows who is going to be graduating, and looking to get into the digital marketing world. Of course I obliged, because I love seeing people go after their dreams.

road to career successOnce I connected with the soon-to-be graduate, we had a few email exchanges and after reading my responses, I thought it was the perfect “How to get started in digital marketing” info that I’d looked for when I started and I wanted to share it with all of you.

Here’s an abridged summary of her emails to me:

“Hi Ashley:

Currently, I am interning in San Diego and I just applied for a marketing internship. Do you think this is the right track to continue on? What would you recommend someone do that does want to break into digital marketing with no prior background?”

“Pertaining to your past professional career, how did you know that digital marketing was what you wanted to do, being as you were working in account management at the time? I am unsure if digital marketing is my passion, but I feel like you mentioned that being efficient and effective in this field opens up many doors. Did you feel the same or was it a leap of faith?”

And my response:

“Hi there:

Love meeting people interested in the digital marketing space. I think it’s such a great place to be right now, and the job opportunities are endless.
No, not this type on internship. A good internship.

An internship is a great start. I was actually in project and account management for the first 5 years of my career, and I quit my job to take an internship at eBoost Consulting. It opened up a ton of doors for me, and was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

However, I will say that my background in account management has helped me become a better professional, all around. And, because digital marketing is a field where any mistake (somehow Chipotle comes to mind): an off color tweet, an email sent to the wrong list, etc., can can go very public quickly, having that client-facing experience has allowed me to be able to:

A. Reduce the number of times I make those mistakes
B. Have the judgement to know how (and if) to respond to criticism after it does happen.
So if you’re presented an opportunity to be in a client-facing role, I’d recommend taking advantage of it.

I’d also recommend building your personal brand. Start a blog, start tweeting, beef up your LinkedIn profile. I’ve been told by many hiring managers that one of the reasons they hired me was because of my blog. I blog about digital marketing, and I think it’s made up for my lack of previous experience, because I’m able to show my thought-leadership, as well as my writing skills (which are extremely important in digital marketing).

Not always.
Not always.

I definitely recommend keeping your twitter account super professional as it is basically an online portfolio for anyone interested in hiring you to run their social media accounts. It’s almost inevitable that a tweet you meant for your personal account will accidentally be tweeted from the business account you manage. Part of mitigating that risk, is showing that your personal account is professional.

While you want to stay professional, a personal Twitter account shows your tone. Companies tend to want people whose personal tone is close to the company tone.

How did I know I wanted to be in Digital Marketing? Well I knew I didn’t like Account Management or Project Management because I never really “owned” anything. I was kind of just the ring leader making sure everyone got their pieces of the marketing campaign together.

One day, while working as an Account Manager, my manager asked me to dig into a Social Media Monitoring tool he’d purchased, and I fell in love. It was fascinating how much insight and ideas about products you can find just by looking at what people are saying online. From there, I kind of discovered this whole “underground” world of digital marketing.

I like the instant gratification of digital marketing, I LOVE analytics, and I love marketing. Plus, I have a minor in Computer Information Systems, so I understand HTML and some of the more complicated pieces of digital marketing.

Are you left brained or right brained?
Are you left brained or right brained?

Think about where your skill set lies: Are you an analytical left-brainer or a creative right-brainer? SEO and analytics are a bit more technical than email marketing and social media marketing. But email marketing and social media require top-notch writing skills. Paid search is kind of a combo of analytics and marketing.

Personally, I’ve found that I don’t like working in just one part of of digital marketing. Now that I’m a digital marketing manager, responsible for SEO, Email Marketing, Paid Search and Social Media, I’m in a position that allows me to manage digital marketing more holistically to that I can create more inspiring campaigns.

I hope all of this help, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any other questions.”

There you have it, I hope you find this information as valuable as she did. Have you been through a career transition yourself? If so, what would you add?

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