How to Get a Job in Digital Marketing in 4 Steps

Getting hired in Digital Marketing should be easy. There are more open job postings than qualified candidates. With more demand for skills than supply, the market is ripe for anyone looking to get a job as a digital marketer.

And yet I meet hundreds of people a year who find breaking into digital marketing to be a seemingly insurmountable task.

Where is the disconnect? Here is my advice on how to get a job in digital marketing.

The first problem I come across is confidence

Digital Marketing is so new and mystifying that most candidates are not confident in their knowledge levels and skills. Fortunately for these people, at least those who are able to take my classes in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I have created a program that builds up your confidence as a digital marketer through war stories, case studies and hands on learning.

For those of you who are not able to take these courses, I can tell you one piece of advice that I tell everyone in class:

“The people who are hiring you are just as scared about their lack of knowledge in digital marketing as you are. Digital marketing is new, and new things are scary. Concentrate on how you can make things less scary for both parties, and you will get hired.”

That is the reality all digital marketers face, whether employed or not. No single person can know everything about digital marketing, and things are changing so quickly that you would burn yourself out trying.

If you want to land a job in Digital Marketing, focus on where you have complimentary skills that will fill in the gaps of the organization.

digital destiny quiz

The #1 skill you need as a digital marketer?

It’s funny how much we emphasize platform or tool specific skills on our resumes, and how quickly that knowledge can become out of date.

Why is it funny? Because it’s not the most important skill to being a great digital marketer. Not even close.

The #1 skill you need as a digital marketer is the same skill you need to be a great analog marketer. It’s the same skill you need to be a great salesperson.

What is the skill?

The ability to get someone else interested in your product or service.

That is all you need to be a successful marketer. It doesn’t matter if you generate interest during a face to face meeting or by broadcasting to millions on your website. Everything comes down to your ability to find a market for the product or service you are selling.

Marketing is finding a market. Everything else is just noise.

The second problem marketing job seekers face is a lack of visibility

Your resume (or LinkedIn profile) is how you present yourself to the business world. Yet most resumes are written as a love letter to ourselves.

“Here is why I am great!”

While writing our accomplishments may help with the confidence problem I mentioned above, it may be a turn off to potential employers. Hiring managers are most interested in how your skills will benefit them.

I touched on this in an article I wrote last week for PPC Hero. The article focused on the steps you need to land a job in PPC, but can be applied to any job in digital marketing. Or any job.

The first step we need to do is cut through the noise and become visible to employers. Here are the 3 steps you need to consider to get noticed:

  • Step 1: Be Findable
  • Step 2: Be Empathetic
  • Step 3: Be Irresistible

These steps are actually quite simple.

Being findable means using the right words in your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Being empathetic means not wasting the time of the hiring manager, instead focusing on saving them time.

Being irresistible – well that is all about positioning yourself as the missing link to the success of your future employer (in a tactful way of course).

The third problem comes during the interview process

Let’s say that you are confident enough to write a great resume, and your great resume has landed you an interview. Now is when things start to feel real. You need to talk to a real person on the phone for the first time and it sounds scary. If all goes well you will meet them in person, and that’s when things really heat up!

How do you ensure your success during this process? Start with some research and add a little more empathy to the fold.

What type of company is interviewing you?

  • Are they an agency providing services to another company?
  • A small business looking for you to wear many hats?
  • A large company that wants you to be part of their team?

Most digital marketing job opportunities will fall into one of these buckets.

Each of these businesses has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the employee experience, and you should be aware of them before you even get started.

Small business marketers

A small business will need to be accountable for every dollar they spend on marketing, including your salary. You will constantly be resource strapped. But you can make a huge impact with these companies and have a tremendous sense of satisfaction. If you want to feel a sense of accomplishment, this is an ideal place to be.

Want to work here? Then emphasize how you thrive in this situation.

Agency marketers

An agency is chaos. Intense days, long hours, unreasonable expectations and more. But you also receive an amazing amount of exposure to ideas. Working on multiple accounts provides multiple perspectives. It’s like dating several companies at the same time.

Want to get exposure to hundreds of ideas at a time and never be bored? Then this is the place you want to be.  Emphasize how you thrive in this situation and you will go far.

Large business marketers

At a large business, you often spend more time coordinating schedules than getting your hands dirty working on tactical digital marketing. It is far less hands on, with agencies often taking responsibility for the tactical execution of your plans. If you fancy yourself a chess player, working in a large organization provides many strategic opportunities.

Want to keep a large company profitable? Want to work with others and develop comprehensive marketing campaigns? Emphasize how you understand the big picture of marketing and play well with others.

You can also try being a freelance marketer, which requires a similar set of “job” hunting skills, but doesn’t qualify as a job in the traditional sense.

The fourth problem comes from a lack of passion for marketing

As an educator, I often come across marketers who are in love with the idea of marketing, but don’t show the passion for marketing. More specifically, they do not get excited about the idea of getting people interested in their products or services. Remember, this was our #1 rule for being a good marketer.

To this lack of passion I have two reactions:

  1. You are selling the wrong products or services
  2. You are not cut out for a career in marketing and you should find another career altogether

That second point may be controversial. Heck, it may be career suicide for me as an adjunct professor in digital marketing. But it’s something that needs to be said.

If you aren’t 100% pumped up to go to work every day as a marketer, then you are in the wrong job.

I know this from experience, having gone through cycles of showing passion for a product and then periods of extreme doubt. This happened to me while marketing agency services, software as a service, business to business and information products. Heck, it has even happened to me with websites marketing bodyguard services, HBCU’s and salt water chlorinators.

In each case I started out gung-ho trying to grow businesses that focused on a particular niche looking for a particular client. I would eat, sleep and breathe these products and services, and every conversation I had would come back to this topic at some point or another. Passion first, marketing second was how I spent the first 10 years of my career, to great notoriety and financial results.

But with each experience something eventually changed that I couldn’t overcome with passion alone. That was when I knew that it was time to move on to a new product or service.

This doubt happens with every great marketer, and that is when we know it is time to shift roles, change jobs or start a new business.

But what if you have a career in marketing but have never felt this passion?

Then you are in the wrong career.

No matter what advice I give you, or how many classes you take. If you don’t get excited at the prospect of creating interest in products or services, then you should look for a career outside of marketing.

If you do get excited, but just don’t know where to focus? The opportunities are limitless. Go back to problem #3 above and decide on which type of opportunity you like the most.

Next, find a list of target companies in your area that meet your criteria and build relationships. Soon you will be in the right place at the right time.

We need more great marketers

Big-Pie-Small-Pie

I am a bigger-pie thinker. The more great marketers we have in the world, the higher the GDP will be.

More importantly, if you read this far I want to reinforce that you can land any job that you want in digital marketing if you take this advice to heart. There is a tremendous need for great marketers, and making these adjustments will position you for success.

digital destiny quiz

Time to make it happen!

About the Author

Jeff Sauer is an independent Digital Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Teacher based out of a suitcase somewhere in the world. Formerly of Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA.

  • Peter Jarvis

    I keep reading everywhere that there is a massive shortage of digital marketing skills (i’m in the UK) but i am failing to see this in reality. I can search for seo, ppc etc jobs and they are very few and far between. Furthermore, those jobs that are advertised ask for a ridiculous amount of varying skills and experience i wonder how they actually fill the positions.

    I am trying to break into the industry and am reading as much as i can whilst also considering taking some courses to help consolidate my knowledge, but i wonder if i will make it. The other problem i have started noticing within the industry is that it appears to be very ageist, and being the wrong side of 40 now i also think i might be wasting my time.

    • Hi Peter. First of all, I wanted to say that this is all fair commentary. While I don’t know your market and the number of jobs, if you expand beyond pure PPC/SEO and look at digital marketing, I have found an abundance of job postings. I also agree that the job postings list a set of requirements that very few candidates have.

      I am not sure if you read my companion posts at PPC Hero, but there are techniques you can use to get noticed. If you are short on experience/employment history, then it’s all about getting experience (possibly for free) and also bonding with hiring managers to let them know what you can offer.

      The problem is that if you don’t have any experience you might not even make it through the first resume scan.

      As for ageism, I can’t specifically comment on that either. But I know that candidates at any position must legally be considered based on merits and ageism is against the law.

      More often than not, a candidate is eliminated from a resume because of insufficient experience. Ageism may play into you not being able to get the entry level job to earn experience. I can’t know for sure.

      What I can tell you is that often older candidates have much higher salary expectations for the same entry level position others have. Also, often older or “established” candidates won’t be willing to compromise or work for less money to gain experience.

      I don’t view that as ageism. The employer must weigh the value that they get for the hire, and when all things are considered, the less expensive candidate will usually win out when experience is the same.

      As always, I maintain that anyone looking to break into this industry should focus on experience first and money second. You may have to work for free now to get money later. Fortunately I was 23 years old when I worked for free, but it took 1-2 years before I could make any real money in marketing. Many established candidates feel they don’t have 1-2 years to spend gaining experience.

      I don’t view this as the problem of the employer, because it is not their responsibility in the end.

      This likely goes beyond your comment and situation, but I have had hundreds of students over 40 and I can tell you that many of them end up with fulfilling career changes in this industry. But it’s not usually a fast moving occurrence.

  • Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for posting this because it hits home to me. Last year I spent 362 days between having a SEO internship and full-time employment as a SEO Analyst. I felt like I was doing the right thing with my applications and interviews but nothing stuck until the last one with my current employer, Focus on the Family. Since coming on with them, I’ve done nothing but learn, learn, learn and learn some more of the digital marketing craft.

  • Great post!

    For those who are committed and passionate about the industry, digital marketing is a career with excellent long-term prospects. Whether you’re passionate about strategy, search, social media, or another area of digital marketing, there are many things you can do to prove your worthiness to prospective employers.

    You just have to start today and keep it going every day! With all due respect, i’d like to take the opportunity to mention our Job Board; http://digitalagencynetwork.com/jobs/ which is 100% dedicated to digital agency professionals. It might help the candidates who are looking for a job in digital agencies.

  • Colton Oliver

    As an aspiring entrepreneur who has a natural interest in digital marketing, I want to gain some insight in the industry but am not really sure where to start. What are some positions I can seek after? Or are there internships for people with no experience or background in the field?

    • There are often companies giving internships for people getting started. You should look in your local market to see what is out there. College job boards, social media posts, etc. If nothing local, try looking for an apprenticeship or remote position from an entrepreneur. That might be helpful.