How to Advance in Your Digital Marketing Career

By Paul Flaharty on May 25, 2022 at 11:15am

By Paul Flaharty, Executive Director, Marketing and Creative Practice Group, Robert Half

The world of digital marketing never stands still. Cutting-edge tools and niche specializations emerge all the time, helping brands reel in customers and reach new audiences.

For digital marketers, every new development represents a learning opportunity. But while it’s exciting to be in such a dynamic profession, the sheer range of upskilling options can be daunting. Should you sharpen your writing skills? Or would a search engine optimization (SEO) certification give your resume the pizzazz it needs? Should you leverage new blog platforms or abandon text altogether in favor of video? Is automation the future? If so, how can you be a part of it?

To help you navigate these and other dilemmas, here are some insights into the skills and qualifications digital marketing leaders are looking for, broken down by specialization.

Email marketing careers

Despite all the innovations in social media, automation and advertising technology (aka adtech), email remains one of the cornerstones of digital marketing. Companies look for empathetic email marketing specialists who can put themselves in their subscribers’ minds and craft personalized and compelling campaigns.

The most sought-after candidates for email marketing roles think as profoundly about numbers as they do about words, tracking key performance indicators to better understand the successes and shortcomings of their campaigns.

3 tips for an email marketing career:

  • Brush up your HTML — “Experience in HTML a plus” is a common bullet point on job postings. With a few hours of instruction and regular practice, you can create appealing, customized templates optimized to evade spam filters and work across mobile and desktop devices.
     
  • Learn about SMS marketing — SMS has much higher open rates than email, so many marketers run SMS campaigns alongside email. Even if you don’t want to become an SMS marketing expert, it’s vital to understand how it works.
     
  • Obtain a certification HubSpot Academy and Simplilearn offer popular online bootcamps for rookie and advanced email marketers, respectively.

Social media careers

To thrive as a social media specialist, you’ll need to develop certain soft skills. Marketing leaders seek people with a collaborative mindset who can work with everyone from software engineers to celebrities.

Organizational and time management skills are another must since you’ll be responsible for calendar planning and content workflows. Are you flexible enough to coach on-camera talent in the morning and report to leadership on monthly metrics in the afternoon? Sufficiently agile to engage in real-time opportunities for raising brand awareness based on trending topics? If so, you’re well on your way to success in social media.

3 tips for a social media career:

  • Champion emerging channels — It’s not easy to impress a hiring manager by talking about Facebook and Instagram. But you’ll grab their attention if you can walk them through the potential of social audio apps like Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces or augmented reality platforms such as Octi.
     
  • Hone your project management skills — As the importance of social media grows, so does the likelihood you’ll be tasked with leading a cross-functional team. Look for opportunities to shadow or be mentored by a team leader in your organization.
     
  • Get comfortable with video — The average person now watches 100 minutes of video per day, and social media specialists need to know how to reach these viewers. Invest some time learning the ins and outs of platforms like Instagram Reels and video-making tools such as Adobe Spark, Canva and Animaker.

Are you looking to start a career in digital marketing? See this post on how to succeed at finding entry-level digital marketing jobs.

Marketing automation careers

If you’re not sure whether you’re a techie with a creative side or a creative with tech skills, marketing automation could be your spiritual home. Using one side of your brain, you’ll roll out campaigns via customer relationship management (CRM) software and use data analytics to measure their success. Using the other, you’ll come up with big, bold ideas for engaging your audience.

To develop your career in marketing automation, stay abreast of the latest technology and look for opportunities to work on unique campaign ideas where risk-taking is encouraged.

3 tips for a marketing automation career:

  • Become a T-shaped marketer — In other words, someone with deep expertise in their core domain and more general knowledge of several other areas. For example, in addition to mastering the tools of your trade (email and automation software), you could acquaint yourself with e-commerce platforms, tag-management solutions and lead-generation tools.
     
  • Take a marketing automation course — These range from free classes on topics like segmentation and lead management to advanced certifications for platforms like Salesforce Pardot and IBM Marketing Cloud.
     
  • Learn to prioritize — Marketing automation professionals sometimes find themselves correcting typos in email copy when they should be working on higher-value tasks. If that’s you, use project management tools or ask for guidance from people you trust to become more of a strategist and less of a firefighter.

What are some of the hottest hiring areas in marketing this year? Check out this infographic to find out.

SEO careers

How do organizations stay ahead of search trends and Google’s algorithm updates? Hiring SEO managers is one way, of course, but leaders are also looking for copywriters, content strategists and other digital marketers who can craft the perfect meta description and conduct their own keyword research.

SEO specialists need to go much deeper, leveraging microdata markups, keyword clustering and other advanced strategies to help company websites feature prominently in search results.

3 tips for an SEO career:

  • Go to SEO school — As well as its popular SEO platform, Semrush offers free online courses and certification exams on several SEO topics. While Google doesn’t provide SEO certifications, courses like Advanced Google Analytics can help you understand how the search giant collects and processes data.
     
  • Identify your skills gaps — SEO specialists come from a range of backgrounds, including computer science, editorial and general marketing. As you grow into the role, you’ll need knowledge in all those areas, so keep an open mind and learn from experts with different backgrounds.
     
  • Become a bridge builder — As an SEO professional, you’ll need buy-in for your strategies from sales, administration, marketing and other divisions across the business. Developing soft skills like collaboration and active listening will help you persuade colleagues that great SEO is in their best interest, too.

This is just a sampling of the trends and tools making waves in the digital marketing world. For more insights into the skills digital marketing leaders are looking for — and what they’re prepared to pay for them — take a look at the Robert Half Salary Guide.

Follow Paul Flaharty on LinkedIn.

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