Looking to put your tech savvy into action and break into marketing? Fortunately, it’s a good time to find an entry-level digital marketing job.
In a survey of more than 400 advertising and marketing managers in the U.S. by The Creative Group (TCG), 45% said their team is understaffed in digital areas, and 75% said it’s difficult to find and retain professionals with up-to-date digital skills. To better recruit for much-needed talent, many companies are even offering on-the-job training to fill in any skills gaps job seekers may have.
“There’s high demand from clients for digital marketing candidates, including entry-level,” says Elizabeth Ledbetter, vice president and metro market manager for TCG in St. Louis, Mo.
I spoke to Ledbetter about the best ways to land an entry-level digital marketing job, what examples of past work can best help you in your search, common mistakes candidates make when applying for digital marketing jobs and more.
Clea Badion: If you’re just graduating or making a career transition, what is the best way to get an entry-level digital marketing job?
Elizabeth Ledbetter: Get an internship. It’s a great way to get that real-world experience you’ll need. Also, you need to network. You might visit your American Marketing Association chapter, local ad clubs or digital marketing meetups. I’d also suggest working with a staffing firm when you’re trying to break into digital marketing. This gives you a chance to try out different companies — and they can try you out, too. You’ll also likely meet managers who could hire you for a full-time job or offer a recommendation when you apply for other jobs.
What should a candidate highlight in a resume or cover letter when they don’t have the exact skills for the job? Are there skills, degrees or certifications they must traditionally have to get a digital marketing job?
It helps to have a college degree or a certification. Many local colleges have certification programs that can help you round out your skill set if you don’t have the hands-on experience you need. You can also highlight your school projects in your application materials. Digital marketing candidates need to showcase studies to demonstrate that their campaigns were successful, even those from a school environment or volunteer project.
If you’re not in school or a recent grad, leverage your personal network. Maybe you have a friend who owns their own business and you can offer your services for free. Reach out to people in your network or local small businesses. To get an entry-level digital marketing job, you need data to show hiring managers what your work achieved. For example, maybe you created a successful Facebook campaign for a small business. You need to be able to talk about campaigns like these to hiring managers.
Is there strong demand for entry-level digital marketing job candidates?
Yes. Most candidates TCG works with seem to find jobs very quickly. That said, if you’re expecting a job to come to you, you’ll be waiting a while. If you’re proactive and are networking or using a staffing firm, your chance of placement is much higher than if you’re passive about your job search.
Companies are seeking candidates with experience in social media campaigns, organic search and search engine optimization (SEO) who also have a well-rounded education.
What are the most common entry-level digital marketing jobs and job titles?
It’s not so much about a specific job title as it is about making sure you’re open to learning. You’re not likely to be the digital marketing manager in your first job. Be open to learning everything you can on the job. Clients will train and develop entry-level candidates if they’re adaptable, flexible and open-minded.
Do candidates need a portfolio for digital jobs at this level?
Yes, but instead of a portfolio you need to show successful case studies of your work, demonstrating the problem, solution and return on investment. Most students or candidates who have had internships will have these kinds of examples of their work. Even if you worked on a team, you can discuss what you contributed individually. You don’t need to have a website: You can show your case studies in a leave-behind PDF or an attachment to your resume. You just need to have some examples to present.
What’s the biggest mistake candidates make when applying for entry-level digital marketing jobs?
They ignore their own digital footprint. It’s important to be mindful of what you’re putting out there, including who you follow and what you like. Make sure your social media presence is representative of what you want employers to see. If you have a questionable post or image on Facebook, for example, employers might wonder about your judgement.
Another mistake I see entry-level candidates make is during interviews. A candidate might be asked, “What’s your favorite social media outlet or company?” and they’ll say they don’t know. It’s important to know what’s current and cutting edge in your discipline. Companies are looking for candidates who are curious and know what’s on-trend because the field changes so fast.
Also, watch out for typos and misspellings in your social campaigns, case studies and application materials. Attention to detail is very important when applying for entry-level digital marketing jobs.
Any other advice you can give people looking for their first job in the digital marketing field?
You need to be proactive. You should be able to use the same skills you’d use to market a brand to market yourself.