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How to Explore a Career in Digital Marketing

I received a call last week from a young man last week who was interested in online marketing and wanted to get some advice about how to get into the field. He didn’t go to school for marketing and didn’t currently have any industry experience, but thought digital interested him.

I believe you can get into digital marketing if you have a real interest in the subject paired with an aptitude for tech (you have to be comfortable with the Internet at the very least). In my case, I did a Bachelor of Arts in French and worked at random jobs from event planning to commercial real estate before I was even exposed to anything online related. However, there were many steps I took that prepared me for a role in digital marketing when the opportunity at Adster came along.

I’ve compiled those steps as well as some advice and resources for anyone who’s interested in getting into the field! Read on below.

Step 1: Figure Out If You Even Like Digital Marketing

First and foremost, I strongly believe you need to figure out if you’re even going to like the work. Online marketing was an industry so foreign to me as all my jobs had largely been offline. When I considered it as a possible career path, the only thing I knew was that I liked talking to people and that I had an above average understanding of the internet and computer-related stuff.

So how would you go about figuring out if you even like digital marketing?

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Do Some Research Online.

I recommend making a list of digital marketing paths you are interested in — like search engine optimization, social media, content marketing, web design, pay-per-click, project management etc. and learn enough to get a cursory understanding of the subject. A simple Google search will give you some information, but here are some resources below that you can start with:

Talk to People.

You can do a search on LinkedIn to find people in the city whose job titles interest you or who work for companies/agencies you’re interested in. Contact them through LinkedIn Mail or by email if their address is available on their company website and try to set up a short, 10-15 minute phone call. Prepare your questions in advance!

You can randomly call, as my caller did, but setting up phone appointments will give your digital marketing strategists some time to prepare their answers and some resources they might have for you. Don’t forget to ask for any advice they might have for you and your own journey!

Get Involved.

Edmonton has some great options for learning about digital topics in the community!

  • Join the Digital Edmonton Slack community (e-mail me and I’ll send you an invite!). There you can join in on discussions, get advice, and find out what meetups are going on.
  • Speaking of meetups, try and attend some! They are a great opportunity to network with people who do digital marketing or work on digital projects every day. I’ve been to a few and they were great! Here are some you could start with:

Step 2: Get Experience and/or Training

After doing some research and talking to some people, maybe you decide you’re interested in social media. One issue – you don’t actually use Facebook, Instagram or Twitter that often. How can you know if you’ll like it? Get some experience or training, of course!

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Getting experience can be as simple as volunteering to help manage the social accounts of the small nonprofit whose board you sit on, starting a mommy blog, or building a simple website for your sister’s side hustle using WordPress, Squarespace or Wix.

If you’re the online training type, you can get certified in Google products (Google Academy for Ads & Google Analytics Academy) which may give you an edge later on when applying for jobs. You may also consider taking a digital marketing Udemy course. I’ve never done any, but they may be great if you want to get some training part-time.

I recommend pursuing projects and training with a smaller time and money investment. That way, if it turns out you don’t actually like digital marketing, you can cut your losses regret-free and move on to something else while still getting useful experience and skills if you do decide to pursue it.

Step 3: Take the Next Step

So now you know you want to do this digital marketing thing. What’s next?

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Many people, when they are considering a career change, think they have to quit their jobs and go back to school for a year or two. I recommend you weigh the costs and benefits when deciding whether you want to get more comprehensive training like in-person boot camps or digital marketing programs from technical institutions and colleges. This may be the route for you or it might not be. I don’t know you and your situation.

When I thought about whether I wanted to go back to school or instead get some on the job training, I considered tuition fees and income loss during the school year vs taking an entry level position for a couple of years and working my way up. I had already tried my hand at building/designing a website, running Facebook ads, web content editing and researching SEO and PPC; so I chose the latter. I was very fortunate that Adster took me on and taught me everything about digital marketing from the ground up.

If you’re fortunate enough, you may work for a company that has a digital marketing team or wants to build one out. It can be a great option for those who want to explore the industry but don’t want the risk of leaving their jobs. Companies may even pay for you to get additional training!

One route I strongly considered was to work for a startup or a small business in a digital marketing capacity where I would be forced to be resourceful and learn on the go.

Of course, you’ll need to consider what your goals, objectives, and timeline are to piece together a plan that would work for you and your life.

Sidenote: Recognize Your Employability & Be Open to Opportunities

I just wanted to mention that although you may not have the ideal qualifications, more than likely you have some great transferable skills that would apply to a digital marketing role. Are you empathetic and like talking to people? You might make a great account manager. Like breaking down projects and timelines and keeping people on track? Try digital project management. Have a curious spirit and love problem solving with data? Pay-per-click or search engine optimization might be your thing! Ideally, you can pitch these skills to your current or potential employer who may be willing to take you on and invest some time and resources into your career development.

Lastly, take advantage of all the connections you make during your digital marketing career exploration. When you’re ready, don’t be afraid to reach out and let them know you’re looking for opportunities in the field. Something so simple as a good impression can keep you top of mind when opportunities come up and put you in the right situation at the right time. When my contract in event planning ended, an acquaintance from the marketing department of my organization asked me if I would be interested in taking a short gig as a web content editor. Truthfully, I didn’t know much about web content editing, but he reassured me that I was smart and would figure it out. When that gig ended, another staff member who I had worked alongside during my web content editing days approached me and asked if I would be interested in a digital marketing coordination role at the department where she was currently seconded. Both these experiences eventually gave me enough skills, experience, and confidence to apply for a job at Adster where my good friend just started a job (I asked if he would refer me!). I’m so appreciative of all those individuals who were willing to take a chance on me and give me the experience I needed to get where I wanted to go.

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I hope that gives all you digital marketing hopefuls some insight into our world and how you can go about exploring it and pursuing a career in it. Of course, post a comment below or drop me a line if you have any questions!