“They rejected me because I don’t have any experience but how am I supposed to get any experience if they won’t give me any?”
The age-old saying that most people are familiar with. It’s a phrase that is often exasperated by friends or family whose job application has been rejected for lack of industry experience. When all the doors that you have been trying to get your foot in either get slammed in your face or don’t even open, it can seem more like a towering brick wall.
It’s no different when trying to get a job in digital marketing due to the commercial awareness and specialised skills required. However, in today’s competitive career climate it’s time to get creative. I was once told in a previous role that opportunities are rarely given to people in junior positions. Instead, to get ahead, you have to grab them whenever they come by or make them yourself.
We spoke to Chloe Fair and Pete Jovetic at Impression, who were responsible for the recruitment of Impression’s 2018 Graduate Programme, to discover what type of experience they looked for in the applicants. This is the first instalment of posts on how to get into digital marketing, with our second article focusing on the skills searched for in applicants.
It’s not just about what you know…
Meeting people that work in digital marketing can open many doors to gaining experience in the field. There are various tech Meetup groups throughout the UK – 3,527 UK tech groups in 283 locations to be precise. By attending networking events like these you’re bound to meet people who will not only share similar interests to you but will also be able to tell you about any upcoming job roles or opportunities to gain experience.
Keep an eye on the full list of digital marketing Meetups in the UK if you want to get in the know. We’ve listed some of the most popular tech meetups in some of the digital suburbs of the UK for you to scope out.
- Nottingham: Tech Nottingham, Women in Tech and Drink :// Digital
- Bristol: TechSPARK, Women’s Tech Hub and Tech4Good
- Leeds: Code & Coffee, WordPress Leeds and CodeUp Leeds
A common way for students to meet others with similar interests and bulk out their CV is to join a sports club or society. However, Chloe told us, “you can tell if a student has only been going to the socials for a society as opposed to having an active role.” As the Senior Account Executive responsible for recruiting graduates, she recommends being “actively involved in a club’s social media and digital marketing to show that you are doing something relevant to your career aspirations.”
Offer to manage a business’ social media profiles
Say you currently work at your local leisure centre, coffee shop or a retailer on the high street. Maybe you have a family member or friend who runs or is setting up their own business. Why not volunteer to take control or start up the social channels or blog for them? Whether it be regularly updating their news feeds or writing up a monthly blog for their website or newsletter, doing this will show prospective employers your proactive nature. “Any work experience is a good sign,” Chloe told us. “Even if it’s not highly relevant, it’s a better sign than them not working.”
If you don’t have access to small businesses like this, volunteering at a local charity with their marketing efforts is also a great option too. Prospective employers will give you extra points for CSR awareness. To make this ongoing project worth your while, get as much experience using tools such as Hootsuite, MailChimp and WordPress as your future company will most likely use some (if not, all) of them on a regular basis.
Make your own experience
“You can make your own experience from what you have at home,” Pete, Head of SEO, told us. If you’re struggling to gain a way into organisations for experience, remember that there are countless resources available online to learn how to create your own business, website or blog. Whether it is a dummy website, a fully fledged blog or small business, giving yourself exposure to any type of CMS (Content Management System) is ideal. “Self-made is just as good as having typical experience because it shows initiative to do these things off your own back and outside of your regular 9-5 or studies.”
Internships and Work Experience
Not only are internships and placements valuable gems to your CV, but they also give you an insight into what types of roles you do and don’t like. This is so useful to avoid jumping headfirst into a new job that wasn’t what you expected it to be.
Impression provides part-time work for their graduates who will be starting the Graduate Programme in the summer, so they can adjust to the work at one day a week to avoid being overwhelmed when starting full time. For that reason, a great way to gain industry experience is to arrange one-off or part-time work experience with a local agency and get your foot in the door. If there isn’t a digital marketing agency within a commute distance of you, consider reaching out to PR, advertising or any communications-related agencies to gain relevant experience.
The reason we’re placing an emphasis on locality is that it shows your prospective employers that you lack brand bias. Showing that you are able to apply your skills to smaller name companies will show your prospective employers that you are genuinely more interested in digital marketing as a practice – which is a desirable trait for agencies – rather than just wanting to work for big name brands.
Impression launched the Digital Marketing Agency with the University of Nottingham last year as an initiative that aims to help students understand the careers available in digital marketing, what opportunities are in Nottingham, and what it’s like working in the industry. Many business schools and career departments at universities offer similar initiatives, schemes and events that are worth getting involved in to show your attentiveness to gain experience.
For any Nottingham Trent University students that want to get into digital marketing, a great initiative to take part in is Grads4Nottm – a project for students to apply for paid two-week work experience ‘challenges’ with many involving digital and social media marketing. The catch is that students do not know what company they will be working for until the day. Likewise, the companies do not know which students will be working for them until their first day either.
“The Grads4Nottm scheme represents a fantastic platform for students to showcase, learn and adapt skills which will be hugely beneficial to prospective employers. The fast-paced, two-week challenges require participants to be adaptable and offer a great opportunity for them to forward creative ideas and to bring fresh impetus to a business.
Through the scheme, NTU students are able to gauge understanding and confidence in working within a business environment. Students can implement their digital marketing talent into an existing workplace and are able to learn how to practise within a working organisation.
Grads4Nottm allows talented students exposure to real-life business challenges, with a number of historical successes. In 2018, 91% of students said the range of transferable skills developed were excellent or very good, while 100% of employers said they would take part in the scheme again.”
Ryan Weston, Employability Business Development Team at Nottingham Trent University
Short term gigs or working for free in the form of internships has (understandably) a stigma attached to it. However, if you’re wondering how to get into digital marketing with no experience then it is a great way to pad out your CV with the experience that your prospective employers are looking for.
If you manage to secure experience like the suggestions above, you need to recognise that it’s not how long you were there that matters, it’s what you actually did and contributed to. Get involved in projects that interest you and recognise every opportunity as a chance to broaden your understanding of digital marketing.
Don’t forget to make a note of the type of work you have been doing and all the tools used – don’t be modest. This will make writing job applications and updating your CV and LinkedIn a lot easier. The same applies to any work you have done for small businesses and charities. Share links to everything you publish on your social media channels too. Not only will this help develop your personal brand but it makes it a lot easier for your prospective employers to find when they inevitably search for you online.
Ultimately, showing that you’re able to be independent is a worthwhile trait to demonstrate in your experience. “Even if it’s not related to digital, having experience in taking the lead in something shows initiative and that you’re able to quickly adapt and change,” Chloe concluded, “these are essential characteristics needed when working in digital marketing and an agency.”