As a 22-year-old in the digital marketing world, I found it extremely difficult to find a job right out of college. In a world that’s changing every day, it’s difficult to keep up—yes, even for recent college grads. It’s even more difficult to keep up when you have little experience. When I looked at digital marketing jobs, I noticed I was underqualified, even for most entry-level jobs. Just having a degree in marketing with a focus on “digital” isn’t enough anymore. Today, many business schools think of marketing as sales, and don’t focus on digital as much as they should.
What’s the Problem?
Schools aren’t alone in thinking of marketing as just sales; many companies do as well. Most entry-level marketing jobs I applied for had “marketing” in their titles, but sales dominated the description. When I applied for these, I thought of it as a stepping stone. I would get some business experience, and in a year or two I would go back to the digital side of marketing. I didn’t realize at the time how bad of a strategy that was. All the changes in this area of business would drastically change over those two years, and it wouldn’t be worth my time to start from the bottom again.
There’s nothing wrong with a job in sales or any other area of marketing. I just knew I wanted to be on the digital side, so I needed to teach myself all that I could to set me apart from the older/more experienced competition. In my senior year of college, I took my first digital marketing class, which was also the only one the school offered. It was a great class and I learned a lot, but it was nowhere near enough. I asked the teacher about other classes I could take, and she suggested a writing-for-the-web class and a computer science class. These weren’t as valuable, but their main focus wasn’t digital marketing. These were the last classes in my digital marketing course load; nine credit hours out of the 30-plus marketing hours I took for my degree. Schools need to update their curriculum to account for this area of marketing and that may take a while, so I suggest trying to take classes that may be outside of the business school that could potentially help you learn more about digital marketing.
What’s the Solution?
I realized I needed more than a couple classes to talk about during the interviews for these digital marketing jobs. So I started looking for free courses and valuable content online, and I found there’s a lot out there:
- Lynda.com - This site probably contained the most valuable content, and it’s my personal favorite online tool for anyone looking to learn a new skill. Use the free 10-day trial to take the 4,000-plus courses they have to offer.
- Moz Junior SEO Training List - This is mainly for search engine optimization (SEO), but valuable to anyone looking for digital marketing experience. This list is pretty extreme, but if you’re able to complete it, you should have no problem finding an SEO position.
- The Beginner's Guide to SEO - Again another SEO checklist, but this also goes over website creation, social media, user experience and tools every digital marketer should know about.
- HubSpot Inbound Certification - This is a free certification for anyone looking to learn the essentials of inbound marketing. It covers almost every area of digital marketing, and the certification badge doesn’t look bad on your LinkedIn profile, either.
While these tools are extremely valuable and, if used correctly, should get anyone at least an interview, they’re no substitution for actual experience. Completing one of the checklists or taking an online course doesn’t provide everything you need to know on the subject, plus this area of marketing is changing all the time. All digital marketers need to constantly be reading and on the lookout for changes affecting the industry. Even though I’ve used all these tools, I’m still playing catchup and learning every day. Bookmark a few websites dedicated to education in your field, and read them every day. And when you finally get that job, take on as many tasks as you can. This is the best way to learn.
Everyone has different learning experiences in their first couple of positions out of college. What are some of the ways you educated yourself during those times?