On the train journey to my first interview at Bigfoot Digital I was frantically trying to decipher some of the crude notes I had jotted down the night before. There seemed to be an endless stream of acronyms to learn in order to pass as someone who knew what they were going on about.
The truth is, I didn’t have a clue what most of these terms meant. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) was something I had come across, but never fully understood. Yet I was applying for a job where that would be the core of my everyday work.
But, whilst I may have struggled with the jargon, I had the fundamental skill set to succeed in Digital Marketing – I just didn’t quite know it yet.
Once you get past the technical gobbledegook you realise that SEO is a process driven by creativity and logic. Generally understood to consist of two main areas, on-site and off-site, SEO is an amalgamation of creating engaging content, sifting through reams of data and analytics, understanding technical factors on-site, and constantly seeking out new opportunities to improve a website’s online presence. Simply put, your aim is to take a website and make it appear higher on a search engine’s results page.
I had studied Journalism at the University of Sheffield, and that degree had taught me how to research, write and present sharable content. But, Digital Marketing agencies aren’t just looking for graduates – they want creative individuals who can pick things up quickly, and who constantly interact with the digital world. Whether you’re an avid photographer, make videos for fun, play around with Photoshop, write a blog, or whatever it may be – you will pique the interest of your potential employers.
How to make yourself stand out
Regardless of whether you’re at University, College, or seeking employment in the digital sector from a completely different walk of life – you’ll need to stand out. Here are my six top tips to help your chances:
1. Start a blog (and keep it updated)
Write about something you are passionate about. The most popular categories are fashion, sports and music, but it could be about collecting stamps, so long as you are taking the initiative to write unique and well-researched content off your own back.
To go the extra mile you can start to market your blog. Use your social media accounts to grow your audience. Then you can use this as an example in an interview of how you’ve successfully marketed a website.
If you’re not fussed about having your own domain the following sites are brilliant (and free) websites to help you build your blog:
2. Build a website (Understand basic HTML)
Technical SEO is a huge part of Digital Marketing. If a website has certain errors in its coding it will hold back its rankings on the key search engines. Therefore, getting a basic understanding of HTML, or even building your own website, will stand you in good stead when you go to an interview.
If you want to learn more about technical SEO then check out Moz’s guide to on-page factors.
However, if you don’t want to tackle coding, but still want to build a website, then you can customize your WordPress site or use platforms such as Webs.com. It may be less technical but it still shows initiative.
3. Get to grips with Google Analytics
Google Analytics is one of the useful tools available for assessing a website’s performance, and if you go into Digital Marketing, you’ll be using it a lot. It gives you a ton of data on audience figures, sources of traffic and much more. Using this data you can find out what is working for your website, and where it can be improved. If you started your own blog you can embed Google Analytics and track your progress.
You can then show how your own marketing efforts have taken shape, and if you really want to master Google Analytics you can get your Google qualification in it here: http://www.google.com/analytics/learn/index.html.
4. Embrace all social media (Not just Facebook and Twitter).
If you’re reading this there’s a very good chance you’re already familiar with Facebook and Twitter. But, what about LinkedIn, Google+, Quora, Reddit and other social websites?
Social Media is paramount in Digital Marketing, it represents the voice of a company – and familiarising yourself with as many platforms as possible is a great way to boost your CV.
Set up a profile on LinkedIn and start making connections with people you know and join groups relevant to your industry. The more people you meet, the larger your group of connections get – so it’s a great motivation to begin networking.
The ‘State of Digital Marketing Talent’ report from the Online Marketing Institute conducted a survey of 750 organisations and found that lack of sufficient social media knowledge was a real problem for employers.
One boss said “folks who post to Facebook think they’re digital/social experts”.
This shows the importance of gaining an understanding of strategic social media.
5. Become proficient in Excel
This one is useful for a lot of different sectors. Microsoft Excel is something a lot of us know a little about – but if you can master it, you’ll give your CV a big tick.
SEO can be very analytical. You have to look at keyword rankings, traffic, and sales figures (etc.) so knowing your way around a spreadsheet is pretty essential.
Again, you can get the necessary skills for free here: http://chandoo.org/wp/excel-basics/
6. Read and research
This is the easiest one to do, and just as useful. If you really have an interest in the digital sector then take a look at these websites and get a feel for what’s trending and what’s exciting. If you can show you are actively reading relevant publications, and are interested in them, your potential employer will certainly be impressed.
Finding the right job for you
If you want to work in Digital Marketing you’re either going to be involved with one company, or you’ll work for an agency (like Bigfoot Digital) which offers services to a host of companies. An agency offers more diversity and is arguably faster paced, but you may prefer to work in-house and concentrate all your efforts on one cause.
And, once you’ve decided on that there’s a host of different roles available. Just look at our team page for example and you can see the diversity of different job titles. However, you most likely will start in a general role and specialise once you’ve gained enough experience.
Go for a company that you’ll enjoy working for. The appeal of Bigfoot Digital for me was the relaxed atmosphere, and creative licence we’re all given. But, it was their light hearted advert that initially caught my attention. For instance their ad mentioned frequent fish and chips, as well as a competitive Fantasy Football League (which I’m currently winning…sorry Mark).
Fortunately, Digital Marketing is a growing sector and there’ll be no shortage of opportunities. You can look on well-known job sites such as Indeed, Monster and Total Jobs, use your University/College’s careers service or go through a recruitment agency.
However, the best way to get a feel for the job is to go and meet your potential boss at an interview, and trust your instincts.
Check out this video we put together showing what it’s like working at a digital marketing agency for a bit more of an insight:
There’s a lot of general guidance out there on how to write a great CV, so I’ll only concentrate on things specific to this industry.
You have to keep digital at the forefront of everything you do. So when you apply for a job, share a link to your portfolio or even put your entire CV online.
15% of large companies, and 16% of agencies find it difficult to differentiate between the different CVs they have come in, according to the ‘State of Digital Marketing Talent’ report.
Here are a couple of sites you can utilise to create your online portfolio:
If you’ve completed the other steps then this is the place to share your blog, videos, Photoshop creations and more. Link to all the different social media platforms you’ve discovered – and blow your potential employers away.
You want to show how creative you are, so why not create an infographic on your blog statistics? Why not make a video on why they should hire you, or on what you could bring to their company?
It’s not going to be the degree, grades or assigned coursework that will set you apart from your peers. It’s what you’ve done off your own back. Show them what makes you different, and that you’re truly passionate.
When it comes to the interview, you need to recognise that at any company where you’ll be working as part of a team, your interviewers are going to want to get along with you. Certainly be professional, but make sure you convey your personality. Be friendly, be engaging and be memorable. You’ve put all this effort into reaching this moment, so don’t hold back.
Make sure you’ve done all your research on the company, and have questions at hand to ask at the end. If you come across a stumbling block, such as a piece of software you’ve never heard of, then write it down and commit to familiarising yourself with it. Then, following the interview, email the interviewers thanking them for seeing you and outline the steps you’re taking to learn that software. This way you take a potential negative and turn it into an example of your dedication and hard work.
For more advice check out the National Careers Service guide to interviews here.