Reader Question: How Do I Start A Career In Digital Marketing?

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Recently I answered some questions for my colleagues on the Life at Google team on what it’s like to be a product marketing manager for Google Analytics. You can check it out here. Yesterday I received an email from a recent graduate who had read the interview seeking guidance.

As usual I always like to answer these sorts of things in a way that’s sharable. So I asked if it was okay to publish the question and respond publicly, to which the response was yes. Their question:

I came across your interview with Life at Google on Twitter today. I wonder if you can give any advice to a fresh college graduate like me who wants to pursue a career in digital marketing.

I recently graduated from UCLA as a Communication Studies major. I started to develop a passion for digital marketing since my internship in junior year. I’ve been trying to educate myself with more industry know-how by following blogs, and strengthening my online presence on social media. But the field of digital marketing is so competitive now, most people do exactly what I do. What might be some qualities that can distinguish myself from other candidates?

This is a great question! While I have offered advice in the past as well as shared the thinking of others, this is worth a fresh response as our industry is always changing.

Also, this student is correct: at this juncture digital marketing is really not new. There are plenty of talented practitioners both on the agency and client-side making data-driven decisions implementing creative ideas and providing increasing returns for their brand. But, this maturation of our field is actually a great thing for graduates just starting out. They won’t have to go through the same arduous work we had to over the last decade+ persuading and pushing those who cling to the past to adopt new technologies, channels and techniques. Brands and execs for the most part are bought-in and those who aren’t won’t be along much longer (or will painfully be dragged into the future).

I think the best thing you can do is begin building a sandbox project from the ground up, without help. Create something real and tangible you plan to grow long-term in your free time. Find a friend if you want, but also document your process and be sure to be involved at every step. You’ll learn so much as the result of experimenting on your own and be forced to go through the entire process a start-up or brand will when conducting digital marketing (including creating the actual product – something far too many marketers skip). You can’t learn that in school or gain the same sort of experience through certification and smart brands and mangers — the type that are really essential to work with at the start of your career — will value this greatly.

That’s if you’re ambitious but I highly recommend it, there is zero chance you would regret the time spent building something yourself. You can even earn some revenue from it in addition to it being a platform for learning and proof point. Other things you can do are look at how some creative folk have marketed themselves to stand out in a way that’s truly genuine. But the point is: our industry is still growing rapidly and the demand is there. Think critically, make a career plan and start executing on it. If you try I am almost certain you’ll succeed.

image credit: Shutterstock