How to Get Your First Marketing Job Even if You Don’t Have Experience
This post was adapted from an original article I published on Medium.
Digital marketing is a key component to any business looking to grow in 2016 and beyond. The past 7 years I’ve lead or contributed to marketing programs at successful Bay Area startups, Fortune 500 companies, and hundreds of colleges in the US.
These steps don’t have to be followed in any particular order, but since so many job postings require “experience” here’s a few ways to get around that.
Step #1 Get Your Foot in the Door
Before you go and start applying to every marketing job you can find on the internet, realize that this is the least efficient way to find a job.
Applying online is like sending your resume to a black hole as a job applicant and it’s like finding a needle in a haystack for a hiring managers. Trust me I’ve been there. When companies receive 100’s of applications for a job posting they are only looking for reasons to disqualify you.
I think this is where 90% of people get caught up.
As a job seeker you must find a way around this. To start go on Linked Inand search for the employees at the companies you are interested in. Look for the founder, C-level or director position that might deal with marketing.
Now Google them and find their personal website, blog, Twitter, anything that can give you an idea if this is someone you could connect with. If you think the person and their company is cool send them an email, Linked In connection request or tweet to get on their radar.
Remember, you’re not looking for a job you are simply looking to learn more about their position and company they are working at because you have similar interests. Be genuine, offer to buy them lunch or coffee and now you have your first industry connection.
#2 Volunteer Your Time
There’s a few different routes this can take, but all of them come down to you doing free work to gain experience.
If you’re unemployed and can’t find a job, then you have plenty of time to make your own job. Use Step #1 to find local marketers who are a bit further along in their career and build a relationship with them.
If you can tell they like you, offer to do some work for them. For free! It’s not just marketers that need help, local non-profits are also great organizations to reach out to and volunteer your time.
This is a win-win approach for you as it gives you more visibility with people already in the tech community while providing you an opportunity to do a project to build your portfolio. If you do good work there’s no reason that person shouldn’t pay you in the future or suggest job opportunities they might come across in the next few months.
Now if you are in a full-time job this approach is a little bit harder. For example, my first job out of college was doing sales at a marketing company, but I wanted to work in marketing.
Whatever company or role you happen to be at, be sure to make friends with people who are working in marketing, learn about their role and eventually when you have a “career talk” with your manager be sure to bring up your interest in marketing.
Our #2 marketing hire at Uversity transitioned from our sales team after she had a “career talk” with her manager. She now works remotely in Alaska for a Bay Area company.
Your evenings and weekends can be spent watching TV and getting drunk or working an extra 5–10 hours networking and learning a new marketing skill. It’s up to you.
#3 Position Yourself the Right Way
Here’s where things can get fun. Let’s say you volunteer for a local non-profit to help them with a new fundraising campaign. You do some email campaigns, host an event and even beg your friend that does video production to help put together a kickstarter campaign for them.
Whatever you end up doing, use this in your conversations with the other companies and marketers you are reaching out to. Casually mention, “I’m working a freelance project for X doing Y.”
You don’t have to mention whether it’s paid or not, it’s simply freelance work you are doing for a client.
All of a sudden you go from “an unqualified recent college graduate looking for a job” to “a skilled, jr. marketing hustler who is doing freelance work” which is EXACTLY how you want to be seen.
Speaking of ‘being seen’ you should also probably have your own website or online presence. You will be Googled, so be sure whatever comes up aligns with your career aspirations.
Step #4 Make your Own Marketing Presence
A great first client to do some marketing work for is always yourself. Create a personal website and/or blog, summarize articles you find on Twitter and attend conferences or local meet ups that you can write about.
You don’t have to be a prolific blogger, but you do need to be able to show a prospective company that you can use modern digital tools like WordPress.
When I was applying for my first job at a digital marketing agency the biggest thing that sold them on me wasn’t my resume, but a website and brand I had started two years earlier called Career Bull. (I used to offer resume writing and Myers Briggs assessments for college graduates)
I’m sure you or your friends have a business idea you’ve talked about. Even if you don’t go through with the idea come up with a name and build a mock website. There are plenty of cheap or free tools you can use like WordPress, Squarespace or Wix.
“But I’m not a website designer/developer” you might be saying. Well guess what, now it’s time for you to learn a little bit of HTML. As a marketer, especially on a small team, you will have to learn some basic design and dev skills.
These skills are worth any time you have to invest in learning. Trust me, it’s the #1 thing I regret not learning in college.
Which brings me to my last point.
#5 Learn a Skill
“Marketing” is one of the most non-specific disciplines that could mean a million different things. In marketing land if you mean a million different things then you mean nothing.
To help your future hiring manager understand why they should hire you be sure you can bring a few tangible skills and portfolio projects to the table.
Here is an incomplete list of skills or tools a digital marketer could get familiar with:
- Email Marketing (newsletter design, drip campaigns, sales prospecting)
- Landing Pages
- A/B Testing
- Google Analytics
- Google Adwords
- Search Engine Optimization
- Facebook Ads
- Video Production
- Graphic Design
- Marketing Automation Systems
- User Experience Research
While copywriting is technically a skill, by itself it’s not very powerful.
Don’t get me wrong, writing copy for a website landing page, email campaign or downloadable e-book is super important, but the strategy, analytics and impact on the sales funnel is the “manager level” view point a young marketer should be looking from.
In reality anyone who is literate can write copy. It might not be great copy, but if a jr. marketer can’t prove their copy is better with analytics to show their conversion, open and response rates are higher then your copy will be judged the same as anyone else who stumbles into a marketing role.
How did you get into your current position? Would love to hear any other tips for recent graduates or aspiring marketers, designers or developers.