New Year, New Career: 5 Tips on How to Pursue a Digital Marketing Career in 2021

How to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you’d like to go in your career. 

January is a time of new beginnings. With the previous year in the rearview mirror, it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect, reset, and start working towards your career goals for the new year.

According to Monster, it’s also when the majority of new jobs are posted, making it an ideal time to initiate a career change. By January, most companies have solidified their budgets and objectives for the coming year, giving job seekers a new batch of unfilled roles companies are looking to fill. 

This puts you in the perfect spot to reimage your career and pivot to a digital marketing role that puts you at the forefront of careers in the digital space, awakens your professional curiosity and passion, and gets you excited to jump out of bed each morning.

Why Choose a Digital Marketing Career?

Landing your first digital marketing job can feel intimidating and overwhelming, especially when you have little to no experience in the field. But what’s great about the digital marketing industry is that it’s constantly evolving, leaving ample room to learn as you go. 

According to LinkedIn’s Job Report, digital marketing is one of the top 10 most in-demand roles in 2020—and the study takes a lot into account. To come to this conclusion, LinkedIn considered the following criteria: 

  • Job growth over the past four years 
  • Whether the job pays a comfortable wage
  • Whether the required skills can be learned online 

With more than 300,000 jobs currently available throughout the United States, there has never been a better time to join the field. That said, there’s a huge digital marketing skills gap that’s steadily widening in virtually every industry. 

The Digital Marketing Institute’s Skills Gap Study shows that only 38% of respondents working in digital marketing in the United States reached a competent skill level when tested. Meaning, that now more than ever, there’s a huge opportunity to build up your digital marketing skill set and bring immense value to employers looking to close the digital skills gap in their organization. 

There are many different reasons people make the career jump into digital marketing, do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • I want to pursue growth opportunities that aren’t available in my current career.
  • I want to feel more fulfilled and passionate about the work I’m doing. 
  • I want to increase my salary, benefits, and work-life balance.
  • And these are just a few!

One major reason holding people back from taking that next step and pursuing a digital marketing career is that they lack an actionable plan. A career change is within reach for anyone with the right direction, determination, and support. 

To get you moving on the right path towards a brighter, bolder future, we’re offering a series of tips for successfully pivoting into a digital marketing role.

1. Inventory Your Skills

Think through your previous positions, academic experiences, and hobbies to identify portions of your past roles that spark your interest. For example, you may have an affinity for writing and connecting with others, and enjoy posting to various social media channels. In this case, a career in social media marketing may be right for you. Or, if you have a knack for research and critical thinking, you may find yourself more interested in becoming an SEO Specialist. In this position, you’ll optimize websites to help brands achieve higher search engine rankings. There are truly so many options. 

Inventory the skills you were utilizing throughout those activities and separate them into hard and soft skills. Choose 3-5 skills from each category you would like to use in your new role and map them to relevant career trajectories in the digital marketing field. 
Identifying your strengths and seeking positions where you can leverage them is the first step towards pivoting into a fulfilling digital marketing role that’s best suited for you.

2. Set SMART Career Goals, Then Write Them Down!

An important step when you’re thinking about pivoting careers is goal-setting. There is a science behind setting goals, yet we’re rarely taught how to do it properly. A recent study found that 3% of MBA graduates who had their goals written down ended up earning ten times as much as the other 97% combined in the ten years following their graduation. Why? Because they had clear, written goals and plans on how to accomplish them. 

A great way to ensure you’re developing achievable goals is to use the SMART Goal method. S-M-A-R-T is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based. 

Let’s start with an example of what NOT to do when setting career goals. Someone who isn’t using the SMART Goal methodology may jot down the following: 

“Get a digital marketing job at a nonprofit organization.”

This isn’t very specific, doesn’t get into how they’ll achieve it, and has no timeline to set a benchmark for success. 

Instead, they could try:

“Find a digital marketing role with a walkable commute in the next 12 months that contributes to positive social change, uses my strengths in interpersonal communication, and offers the opportunity to continually learn from those with more experience in the nonprofit sector.” 

This is very specific, factors in their considerations like being able to walk to work, building relationships with those in the field, and focusing on continued learning. It’s also time-based and sets clear expectations.

3. Understand Which Sacrifices You’re Willing to Make

There’s always going to be some give and take, including in your career search. To pursue that shiny new digital marketing career you’ve always dreamed of, you may have to make some sacrifices along the way, like attending class on the weekend instead of sleeping in or updating your resume instead of getting together with friends. It’s important to be upfront with yourself and define what sacrifices you’re willing to make. 

This especially rings true when looking at how your new career will affect the lifestyle you want to lead. For example, if you love traveling or are looking to start a family, but the specific career you’re considering won’t allow for it, are you truly going to feel fulfilled? Will the salary increase and passion for what you’re doing be enough? 

You know yourself best, so the key is to be realistic about the sacrifices you’re willing to make in order to stay on track. Having your deal breakers lined up before you run into them will make for an easier journey. You’ll be much more prepared and ready to make the choices necessary to reach your career goals and find the digital marketing role that suits you best.

4. Job Shadow a Digital Marketer for Experience

The best way to learn is by doing. So naturally, the best way to gain exposure to a field that you haven’t had experience in is to job shadow and spend some time observing a professional in their work environment. Even if it’s only for a few hours each week, this will clarify if digital marketing is the right field and help you understand what it takes to build a successful digital marketing career.  

An easy way to get started is to reach out to your existing contacts and see if they’re connected with someone in the digital marketing industry. Another great way to find a connection in the industry is to hop on LinkedIn. Gabrielle Kamekona, Head of Career Coaching at the NJIT Digital Marketing Professional Bootcamp recommends the following:

“If you’re someone who isn’t sure about the career path you’re exploring, find someone in the industry on LinkedIn and ask them, “Listen, I’m looking at pursuing this as a career and I’m not sure. I would love to get coffee with you or pick your brain for 15-20 minutes. We often forget that people love to be mentors and help the next generation in their field. So don’t be afraid to send out some of those messages. LinkedIn is a powerful resource and we often forget to use it.”  

Here are some examples of questions you should ask during your conversation: 

  • Can you explain your career path to me? 
  • Why did you choose to go into digital marketing? 
  • What kind of growth opportunities are available in digital marketing?
  • What type of digital marketing training did you undergo for this role?  
  • What are the most important soft/hard skills for this role? 
  • What are some common challenges you experience in this role? 
  • What do you enjoy most about your job in the digital marketing field? 

5. Go Back to School

Making a career change towards digital marketing may mean furthering your education. This can feel daunting with an already busy schedule, but choosing the right educational opportunity for you can make this process much easier. Whether that’s taking a short class online to upskill, heading to your local community college for digital marketing training, or enrolling back in your alma mater, there are plenty of options to choose from to help you become equipped for a digital marketing role.  

Another great option to gain theoretical and practical, hands-on knowledge is to earn a Digital Marketing certificate through a specialized program. This route is an excellent option if you’re looking to change careers or expand your existing digital marketing knowledge. It’s also a great opportunity to get the hands-on experience you need to succeed in the workforce without a multi-year program’s extensive time commitment. Digital marketing bootcamps offer online learning, weekend/night classes and are taught by industry experts currently active in the digital marketing field to ensure you’re learning the most up-to-date practices. 

Some bootcamps even feature customized career services like helping you polish your resume and LinkedIn profile, connecting you with hiring partners, and checking in with you if you miss class. This extra layer of support can play a huge role in helping you stick to your SMART goals and successfully pivot into the digital marketing world. 

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