The digital marketing landscape is broad and fast growing, creating a plethora of opportunities for career advancement. These days, it’s rare to see companies not use any form of digital marketing as part of their business strategy.

One of the best things about a digital marketing career is that there is no singular path in which you must take. You will never be stuck in the same position for too long before the next promotion or company comes knocking. Every company works differently, which means that if you ever decide on a change, you will be in for an exciting new challenge.

So, if you are looking to start your digital marketing career, here are a few paths in which you can take with guidance on how to find your own success. When starting out your career, the first thing you need to do is choose a few disciplines in which you want to work.

Choose your Digital Marketing Career Path

As mentioned, the digital marketing landscape is quite broad with many different disciplines. Therefore, you should look to focus your efforts on 2/3 disciplines. If you are just starting off your digital marketing career, it is good to learn as much as you can across all digital marketing strategies. Naturally, you will be drawn to 1 or 2 disciplines that you prefer. A common entry level job in digital marketing is to specialize in a singular discipline; for example: SEO Specialist. Therefore, taking a ‘Jack of all trades’ approach is unnecessary when starting out.

On the other hand, when starting out, you can’t be too picky either. Choosing several disciplines is manageable so that you can focus your efforts on learning them without spreading yourself too thin. Working for smaller companies (e.g Startups) often allow you to play a bigger role across various disciplines. You will be more hands on across SEO, Paid Social, Content marketing strategies, etc. Whereas, working for larger organisations, you are more likely to start in a specific department.

Digital Marketing Disciplines

If you are unsure what digital marketing career path to take, here is a list of disciplines to consider:

  • Paid Social Media
  • Paid Search, PPC advertising
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Digital Analytics
  • Social Media Marketing & Management (Organic)
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Programmatic Advertising

The career path for all the above specialist disciplines can be very similar in the first 2-5 years of your digital marketing career. However, you don’t have to follow the typical career path from Executive to Manager (and beyond). You can always shape your career in the direction you want to go.

Where to Start your Digital Marketing Career?

Startups and other small-medium sized businesses often run their own digital marketing strategies in-house. Therefore, there are opportunities to start your career here. Whereas, large, global businesses often outsource their strategies to media agencies. Media agencies are a common place to start your digital marketing career. Turnover rates here are often quite high as wages tend to be lower. In fact, the turnover rates are around 30%, which is 20%more than the average across British industry as a whole. This leads to lots of opportunities when starting out your digital marketing career.

Larger companies still have their own internal digital marketing strategist teams. However, these are employees with vast experience. Therefore, many people start working client side after building up experience within a Media Agency. In this sense, Media Agencies are often stepping stones when starting out.

There are other less conventional ways to start your digital marketing career. You may look to start as a Freelancer. If you can build up a portfolio of work with moderate success, this could help leapfrog your career to a managerial role, bypassing entry level roles. If not, you are still gaining experience and it will help you get your foot in the door. For example; if you have experience writing guest posts for reputable brands, this would give you a leg-up when applying for a role in content marketing. 

Next Steps in your Digital Marketing Career

If you start your career in Paid Social Media, your first job will be something like ‘Paid Social Media Executive’. Terminology can vary slightly from business to business. For example; your role might be named ‘Paid Social Media Specialist/Strategist/Analyst’. This depends on the business and the specific role you are working.

Depending on the size of the company, the next promotion could be a manager role. The bigger the company, there may be more intermittent roles. Within a big Media Agency, the next role up the ladder would be a Planner role e.g. Paid Social Media Planner. Typically, this can take 1-1.5 years to gain promotion. After this, it could take 1-3 years to gain a managerial position.

If you continue to climb the ladder you will work your way up to an Account Director or Head of a department. Again, job titles may vary slightly depending on the company.

Climbing the Ladder: Actionable Guide

It’s one thing knowing the different directions your career path can go. However, you need to start devising a strategy in order to achieve your career goals. Here a few ways to set yourself up for success.

Set Measurable Goals

Most companies offer one-to-one KPI (performance review) meetings per term with your superior to discuss your performance levels in your current role. This is a great opportunity to open up and talk about what you want to achieve in your career. Being vocal about it shows that you are driven and want to be successful. In these meetings, you will get an idea of where you are at in terms of promotion opportunities. So be sure to ask what areas you need to improve on and create some measurable goals whilst devising a strategy on how you will achieve these goals. Also, be sure to follow up with your manager, making notes on how you are This shows that you are actively working on improving yourself, which will put you in a much stronger position when a promotion opportunity arises.

Build Relationships/Network

You’ve heard of the phrase “It’s who you know, not what you know”. This stems across any industry. You shouldn’t think of this as a negative statement. Instead you should be actively trying to build your own network of industry professionals and use it to your advantage. This applies to people both inside and outside of the company you work for.

First, start with your direct superiors and make the effort to build up your professional relationship. Make sure you put in time for one-on-one meetings, keeping in consistent contact. You can use your KPI sessions with your superior as a method of mapping out your progression timeline. This builds trust and transparency with your career ambitions between both of you, which can help open doors for you.

Build Personal Brand

Everybody has an opinion or thoughts on best practices and strategies within the industry. However, not everyone is vocal about it. Building a personal brand equips you with influence that allows your voice to be heard. Having an opinion based on facts and knowledge creates conversations with likeminded people, increasing your network. Therefore, building your personal influence can help further your digital marketing career.

In order to achieve this, you can use LinkedIn and twitter as these platforms cater more towards business professionals. Just being active, engaging in conversations and being thought provoking can help you leverage connections made. LinkedIn was built for the purpose to help employers find employees and vice versa. This can help you build lifelong organic connections with potentially future employers. If you want to go one further, you could build your own personal website. In doing so, this will show creativity and pro activity which will greatly impress employers. You can also use it as a resume, giving you a platform to showcase your skills, qualities, experience, etc. If you want to work in Content marketing, why not use it as a means to showcase your published articles?

Continue learning

Larger companies often provide extra training that can be extremely beneficial. In digital marketing there are plenty of accredited courses that are great to add to your C.V. Most of these courses are free and you can do them in your own time. But if your company are offering to pay for some of the paid courses, take them up on that offer. Be on the lookout for any extra training, lectures & courses that may be of interest, especially those that will help further your career.

The digital marketing industry is changing so fast with exciting updates nearly every day. Going to sites like Marketing Week, the Drum, Marketing Dive, etc., will help you keep on top of important updates within the industry. There is no substitute for knowledge. Knowledge is power and the more knowledge you have the more confident you will be in your career path.

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