Ashley Meuser

How College Grads Can Find Career Success in Digital Marketing

digital marketing jobsRecent 2013 college graduates have received their diplomas and spent the past few summer months relaxing, celebrating and continuing their job search.

Many students, particularly in the Journalism, Communication or Marketing fields are pursuing positions in the fast growing digital marketing industry to launch their careers. Fortunately, digital marketing budgets are expected to increase by 9% this year and there are many agencies seeking talent.

However, upper management like the President of tech company, PubMatic, Kirk McDonald in this WSJ article, take the perspective of, “…the right skills are very hard to find. And I’m sorry to say it, dear graduates, but you probably don’t have them.”

Despite demand for talent, college graduates often don’t qualify for the digital marketing positions available. Agencies want employees with experience, but as college grads, there’s a common feeling that you can’t gain “real-world” experience until someone gives you that opportunity.

Fortunately, there are several options for graduating college seniors or post college graduates to gain useful digital marketing experience that can help their chances of getting hired:

  • Internships
  • Seek other positions within the industry, or even outside the industry
  • Develop and showcase your skills in the digital space

Internships serve as a great stepping stone to that first real-world experience. Historically, internships have a negative reputation of little-to-no pay and menial tasks like the infamous coffee run.  Even if this is part of your job description, you can make any internship worthwhile. Use that time to observe, build relationships, utilize and grow your current skill set. You can achieve this by offering to help a co-worker on a project or taking initiative on your own project that may benefit the agency as a whole.  These tactics will demonstrate your dependability, teamwork and problem solving.

Internships are smart for agencies too. To tap into a great source of talent, agencies seeking talent should invest in their internship programs by providing interns with the necessary training and tasks for them to be successful as future employees.

Think outside the box. If you are not landing those internships or entry-level positions offered, you might consider seeking other positions, maybe even in another industry, in order to gain core business skills and the experience agencies are looking for. Research all positions available, via LinkedIn and agency career sites, where you can apply your current knowledge and skill set and continue to grow. Unbeknownst to many, there are more positions in a digital agency than a creative director or account manager.

As digital agencies are ever changing, so are positions and job creation. Considering jobs outside of the digital agency will also be worthwhile. According to Forbes, “40% of grads from the nation’s top 100 colleges couldn’t find a job in their chosen field.” Although this path may not directly provide you with the expertise you need, there are still invaluable professional and common skills to be learned, perfected and used to better position yourself for the job or in the industry you intend to pursue. Keep an open mind and more options will present themselves.

Showcase your skills to stand out. Whether you are searching for a job, have an internship or are already in a full-time position, the best way to be competitive in the digital marketing industry is to develop and showcase your abilities. Showing your problem solving, creative and organization skills is a great way to brand and position yourself as the best candidate; it is your virtual resume.

If you claim to be an expert in a program or skill, create something tangible to publish on digital sharing networks or a personal and professional site (like a blog). You should also stay current in the industry; find a problem facing a company, brand or product and provide a solution. This will demonstrate your quality of work, industry knowledge, how you think and your current skill level.

As much as college students are seeking agencies, agencies are also seeking talent. Agencies should add creativity to their application process to allow applicants to stand out through writing samples, ad creation or problem solving. This will serve as a filter for smart, creative and hard-working candidates.

There are many paths to reaching that dream job as a recent or future college graduate, especially in the digital world where jobs are plentiful, but hard to grasp. Candidates interested in the online marketing industry should consider internships, seeking alternative positions and showcasing their talent in the digital space. There are also more basic tactics that can be utilized to better position yourself as a candidate including researching the industry, applying everywhere, learning and applying skills agencies and positions require and networking with family, friends and professionals in the industry.

Making the connection between agency and talent. From the agency perspective, many CEOs like our own CEO and Author of Optimize, Lee Odden, claim that finding the right talent is just as difficult as being the right talent in the digital industry.  Odden, says, “Agencies are having a hard time finding the right talent. I talk to other agency execs all the time, and all over the country there is a shortage of experienced digital marketing talent.”

To avoid the risk of hiring unqualified entry level employees, agencies should consider investing more time into their internship programs, explore the digital space for candidates and provide further ways for potential hires to demonstrate their qualification in the application process.

We’re doing just that at TopRank Online Marketing and have recently hired two of our interns into full time positions after completing an internal training program and demonstrating their skills with numerous projects.

As a 2012 college graduate, my search for the right job in the marketing field explored other industries such as service and law. I was persistent and now I am an AdWords Qualified Account Coordinator at TopRank Online Marketing specializing in Pay-Per-Click. I get to work on projects with a smart team of marketers that allows me to help clients become successful, show my skills and gain valuable experience to advance my career.

I invite you to network with me whether you are seeking a position in the digital marketing field or are looking for advice. TopRank continues to grow having added 8 new clients in the past few months and we’re also growing our team. Please refer to our career page for job opportunities with us!

Photo source: Shutterstock

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  1. My Internship was great! It sealed the deal for me wanting to go into Social Media Marketing. I recommended it for everyone. Be daring and put yourself out there. Be willing to take risks and try to come up with new ideas.

  2. Avatar Bruce Washington says

    Internet marketing one of the best job in our world because if you know knowledge about marketing strategies of business you can work at home. We can easily get the client from freelance site….

  3. Proactive, Initiative, Creativity are what you need when it comes to the digital marketing industry. To the interns out there, be hardworking and work smart. Taking this time of internship like going to the gym, you workout with a coach where it is never easy in the beginning. As time goes by you will grow from it. Always have an open minded and willing to learn. The digital world is never stagnant or static, it is in fact changing constantly. You like change? You are in for it. 🙂

  4. Avatar Perrine Benosman says

    One other very important element is Network, network and network like crazy! It is easy to understand that between someone they know even a little and a complete stranger with equal qualification hiring manager will chose the first candidate.

  5. Avatar Mike Toner says

    Digital marketing is the way to go! It represents the future
    of all marketing, as it integrates search, social, Web marketing, email
    marketing and community building as the core elements. This broad skill set is a perfect fit for digital natives who are graduating college.

  6. Perhaps you can work with what you love at the internship and grow your freelance work at the same time?

  7. Avatar Sheetal Sharma says

    I think internships are very important for college graduates who aspire to reach their dream profile. It is also a very powerful way to determine the relevancy and real picture so as to understand the necessary gaps and take corrective actions.

  8. Digital Marketing is a best career to choose as it has many lines too to choose from. Really a great article for the College Grads. Thanks for sharing your views!!

  9. I’ve found that there has been a rise in digital marketing jobs. For graduate level they tend to be social media roles which is a good opportunity for any marketing graduate looking to start a career in digital marketing. Start a blog and show your enthusiasm for social media by regularly posting on your own accounts. You could even try to contact smaller companies or even start-ups to see if you could help them create a company blog, their social media accounts etc. Any relevant experience is essential. Good luck!