A no-nonsense guide to your first job in digital marketing

At no point has a career in digital been of a higher focus than in the last couple of years. According to a recent McKinsey study, e-commerce has grown two to five times faster than pre-COVID, whilst professions with high physical proximity have suffered great disruptions on their route to digitalisation. Within this binary universe, digital marketing has emerged as not only a strong career choice for the aspiring youth, but also a business need – Indeed, LinkedIn data shows a staggering 116.4% increase in demand for paid social media skills.

A simple Google search for “how to get started in digital marketing” generates 1.8 trillion results in 0.72 seconds, demos. Needless to say, striving marketers are not short of resources to get started – or are they? To my surprise, most of these posts have been written by marketers with 15+ years-experience, for whom the first day in this ever-changing profession is merely a blurry memory. Moreover, the same “start a website” recommendation was omnipresent. It soon became clear that the focus of this guide must be on keeping it real – an area that sits comfortably within my remit.

At The Kite Factory, our graduate intake has grown five times during the pandemic, with many staff members joining at entry level over the years. With a youthful team to fuel our talent pool, we won’t attend any retirement parties anytime soon! Therefore, I’ve asked our team of executives to share their top tips and recommendations from when they started not-too-long-ago.

“Throw yourself into everything and even get involved with things that may not spark your interest at first.”

As a new starter, attitude is key. While ticking the experience box may not be within your control, particularly as a recent graduate, your attitude towards your work definitely is. Ben Foster, Managing Partner of Digital at The Kite Factory, conducted no fewer than 200 interviews for digital roles last year and claims that it all boils down to attitude when it comes to entry level hires: “You can teach people technical skills, but you can’t teach them to care. Employees who are invested learn and develop much quicker. This is then rewarded with faster personal progression.”

“Continuously seek out additional training that could help your team, even if it doesn’t seem like a 1 to 1 fit for your department. Having additional knowledge will be of benefit in certain instances.”

Digital marketing is an umbrella term for a wide range of specialisms, from social media to affiliate, content, and SEO. We are rarely experts in everything, but always knowledgeable of them all. The good news is that you don’t have to choose your niche from day one, leaving you with months and years to learn and experiment across the spectrum. Our recommendation here is to not exclude any areas off the bat because even the niche you consider the least interesting may come in handy at some point.

“Seek a mentor, not a job. Finding a mentor at work has been invaluable to me even when the role itself was not the right fit. They will guide and support you always.”

It is not uncommon that your first role will not be your dream role. Even then, your first job is still a priceless networking and learning opportunity. Finding a mentor either in your line manager, a colleague or a company leader is by far one of the best achievements of your career.

“Read up on industry news – it is an ever-changing industry, so you need to have the most up to date knowledge.”

Most digital agencies are equipped with an arsenal of subscriptions to industry news media, such as Campaign, The IPA and The Drum. Moreover, digital marketing gurus like Neil Patel  have content rich YouTube channels and blogs, all accessible at a touch of a button. Regardless of seniority, staying on top of industry trends is vital as new technology becomes old faster than you can master it.

“Before you start a new job, familiarise yourself with industry standard software and tools. Every social media ad platform has a training academy, usually free to access. In addition, Google offers great free training across their tool stack.”

Indeed, you can theoretically become an expert in digital marketing before you get your first client. Although nothing can compensate for real-life experience, familiarising yourself with ad tech and common digital tools will give you a competitive edge in interviews. Most of them are free to access, whilst others have short-term trials you can leverage.

“Talk to people from different departments and levels so you can understand how they work and what is expected of you.”

Going back to networking, you can never befriend too many people in our industry. Especially as a newbie, the first impression is bound to last, so being proactive with introductions will get you off a good start. The added benefit of planting these seeds early on is that you gain insight into how the company works and the areas you could get experience in.

“Ask a lot of questions! Working from home can make small questions seem like a big deal when you have to ask them over Teams, but still ask them as no question is silly and it’s always better to check your knowledge than to assume.”

Judging whether a 1-second window of silence is merely breathing time or your opportunity to unmute and contribute is something I still find tricky. No wonder junior members of the team are intimidated by the great void of virtual communications where there are 30 people on a call with their cameras off. Therefore, I’ll always have great respect for those who take the plunge into the abyss of user icons and ask questions.

“Believe in yourself and your experience. I think media is full of imposter syndrome, if you’ve come from different job that maybe squashed your ideas or put you in a box. This is a fresh start and just make sure your previous role doesn’t hold you back. Make the most of it and set the tone for the rest of your time there!”

The most beautiful aspect of a digital media career, in my opinion, is that it runs on transferable skills and little if optional formal training, such as university degrees. This cocktail of intersectionality and elasticity is what makes our industry increasingly more accessible by minority groups and disadvantaged communities. It is also why you should take the superhero pose  and believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that you too can do it!

If this guide made you itch with excitement at the prospect of commencing your digital marketing journey surrounded by amazing people, check out The Kite Factory’s careers page. We are always looking for driven, ambitious people to join us, whatever their experience level may be!

By Maria Tudor, Senior Digital Account Executive