Conquering The Digital Marketing Industry; Education vs Experience

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Year after year university graduates are released into the big wide world determined to conquer the Digital Marketing Industry, only to be met with the realisation that they are a very small fish in a very, very big digital sea.

Having studied a Public Relations and Digital Communications degree for two years now, I should be just one short year away from having the knowledge and skillset to enter the world of working adults. Well… although I do feel ready to do so, can I really attribute that PURELY to my degree? The answer would be no, unfortunately not. Through personal experiences and stories from my peers I can with 100% enthusiasm stress the importance of experience, experience, experience (and a little more experience).

Now, before it would seem I'm completely against the idea of university and Further Education (which is not the case) it would probably be beneficial for me to explain a little about myself.

Statistically, a fifth of first year students will drop out of uni due to choosing the wrong course to study. I was very nearly part of that statistic. Having done very well in Graphics and Design at A level I began applying for design courses at universities. Shortly before handing in my final choices I found a Graphic and Web Design Agency to volunteer at to see what I thought.

The Positives: I learnt a few acronyms from the web side (PPC, SEO, GA), learnt a few new Photoshop skills and I got a lift home at the end of each day.

The Negatives: I decided design was most certainly not what I wanted to do as a career.

Experience 1 Education 0.

Deciding not to go to university at that point, I did a Business Admin internship in a marketing department which quickly progressed to me landing a full time paid Marketing Recruitment position. Hallelujah! I had found an industry I could wake up for every morning.

Now here's the stinger, there was no room for progression as it then became 'essential' job criteria to have a degree. Awesome.

Experience 1 Education 1.

As a result, I started at Manchester Metropolitan University doing the fore mentioned degree and last year had the opportunity to partake in Agency Life. Agency Life is a fantastic opportunity for students to find a placement one day a week at a relevant digital, media, marketing etc. agency which then contributes to their course grades for that year. Due to my previous experiences and interests Marketing Recruitment Agency 'The Candidate',  an award winning Digital, Media, Marketing and eCommerce recruitment Agency in Manchester, was the perfect placement for me.

I gained so much valuable experience looking at PPC recruitment and SEO recruitment, not to mention the digital terminology I picked up along the way. Plus, I am now lucky enough to be in a paid position at the agency this summer where I will continue marketing and advertising agency jobs on the web and building up my digital knowledge.

(I think that deserves a point both ways)

Experience 2 Education 2.

So, it would seem the two go hand in hand.

Conquering the Digital Jobs or Marketing jobs industry is no easy feat. There are new acronyms joining the circulation every day, products, brands and even people are becoming more demanding and difficult to market for, not to mention there seems to be a new social media platform to maintain every few months.

From my experiences, these are the 5 top tips I would highlight for students wanting to successfully work their way into Digital Marketing:

1)      (Surprise, surprise) GET EXPERIENCE!

There are so many opportunities available to volunteer at agencies. Even if the agency you approach isn't specifically where you see yourself ending up, it's a start. Any experience is better than no experience.

2)      Stay up to date with all things digital.

I once sat in a meeting and was asked how effective I thought Instagram was for targeting specific TA's. At the time I had never even been on Instagram. FAIL.

3)      Learn the terminology.

There are certain things that come with experience. It's all very well and good being told what a Digital Marketing Manager does one time in a lecture but until you have studied the job spec and learnt the terminology used to describe the roles and responsibilities required, you don't really know what they do at all!  

4)      Network, Network, Network.

If you're ever in the position to add a contact on Linkedin, follow links on Twitter or even just have a simple conversation and exchange names with somebody who works in the industry then do it! They're doing no harm by being there for now and their connection may prove useful one day.

5)      Keep busy.

Write a blog, follow some agencies on Twitter, re-tweet or comment on some digital articles… the list is ongoing. By increasing your digital presence now, you are saving yourself time and effort in the future and to prospective employers an active digital presence shows passion for the industry. Always a bonus.

So what now? Come August I shall be off to the USA for what promises (so I've been told) to be the best year of my life. I will be off on my travels to the State of New York as part of an exchange programme with university and will spend a year learning the Marketing and PR ways of the USA. Sounds pretty good right? Well, there's still that third year of uni to come back for… but I'll think about that later!

Take the first steps to making yourself the ideal Digital Marketing candidate by checking out our CV tips or, if you're a graduate looking for inspiration- we can help with that too with our graduate recruitment page