There is nothing worse (or maybe a few things) than being stuck in a job that you hate. Have you ever laid awake at night dreaming of a new career whilst dreading the working day ahead?
Changing careers can seem daunting, especially if like me you are in your 40’s, but it’s possible, and I will share what I did with a few tips on how to get going.
Back in 2012 I decided that my long-time engineering career was not for me, there was little innovation, no room to be creative, my job had just become a way to earn money and no longer gave me any fulfilment, it was time for a change.
By chance my neighbour who ran a web design agency mentioned he was looking for some help, so I decided that was my route into digital and started working with him. 7 years later I am the Head of SEO of the local Digital Marketing company Max Your Web, and will share with you my top tips on what to do, and what not to do when forging a new digital career. Though before I discuss the how, lets discuss why.
Why choose a career in digital marketing?
Compelling reasons why it’s seriously worth considering:
- Suits many types of person and skills – a career that has plenty of room for many types of people and skills, from creative types, to organisers, salespeople, techie types and more.
- Talent gap – there is large digital talent gap in the UK and many other countries, as highlighted in this study, thus providing a great deal of opportunity for employment and career progression.
- Growth sector – digital is a sector that just keeps on growing, and with so much of our lives now being online this shows no signs of slowing down, see ‘Relentless’ digital growth boosts UK marketing budgets.
- Flexible – much of the work in this sector can be done via a PC and internet connection, so digital marketing can be a career that allows for remote working, plus the promotion of a better work life balance.
How to get going?
- Start approaching companies
As mentioned above, digital is an ever-expanding field with a large demand for people. The agency I work for is always looking for intelligent and hardworking people with a great attitude to help at all levels. Many positions are for those who have zero digital experience, which does not matter if they are keen and willing to learn.
I started with zero experience aged 40 and you can too, if you are willing to approach companies and prove you are keen, hardworking, have a great attitude and willing to learn.
Top Tip #1: many digital companies are keen to avoid using recruitment agencies and are open to being approached, and a great way to do this is via LinkedIn. So make sure your LinkedIn profile is relevant and up to date, then consider signing up to LinkedIn Premium where you can then approach potential employers directly through the LinkedIn platform, which can be very effective.
Top Tip #2: be willing to take a pay cut and work your way up. Let’s be realistic, if you have no digital experience, you will not be able to start at the top earning top money. If you have relevant previous skills as I did, then this progression may be quicker, but you cannot expect to start at the top in an area where you have not worked before.
What not to do: 8 months after working for the web design company I decided I ‘knew it all’ and went freelance offering SEO services. I did not however know it all and made this jump far too early. In hindsight I would have a good amount of time really learning the ropes and learning from others within a company working on client websites (earning and learning).
- Know what you are good at and like
There are many areas to digital marketing, from technical SEO, to copywriting, to creating infographics, email marketing, paid search marketing, search engine optimisation and more.
Some areas lend themselves to the creative person (copywriting, website design, creating marketing campaigns), whilst others to the more technically minded (web development, technical SEO), with other areas such as sales, project management and more.
From my engineering background, which is quite analytical, I was particularly interested in search engine optimisation, which relies on a balance of creativity, analysis and logical thinking.
If you have a clear view as the type of work you like, and are good at, you can then start focussing on the area of digital marketing that you may be most suited to.
What not to do: I tried to be an expert at all areas of SEO, and found to my cost this was impossible, especially as my technical skills are not strong. You will add much more value as an expert in a few areas, rather than a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’!
- Be committed to learn
In 2019 there is a wealth of free digital marketing learning material available online. You should really commit to just get started learning through reading, watching videos, attending free events such as Brighton SEO, not to mention the ‘on the job’ learning you will get if you are now employed in an entry level digital marketing position.
Why not start by reading ‘The 10 Best Digital Marketing Blogs’.
Top Tip: I personally found setting up my own websites to be an extremely effective way of implementing the things I was learning, which greatly accelerated my knowledge. This enabled me to test things that I would not necessarily do on a client site. It also taught me that my chosen field of search engine optimisation was not an academic discipline of graphs and statistics, but a very real thing where enquiries and sales were the only important measure of success.
- Be commercially minded
For your companies’ clients, the main thing that is important for most is enquiries and sales. It’s so easy with technical and creative areas to get lost in the discipline, rather than the important end goal.
I see this all the time with both our companies’ employees, and those of partner companies, who are excellent at their job, but often forget the commercial realities of whet they are doing.
If you are always focussed on driving their client more revenue, this will make you stand out, no matter what area of digital you chose.
- Work hard
This may seem obvious but is so important. When you start a new career, let’s not shy away from the fact that a lot of work is going to be needed. You will still be expected to do your day to day job, but if you do want to progress, then much of your learning will need to be done in your own time.
Also, if you are going to be valued by your new employer, you will need to earn your value and respect by working hard, building trust and getting lots done.
Top Tip: in point 2 I discussed doing something that you like. This is so important, for if you fundamentally enjoy your role, then the hard work become much less of a chore, and for me much of this was enjoyable.
There is a huge opportunity in digital marketing today, even for those who may be a little older like me; but if you are willing to go back to a more junior role, work hard, learn, and keep going, then you could have a very rewarding and lucrative new career path ahead of you.
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