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How you can break into digital marketing

Sometimes they email me out of the blue. Other times they come up to me after a speaking engagement. They always seem so appreciative that I would help, but to me it is just giving back a blessing that I have been bestowed by others. They are unemployed, or “in transition,” as many call it these days. And they have a good idea–they want to break into digital marketing. And they want to know how to do it. Let me lay it out for you.


When you are trying to break into any new field, you have the odds stacked against you, especially in a down economic environment. With so many people out of work, it’s likely that some of them have exactly the background that an employer is looking for. So, how do you stand out in that kind of crowded field?

Start with what the employer is looking for. First, lay it out in your own mind, and be honest with yourself about what you can point to in your resume that says you have each one. Because you are changing your career, it makes sense that you will not have them all. But if the employer wants five things and you have none, that’s a problem. If you have one or two of them, that’s better, but still tough–three would probably be enough to talk your way past the last two with the right employer.

So just what is the right employer? Remember, many employers won’t hire you unless they know you have done that job already, which is bad for those of you changing careers. Don’t worry about them. You don’t want to work for them anyway. What you want is to find the employer who will give you a chance when you have just three of five, but you need to really work your resume over and polish your answers you know you have three of them. So, you need to really think about what the five things are. Skills are always one of them, and might count for more than the others, but you need to emphasize your fit in other ways of people might suspect your skills. Here is a clue:

  • Role. Have you had this role before? Because you are changing careers, you haven’t, so oh for one.
  • Company size. Have you worked in this kind of environment before? If you have experience with large, small. and in-between, then great, but if most of your experience lies in a certain size, focus on that size for your job prospects. No sense telling employers that you don’t have the skills and you have no experience with their size company if you can look for positions in situations you already know.
  • Industry. Have you worked in this industry before? If you are changing roles, it is easier to persuade employers that you can do it when you are in a familiar industry.
  • People Skills. Does the job need them? You can make the argument that interacting with clients in social media is easy for you because of your sales experience, for example–you already know how to operate in public.
  • Teamwork. Everyone wants this even if they didn’t ask for it, but make sure your answers and your resume show this off. You are trying to let people know you won’t turn out to be a jerk.
  • Eagerness to learn and to face a new challenge. When you clearly don’t have all of the skills, show them another situation where you succeeded when you didn’t have all the skills. Show them that instead of sitting on your duff, you took a training class. You get the idea.

There are probably more, but what you are trying to do is to broaden their thinking from just skills to all the other things they are looking for that they might not have thought about, and show them that even though you haven’t done the job before that you are a lower-risk candidate than they thought. They are afraid that they will hire someone who will bomb, so you need to take away that fear.

For most people, all they need is a chance. If you can enlighten your prospective employer that you have most of what they want and are working on adding the latest skills, sometimes that will be enough, especially if you provide a discount off the typical salary for that role.
Good luck!

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide.

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