What if I told you that it’s possible to land a six-figure job in marketing regardless of the experience you have right now?
You’d probably say I’m full of it.
I mean, if that were true, wouldn’t everybody be doing it? Not quite…
Five years ago I graduated from college with a biology degree, a 2.5 GPA, and a job in the medical field. Two years later, I landed job offers from Google, Microsoft, and Twitter to work on their marketing products and my salary jump into the six-figure range.
Most people struggle to land a job they love for two reasons:
- They follow the same outdated job search advice that every other candidate is using
- They don’t put in the extra effort it takes to build new skills and beat out the competition
In this post, I’m going to walk you through the exact process I used to build the marketing skills I needed to land jobs at the world’s best companies without a degree or job in marketing. I’ll also teach you how you can get paid to learn and create a second source of income along the way!
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By the end of this read, you’ll have a clear path from where you are now to the marketing job of your dreams. Let’s dive in:
Step 1: Get Clear On What You Want
One of the biggest mistakes that career changers make is heading straight to a job board and blasting out dozens of applications.
The first step is any job search should always be getting crystal clear on exactly what you want. While this article is going to show you the exact steps you can take to land a job in marketing, by no means is it going to be easy. Applying for a new role, especially one that doesn’t exactly align with your background, is a full time job in and of itself. You don’t want to spend four months job searching only to end up in a role you can’t stand.
The good news is that this problem is super easy to avoid by simply doing your research before you get started!
Coschedule went ahead and did most of the heavy lifting for us by researching and breaking down the different types of marketing roles and consolidating them in this article. Reading that will give you a high level overview of the marketing landscape and help you take the first step in your search.
The Decision Funnel For Marketing: Digital vs. Traditional
When it comes to marketing, there are two overarching fields: traditional and digital. The first decision you need to make is which field you want to be a part of.
Traditional marketing includes “old school” tactics like print advertising in newspapers, TV spots, or physical coupons. Digital marketing is comprised of all the tools and tactics you’ll find online like Content Marketing, Facebook Ads, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, etc.
If you’re looking for a career that pays well in a field that’s primed to rapidly expand in the next 5-10 years, the answer is easy: you’re going the digital route.
Digital marketing has been growing at an astonishing rate – in 2017, advertisers spent $209 billion on digital which made up 41% of the market (compared to traditional media’s 35%):
Image courtesy of Recode.net
That trend is only going to grow with Statistia reporting that advertisers plan to increase their digital budgets 12.3% in the next 12 months, while traditional media budgets continue to decline.
Down The Digital Rabbit Hole
Now that we’ve got the easy decision out of the way, things get a bit more interesting.
Digital marketing is a HUGE field with tons of different areas and specialties. Picking an area to focus on may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s actually great news because there truly is something for everyone in the digital space.
If you’re visually creative, you can go into user experience or video creation. If you love writing, content marketing is one of the hottest fields out there right now. If you’re all about crunching data, pay-per-click platforms like Google Adwords or Facebook Ads let you get super granular about your audience and site traffic.
The question is, where do you begin?
In my experience, the best place to start is building foundational knowledge with courses and resources that break down the basics of the entire digital marketing ecosystem. Your goal with these introductory resources is twofold:
- To understand the online marketing ecosystem and how each part works together to create a highly effective strategy that drives leads and sales
- Get a taste of the individual fields within the digital marketing space to help you decide which one you want to explore further and build your career around
You first piece of homework is to comb through some of the free content out there.
Coschedule’s Marketing Basics gives a great overview of the main channels in the online space along with links to in-depth articles on each topic. I’d also recommend taking a look at Quicksprout’s Beginner’s Guide To Online Marketing. Those two posts will give you a solid idea of how things work and why.
Next, it’s time to make a larger commitment with Hubspot’s free Inbound Marketing Certification. This course will take a deeper dive into the channels you learned about in those free articles above and it will give you a certification that you can drop right onto your resume.
This whole step should take you around two weeks to complete.
Step 2: Narrow Your Focus & Expand Your Knowledge
Once you’ve made it through the resources above, you should have a very solid idea of what fields you’re interested in pursuing.
The next step on your journey will be to expand your knowledge in these fields, zero in on one, then find a way to build real-world results that you can use in lieu of “traditional” marketing experience.
Let’s start with expanding your knowledge within your fields of interest.
Over the next month, your goal is to consume as much information as you possibly can about the digital marketing fields you’re interested in. In my experience, the three fastest ways to learn new skills are:
- Take courses
- Join a community of people who are actively talking about the topic you’re interested in
- Find ways to apply what you learn to the real world
One of the most amazing things about the web today is how many resources are right at our fingertips. There are free courses full of amazing information on every single facet of the digital marketing ecosystem, all you need to do is sign up.
To help save you time, here are four “hubs” for marketing courses that will help you learn pretty much everything you need to know:
- CoSchedule Academy
- Hubspot Academy
- Udemy (your first course should only cost $9.99)
- Coursera (free courses from amazing universities like Princeton, MIT, and Stanford)
In the interest of productivity and efficiency, plan to take a maximum of three courses total at the beginning. It’s easy to get sucked into “learning mode.” It feels great to watch a video and learn something new – you feel totally energized and full of hope!
The problem is, anyone can watch videos. Courses and certifications won’t be enough to get you hired (in most cases). Taking action on what you learn will!
Join A Community
Courses and books are great for building foundational knowledge, but they tend to be an insular experience and they’re limited to the amount of info in their materials.
One of the best ways to rapidly accelerate your knowledge is to join a community dedicated to the field you want to learn. A place where people are asking questions, talking about new ideas, and swapping knowledge 24/7.
This doesn’t mean you need to find MeetUps or spend two hours of your Saturday at an event with people you’ve never met before. That’s way too taxing.
The best place I’ve found for this is Reddit because there’s a subreddit for almost any topic, hobby, or niche on the planet.
If you’re not familiar with subreddits, they are basically online forums where people post content related to that specific topic. People in the community vote on posts and the content with the most upvotes rises to the top of the forum. Each post also has a comment section where people can chime in with their own thoughts. Here’s what one of the Search Engine Optimization subreddits looks like:
This format makes it super easy to soak up a ton of knowledge with minimal effort. All you need to do is check in once or twice a day, read a few of the top posts along with the comments, then rinse and repeat. It’s also a great place to post your own questions that pop up as you’re going through the courses mentioned above.
I personally use this strategy every day for topics that relate to my goals.
For example, getting new visitors to my career site is a major goal. SEO (search engine optimization) is one of my main tactics for driving traffic so I make sure to check out r/SEO and r/bigseo, Reddit’s two largest SEO communities, on a daily basis. Implementing a few tips I learned there helped me boost my traffic from 8,000 visitors per month to 62,000+ in a few short months.
I’m also a huge craft beer fan and have always wanted to make my own. I decided to challenge myself to learn enough to brew a batch of IPAs for my wedding. I read a few books, bought all the hardware, and spent a few minutes reading up on r/homebrewing every day for the next 4 months. The result? An awesome beer that blew away my expectations (and most of our wedding guests!):
Finding the right subreddits is incredibly easy too.
All you need to do is head to Google and search for [Your Topic] Subreddit and you’ll get a mix of links that head right to the communities themselves along with articles other people have written consolidating the best communities for you. If you want to become a graphic designer, your search might look like this:
Once you’ve found communities for your specific niche, you can create a free Reddit account and subscribe to them to customize your feed (or “front page” as it’s called on the platform). Now, every time you open the Reddit app, you’ll get a fresh feed of new information on that exact topic!
Step 3: Apply Your Knowledge To The Real World
This is where the rubber meets the road.
As I mentioned before, anyone can take a course, get a certification, or lurk in an online community reading other people’s posts. I hate to break it to you, but that isn’t going to do much in the way of helping you stand out to potential employers.
If you want to get hired in a marketing role, you need to find ways to get out there build real experience with real results!
The two best methods for making this happens are freelancing or starting a passion project.
Freelancing: Getting Paid To Learn
The great part about marketing is that every single company needs it, from Amazon to your local gym.
In the 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss defines an expert as “someone who knows more about a topic than the person they’re speaking to.” You may not be the leading authority on Facebook Ads, but if you’ve taken a few courses, actively participated in FB Ad forums online, and spend a few of your own dollars testing the platform, I’ll bet you know WAY more than Jane CEO who spent 20 years as an administrative assistant and just quit to start her Etsy store.
All you need to do is find someone who needs marketing help and has zero experience of their own. They will be happy to pay you (especially if your prices are lower than the competition to start out) and you’ll have the opportunity to build real-world results.
This is exactly how I built the experience I needed to transition from the medical field into sales at Microsoft. I went to real estate agents in private communities and told them I’d be able to get them qualified leads for less money. I began running Google Ads to their listings and, six months later, we sold all of the properties on their site for less than ⅓ of the realtors’ commission on a single house!
Was I a Google Ads expert when we started? Absolutely not, but I was willing to roll up my sleeves, dive in, and solve the problems as they popped up. If I can do it, so can you.
Finding Your First Client
Since we’re in this for the experience, one of the best places to get started is Upwork.
Upwork is a marketplace where freelancers offer their services to companies looking to hire someone on a short term basis. The site gets 34 million monthly visits – that’s a lot of people coming to find what you have to offer!
All you need to do is create an account as a freelancer and begin submitting proposals for jobs. This saves you all the effort of managing your own outreach and sales, which can be afull-time job in and of itself. The hardest part here is landing your first job. Once you have that booked along with a review and testimonial, more gigs will flow your way.
Passion Projects: Create Something Cool
While freelancing let’s you get paid to learn, not every field has an immediate path to monetization.
In those cases, find a way to leverage your newfound skills to create something totally cool!
If you want to be a copywriter, fire up a blog on Medium.com and begin pitching your posts to Medium’s top publications as well as other publications around the internet. Keep track of the views you accrue, number of social shares, and maybe even build an email list. All of those metrics can be used on your resume as a tangible illustration of the value you bring as a writer.
Medium is great because it has a massive pre-existing audience and it hosts all of your posts for you:
On top of that, it keeps track of all of your article metrics like pageviews, reads, and the number of followers you gained per post. All of these are awesome metrics to leverage as measurable value for a potential employer:
If you want to be a videographer, come up with a crazy topic like interviewing interesting people while eating hot wings with increasing levels of heat or shoot a “commercial” about yourself to prove your skills:
Get creative with your marketing and rack up as many views as you possibly can (posting to Reddit got Scott Overend 382,000 views!). Now you have a real video to add to your portfolio along with metrics showing that you know how to grab people’s attention – something every company wants.
If you want to be a UX designer, do an audit of the company’s app or website and then share your findings in a deck or blog post. Cam, a student of mine, wanted a job at AirBnB. She went out and combed through social media to find the biggest pain points users were having with their app, then created a deck with mock ups of a solution for each (you can find the link to her full deck here):
If you want to be a social media marketer, pick a niche, create a profile, and learn how to build your following. When I started my business, I built a following of 22,000 people on Instagram in less than 6 months (although I’ve stopped using it since):
The idea here is to prove your value by actually going out and achieving results on your own. This is actually way more valuable to an employer than “traditional” experience because it shows that you’re willing to invest your own time and money to learn and grow. That will give you a huge advantage when you’re applying for jobs and your competition is leaning on cookie-cutter credentials.
Finally, it’s important to set the expectation that building results takes time. Don’t be surprised if you need to invest several months in your project before you see results that you can actually use to land a new job.
It took me six months to learn search engine marketing, get Google certified, land my first client, and begin generating results. The good news was that I was able to generate income from that project and it resulted in a huge raise with my new marketing job.
Be patient, be persistent, and put a little bit of work in every day – the results will be worth it.
Step 4: Add Your Experience To Your Resume & Apply
At this point in your journey, you’ve spent months honing your chops and building a portfolio of tangible results for yourself. Now we’re going to showcase your stuff to employers and land you that job!
The biggest mistake people make when writing their resume, especially for a job in a different field, is failing to include their results. Instead, their resumes are littered with fluffy bullets like:
- “Implemented comprehensive social media plan”
- “Streamlined processes to increase efficiency and enhance quality”
- “Responsible for managing relationships with clients and growing revenue”
What does that tell your potential employer?
If anything, they’ll be left with even more questions. Did the comprehensive social media plan work? Was it more effective from an ROI standpoint than the other twelve candidates who also launched social media campaigns?
The hiring manager has no way to gauge your value if your bullets don’t give the specific details they need to make a good decision.
Let’s take that social media campaign bullet and revamp it. Instead of, “executed social media campaigns to grow followers” try something like this:
Generated $5,000 of incremental monthly revenue by growing Instagram following from 2,300 to 25,000 in 4 months via my “ladder technique” and monetizing via affiliate marketing.
See how much value that delivers compared to your average bullet? That’s our goal.
Don’t just stop at black and white bullets either. In my guide on writing resume skills, I talk about offering employers a chance to see more than just a few lines of text.
Step Outside of the Black & White Box
Andrew Cardenas is a graphic designer who works for an agency called GREY in New York. He brings his unique eye for design to some of the world’s top brands. One example was his “munch truck” concept for Seamless (the food delivery company). The idea aimed to help customers experience new food and restaurants outside of their delivery area by bringing the cuisine to them via a food truck.
Rather than writing that in a few resume bullets, Andrew could leverage the visual nature of his work on his resume either in the skills or work experience sections of his resume:
See that blue link in the image above? That could go to a blog post case study where Andrew walks through the entire creative process behind munch trucks as well as the results of the campaign.
When you’re showcasing your experience on your resume, it’s critically import to write your bullets in a way that grabs the hiring manager’s attention and immediately conveys your value.
How To Effectively Convey Your Experience On Your Resume
One trick I love recommending (that helped me land this guest post spot!) is leveraging Coschedule’s advice on writing headlines to craft your resume bullets:
You may not realize it, but the words you choose to use have a huge impact on how the reader perceives your value. According to Coschedule, highly effective bullets include the following:
- They incorporate keywords and phrases – from a job seeker standpoint, this means including word from the job description to help you beat resume scanning software
- They use a mix of common, uncommon, emotional, and powerful words. If you need some help, check out this list of 500+ power words to use in your bullets
- They include numbers and data to drive the point home
If you follow those rules when adding your experience to your resume, you’re going to see a huge bump in call backs when you apply for jobs.
These tactics are just the tip of the iceberg too. If you want a complete breakdown of writing resumes that are proven to triple the amount of job interviews you land (even if you’re switching careers!) check out this guide. It’s helped people just like you land jobs at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and more without traditional experience.
Consolidating Everything You’ve Learned Into A Dream Job Application
Now it’s time for all of your hard work to pay off. If you followed the steps in the article, you spent the last few months:
- Gained a basic understanding of the digital marketing landscape through courses and online resources
- Decided on a specialty and took a deep dive into learning more about how that specific niche works as well as its place in the greater marketing ecosystem
- Found ways to apply your newfound marketing knowledge to the real world in order to build tangible results
- Revamped your resume to include the experience that you built yourself
Now it’s time to get out there and apply for your dream role! Remember, companies are hiring because they need someone to get them results. Traditional criteria and experience are simply ways that companies have judged candidates in the past. If you can find creative ways to showcase the value you bring to the table and what that means for the company, you’ll gain a huge advantage over the competition and substantially increase the number of interviews and offers you land.
Have success out there!