How I Landed a Marketing Agency Job With No Experience

 


Around July of 2018, just after finishing my first year of university — I decided I wanted to spend the Summer of 2019 working in a marketing agency.

I was so confident that I would land one, that I quit my reliable summer job, telling them I wouldn’t be returning. That left me with a year to find a gig.

At the time, I was 19 years old and had no marketing experience. I knew almost nothing about marketing beyond what they taught me in school. All I knew was that it entailed working with brands to do something creative, and the prospect of getting involved with that excited me.

Fast forward a year and I was working an 8-week summer job as a paid content writer in a web-dev and digital marketing agency — alongside marketers and web developers with years of experience.

Here’s how I did it.


I Picked a Specialism

“Marketing” is an unbelievably broad term — and you can’t really specialize in something so broad.

The term includes things like:

  • Creative imagery, like branding and visual design.
  • Coding, like web-development (turning visual designs into practical applications with reliable UX).
  • Analytic work, such as analyzing data (li Google Analytics) to help inform future marketing decisions.
  • Content writing and social media management.

Taking things further, each of these topics is incredibly broad and branches into multiple sub-branches.

Nobody wants to be the jack of all trades and master of none. The high wages, bonuses, and opportunities rely on you being the best in your field. It was clear to me, that to stand any chance of becoming a successful marketer, I needed to pick a specialism.

This came down to who I was as a person. I considered myself incredibly analytical, with a sprinkle of a creative nature — and I wanted a job that accommodated that fact.

I read a handful of marketing blogs, to see if any particular field caught my interest. At first glance, SEO was something that really caught my eye. It requires both analytic and creative faculties — as a means to employ the best tactics, assesses data against competitors, and think up unique search terms.

It’s for that reason, I decided to focus my attention on that field.

I Used Free Recourses to Learn the Basics

Even after reading free blogs, I knew very little about SEO and needed some guidance and direction.

Luckily for me, there were hundreds of free SEO recourses at my disposal. To name a few I utilized —

  • Google offers free online qualifications for beginners. Google Analytics and the Fundamentals of Digital Marketing, for example, proved invaluable when learning the basics. They sit nicely on my CV, too.
  • Digital marketing agencies in my local city were offering free courses and seminars, where I could get advice and listen to the techniques of esteemed marketers free of charge. All I had to do was get in touch and sign up.
  • My local city was home to a host of multiple free digital marketing meet-ups — where like-minded people got together and talked about their specialism. It allowed me to network and listen to industry experts over a free Pint and slice of Pizza. (Notable Nottingham based marketing meet-ups include: Accessibility NottinghamDrink Digital and Women in Tech).

Utilizing these recourses allowed me to not only learn the basics for free but also enabled me to network and form relationships with some of the marketers I admired.

And having these people on side proved invaluable. Since meeting them, they have given me insider advice on applying to agencies, and continuously supported all the work I do online.

Plus they’re great people to chat and form a relationship with.

“Marketers need to build digital relationships and reputation before closing a sale.” –Chris Brogan


I Honed My Craft

Marketing agencies tend to have their own methods, techniques, and ways of doing things. In the SEO world, for example, they tend to avoid spam-like “black-hat” tactics.

Because of this, a lot of agencies are willing to train you if you’re straight out of education, to make sure your ethos and mentality align with theirs.

For that reason, a lot of places I was applying for weren’t looking for someone who knew it all in the marketing world. They just wanted someone who clearly had a passion and interest in digital marketing. Someone they could train and mold into an industry expert.

There’s one thing knowing the basic theory, but to prove I meant business I really needed to go out and get some practical experience in the industry before I applied.

As someone just starting out as a content creator, the best way for me to hone my craft was to do work for free — to get practice in the online world, to find my style, and learn how to apply the skills I had read about.

In doing so, I took on a handful of projects, including:

  • Contacting local businesses, and offering to design, and make SEO friendly content for their websites (all for free, or a small fee).
  • Spending 8 weeks working analyzing the Google analytics and content on my University’s website, alongside my University's marketing department — in order to improve their SEO.
  • Finding my voice and writing style by regularly writing and ghost-writing blogs, articles, PR pieces, and web content. (This led to me start a blog and write on Medium).
  • Volunteering, and taking over the management of Social Media profiles for local businesses (including Twitter pages with over 10,000 followers).

Not surprisingly, all of these projects were quite easy to find. Provided you’re reliable and have good references, people tend to snap your hand off when you offer your services for free.

Honing my craft was just as much about me producing the best work I could, as it was me building a portfolio to prove my skill set to agencies. And before I knew it, I had that portfolio to hand.

“Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice underlie much of what’s successful on the web.” –Rick Levine

I Kept Up To Date

Digital marketing, as a career, is incredibly fast-paced because the techniques, systems, and technology it utilizes are continually changing.

In the SEO world, for example, all it takes is one Google update for things to radically change.

Because of that, I made a conscious effort to try and keep up to date with some of the trends and updates happening in the marketing world — to get into the habit of adjusting my behavior according to what was happening.

To give you an example, I regularly checked on Search Engine Land, for any algorithm updates being implemented by Google. Doing so enabled me to produce content that aligned with these updates, giving it the best chance of success.


I Did The Research (On Marketing Agencies)

From my experience, there are three main marketing agencies:

  • Multinationals. I’m talking Deloitte Digital, Mindshare, MEC — all world-renowned marketing agencies. It’s a big fish, small pond scenario; you’re expected to be geographically flexible and there’s little chance of career growth.
  • Up and coming agencies. These are fast-paced, local agencies that set their sites on becoming multinational. They have a short history and have grown exponentially since being founded. They work with high-end clients and win international awards. They offer great incentives and offer lots of opportunities for career growth.
  • Small Enterprises. I’m talking a team of 5 or less, all who used to be freelancers and decided to band together. They tend to work with modest and local clients to make a difference in their community and have a hands-on approach to almost everything.

Knowing that I didn’t want to work in a multinational, I instead reviewed my options regarding the others. I looked up agencies in my area and compared my values and principles against theirs to find the right fit for me.

After a short while, it became clear that a Small Enterprise was right for me. It would allow me insight into all aspects of the agency, to learn and form a close relationship with each team member, and help promote real change in the city I lived in.

From experience, small enterprises include less red-tape then other businesses. So I knew they would give me more freedom to experiment and do my job, over boring paperwork.

“I want to do business with a company that treats emailing me as a privilege, not a transaction.” — Andrea Mignolo

I Applied (Again and Again)

Having done all the hard work in building my worth, I decided to apply for some of the agencies I had my sights set on.

Sadly, unless you’re an industry expert with years of experience, you have to endure personality tests, random exercises, and rigorous interview processes if you want to stand any chance of landing a job.

And, having applied for every small agency in my area, I was rejected by a lot.

But, after a few setbacks, I found an agency that thought I was a good fit. And from there, the opportunity to work alongside expert web-developers, coders, graphic designers, and content writers opened.

During my eight-week stay at the agency, I learned an awful lot about marketing and learned from leading web-designers, coders, graphic designers, and content writers.

And with all this knowledge, landing an agency job will be much easier next time around.


Final Thoughts

When I told people I had landed a job alongside industry experts, a lot of them acted as though I had just been lucky. They assumed I just applied with little to no thought, and landed the job.

That wasn’t the case at all. Although some luck was involved, landing this job was the result of a year's research and work. On my journey from beginner to professional, I:

  • Picked a specialism and used free recourses to learn the basics.
  • Honed my craft, and kept up to date as the industry changed and adapted.
  • Did the research on agencies, and applied over and over until I landed a result.

It wasn’t easy, but it was simple. Hard work is how I landed an agency job. Put in the hours, and you could do it too.