I’m a content marketer. It’s one of those jobs that did not exist until recently, when all kinds of tech and digital disruptions happened.
Maybe you want to get a job in the booming digital field. Maybe you love marketing. Maybe you want to do both. I can’t tell you much about other digital marketing jobs like SEO Specialist or Big Data Analyst or Web Developer, but I can talk about content marketing.
Note! I don’t speak from the point of view of a hiring manager or a veteran. I speak from the perspective of someone who went in as a (almost-complete) noob, learnt about content marketing mostly on the job, and recently progressed to another content marketing job at a new place.
I Had Zero Marketing Knowledge
Or any marketing or business-related qualifications.
No relevant work experiences either. My previous full-time job was civil servant at a government ministry, where I helped implement public policy.
But I did have strong English skills and I was able to demonstrate them.
What happened was that I saw a job ad for “content marketing executive” at a local digital agency when I visited a job portal for recent graduates. The ad called for someone with good writing skills and I remember thinking “I have those, I need to clinch this job!” Never mind that I did not even know what content marketing was. I sent over my resume along with a punchy cover letter explaining why I qualified. The hiring manager replied a couple of hours later asking for more details. Then I had to do a written test, followed by an interview with the hiring manager, and finally, an interview with the big boss. Throughout the entire process, there was an emphasis on strong language and writing skills. The marketing stuff would be learnt along the way, so it was not so important to have marketing qualifications and experiences (whew!).
I clinched the job.
I Learnt Mostly On The Job
There was some initial training in business writing. I had to learn to stop writing in my normal long-winded style and adopt a more concise and direct way of communicating. Great! (But, I still think most businesses could do with more personality, warmth, and flair in their communications).
There was an e-learning course on inbound marketing I had to complete too. I learnt that marketing is undergoing a big shift from the “traditional” product-centric way of doing things (telemarketing! ads in the papers!) to an approach that focused more on customers and their needs. Content marketing plays a major part in the new way of doing things. The big idea was to produce content that prospective customers would find useful and relevant, distribute said content to them via digital channels, and then spur them into taking action.
All these only started making sense when I got involved in marketing campaign projects. On the job was how I learnt to write a variety of marketing collateral or “content”: blog posts, eBooks, social media posts, landing pages, thank you pages, emails, infographics, and more. On the job was how I learnt to write for various industries: enterprise resource planning, office providers, decorative laminates, to name a few. On the job was how I learnt how to work with other people in a digital project team: designers, project managers, account managers, freelancers, are the usual guys.
We were all learning. The agency was new to the digital marketing business too (its foundations lay in web design and development). So it was up to us keep up with digital trends, ask for training, apply our knowledge, and do things better each time we got a new client. Iterate, iterate, iterate.
That’s what it’s like to work in digital marketing. Dynamic. Fast-paced. The learning (and relearning) never stops.
Experience is Good, But You Need a Spark of Passion Too
I left that agency after a little more than a year. It was time to move on.
This time, I was back on the job market with more concrete experiences and knowledge, plus a strong portfolio of written works. But I’m sure other candidates have these too, or even better. For a job like content marketing, you’re often competing with the likes of journalists, editors, publishers, public relations folks, and people with marketing communications backgrounds.
I think the way to stand out and impress is to demonstrate genuine interest and an eagerness to keep learning. I realised these when I was interviewing for my new content marketing role. The role was with a slightly bigger but more well-established agency. I found it natural and easy to speak about digital trends (not just related to content marketing), the art and science of effective writing, and how I envisioned growing in my field. I didn’t come in with the details fully-formed in my mind already. But as I spoke, all these came flowing out from a deep well within.
Today, I Continue to Hone My Craft
I now work at an agency with over a decade’s worth of experience in business-to-business (B2B) content marketing and public relations.
One of the best things about working in my current agency is that the crafts of writing and communication are respected and emphasised. On one hand, this means that quality standards are higher and the work is more challenging. On the other, there are more learning opportunities here. I am in the company of some very experienced content marketers, industry veterans, and writers who are willing to share their knowledge.
So, If You Want to be a Content Marketer, Then …
Make sure you have solid language skills. That’s basic and non-negotiable. Demonstrate your language chops with a portfolio of written works. Ideally, your portfolio should cover a variety of topics and content types (long form like eBooks and short form like social media copies).
But remember that content is not just about writing. Content marketing also encompasses non-written content like videos and infographics, so if you have experiences producing these, great! Successful content marketing is ultimately about telling a compelling story, and that means being able to keep readers hooked and engaged till the end. Check out this amazing long-form article on the growing popularity of Ultra High Definition video formats. Sounds boring? Wait till you see how the authors use clever animation and gorgeous visuals to make their story come alive!
Do you need a background in marketing? Depends. Some companies might insist that you come in with some marketing experiences already, others might be more willing to train you from scratch. But you should at least be a “consumer”. That is, be familiar with digital platforms and publications. Read blogs and talk about your favourites. Definitely have some experience with social media. Buy stuff from e-commerce stores. I was once asked during an interview to give my opinion on Buzzfeed and its effectiveness as a content marketing platform.
Here’s one of the best advice out there on breaking into content marketing or any digital-related job, from an industry veteran:
The best way to excel in a digital marketing role is to get your hands dirty. Try digital marketing tasks in your personal life before you ask for a job in the industry.”
Walk the talk. DIY, and even better if you could demonstrate good results. Someone I know who’s worked in content marketing for many years advised seeking a mentor who can guide you in finding and growing your niche(s).
Whew, this post turned out way longer than I initially intended! I was in a state of “flow” when writing this >_<
So I’ll leave you with these. Some things I do now that I’ve gone past the noob stage and am trying to “turn pro“:
- Keep an open mind
- Practise being creative with writing and storytelling
- Learn new complementary skills
Oh, and as always when it comes to working in a dynamic field like digital, iterate! Iterate! Iterate!