Like many of you, I have dreamed about finally making it to the big leagues, aka making more than minimum wage, to live the kind of life that I wanted to enjoy. Growing up I was always told by peers, parents, and public officials that after high school, going to college and getting a degree is how you get a good job. However, despite what you and I were told growing up, there’s a way for you to get ahead of those who are just focusing on their educational degree.

In this article, you’ll learn the tips, tricks, and secrets of how I started my career through digital marketing in 2018 and now in 2021, 3 years later, went from barely earning $11/hour to now over 60K a year (without a degree might I add). By learning from my experience, I hope to inspire each of you to develop your career alongside pursuing a degree! With hard work, strategic planning, networking, and a little bit of luck; you too might find yourself in a similar position. That is, earning the big bucks that college grads are going to school for.

In the Beginning…

First of all, I promise this isn’t going to be one of those, “Back in my day,” long, back to the beginning of time stories. We’re just going to get right to the juicy meat of it! Long story short, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career back in 2017. I knew I wanted to go into business and possibly learn how to build my own one day. However, I learned real quick that doing internships and shadowing entrepreneurs was nearly impossible with how busy they are.

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I then reflected that for every business to succeed, they need to do some form of marketing! So that’s when I switched careers in 2018. It was the best decision I could have made! Getting introduced to all the different marketing concepts, learning how vast digital marketing was, and getting excited that I could make a real difference in each company I worked for, had me through the roof! However, no matter how interested in this path I was, it came with lots of hurtles.

Like many of you, I’m pursuing my bachelor’s degree in digital marketing. However, one thing I saw that was more common than none, was the fact that I came in contact with countless individuals who got their degree and had no experience, other than summer sales, to pair it with. I saw time and time again they struggled to find jobs that were good-paying, let alone related to their degree. ‘The fact is that approximately 53% of college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree.’ — Washington.edu

After seeing all of this, I had an epiphany! Employers weren’t just looking for a degree, they were looking to fill positions with people who could contribute in skillsets and overall bring value to their company. So I set on a journey to gain experience, valuable skillsets, and results — alongside getting my degree.

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Experience Is King!

Many universities and institutions, require you to do a 3-month long internship to graduate. What I came to the fact was that internships and work experience, while you are going to school, are a way for you to figure out what kinds of companies you want to work for, apply the knowledge you’re learning in your classes, and start racking up those skillsets! Even though the universities only require you to do one, I was instructed to do at least 2 or 3 before graduating. That is my recommendation to you as well if you want to move on up the ladder! Plus it gives you the ability to test out different markets and see what industry you’d like to pursue and work in! So don’t take these temporary jobs for granted.

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If you look at my LinkedIn profile, you’ll see that overall I had two internships, two marketing-related jobs, and did freelancing before scoring my latest position as a Digital Marketing Manager at an international company. These things do take time, so make sure to be patient with yourself at the moment. However, working for several years isn’t what is going to distinguish you from your peers. You can drive results and shows that you’re more valuable than someone else. In the next section, we’re going to go over how you can stand out as a better candidate when looking for jobs.

Becoming “Valuable”

There are a few tips and secrets that I learned along the way that I’ll exclusively share with you. Besides the tip of doing multiple internships, the other has to do more with developing your skillsets. There are several skills you can learn in digital marketing, however, you’re the one that needs to determine which one’s will set you apart for the direction you’re going. You’re more than welcome to read my article, Top 3 Digital Marketing Skills You’ll Need To Be Successful” to get an idea of where to start your journey.

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Here’s something to keep in mind. Over 3.2 million high school (or equivalent) graduates begin college in the fall. Now, even though 33% of students drop out of college every year, you have to remember that the number of college students continues to go up and down. The fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of competition of students going to school for the same position you’re attempting to snag after graduation. You need to be ahead of the game when it comes to being more qualified than they. In the end, you need to increase your list of skills and qualifications on your resume! Here are some ways you can do that!

Many places allow you to get certifications and certificates to show that you’re qualified to do such activities. This is where you will be able to stand out, especially if you start applying what you are learning within your internship or job positions as you go along. Some of the topics you can research, get certifications for or even start practicing in today, include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Content Marketing & Copyrighting
  • Web Development & Web Design
  • Social Media Marketing (Organic & Paid)
  • Marketing Funnels & Strategizing
  • Google Analytics & Google Ads
  • Influencer Marketing
  • SEO
  • Google My Business Optimization
  • Market Research & Analytics
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While I do agree that getting an education from a credible university is important, there’s one thing that you have to keep in mind. Marketing is constantly changing, so do you think the schools can keep up to date with their curriculum? The answer is no. From my experience, many of the classes you take that are pertinent to your degree are outdated by at least two years. This is why I suggest enrolling in other non-credited university courses online. This will allow you to get a broader view and even possibly a better idea of what you might want to specialize in. Some companies that offer great courses include GoogleHubSpotUdemyStukent, and one of my personal favorites Click Funnels

The Magic Bullet…

Besides looking for experience through internships, entry-level jobs, and online courses; there’s one secret that I’ve been told by a VP of Marketing that helps you stand out amongst the crowd. The magic bullet of what helps you look more valuable than the person next to you. Do you wanna know what it is…? Of course, you do! The Magic Bullet is… Freelancing! Or owning your own little business. Either way, the benefits of being able to experience what it’s like to perform services and have client/customer interactions are important when advancing your career. It’ll allow you to test what you’ve been learning and solidify your current or desired skillsets. The journey is unlike any other you’ll experience and is easy to do part-time. Trust me, your resume and future interviews will thank me!

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Conclusion

Overall I hope that you’ll take my experience that has allowed me to advance my career faster than the traditional college graduate and apply a lot of the steps mentioned in this article to further your career. In the end, my advice is to just do your very best by giving everything you do your all. I promise you that as you work vigorously, use these tips and tricks, network, and be patient with yourself that opportunities will come your way. If you’re interested in connecting with me on LinkedIn, I’d love to help and advise students pursuing their career paths.

If you’re interested in reading and attaining more resources that will make your life easier, as you work on your digital marketing skillsets; make sure to subscribe to my channel where I lay out some foundational software, tools, and other advice that will help you on your career path.

Illustration Credit: Online illustrations by Storyset