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We asked an entrepreneur how you can bag a top digital marketing career

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In this Q&A, The National Student grabs five (more) minutes with entrepreneur and digital marketing expert Hafiz Muhammed Ali, to find out why students everywhere should consider a career in this lucrative industry.

Credit: Hafiz Muhammed Ali

How has the industry changed since you first started out in digital marketing nearly a decade ago? Has the competition become more intense?

The industry has evolved, and digital marketing has become competitive. Not only with algorithms getting more sophisticated and complex, but every day with disruptive business models.

There are blogs, videos, and courses about anything you might want to learn, so it is much easier to learn and follow the steps.  There is now a playbook for everything if you want to succeed.

Many students are hoping to begin making a good salary as soon as possible after graduating. What area do you think provides the fastest route to earning big bucks?

I like this quote a lot, and I think it is quite relevant here too: “The cream always rises to the top.”

For prospective students, the best way to make it big is to build a personal brand through a blog, podcast, Instagram or YouTube channel. Matthew Barby is a great example. He is the Director of Acquisition at Hubspot, and graduated from Aston University in Birmingham in 2012. He worked at two agencies for four years, but during that time he kept a side hustle of running a blog. This helped him attract a large audience, which led him to work at one of the leading software companies in the digital marketing space.

I believe investing time in learning, experimentation, and sharing your results through any of the channels mentioned above can have a massive impact on one's career.

In such a competitive field, what should undergraduates be doing now to help themselves stand out from the crowd after graduation?

They should start practising now.

A student who starts a blog or YouTube channel whilst studying and grows it to a few hundred or thousand followers or subscribers will stand out more than one who has a degree and no practical knowledge. At the end of the day, recruiters are looking for people that can contribute to the workplace and will prefer someone who has some practical experience managing or running a website, or any digital channel.

Can you recall any truly terrible CV bloopers from students or recent graduates that have instantly ruled them off an interview shortlist?

I’ve never shortlisted any candidate if they have typos in their CVs. It tells me that the candidate is not detail-oriented and will make small mistakes in our organisation, which will lead to a bigger mistake later on.

Is there anything you did when starting out that you would do totally differently now?

I’d say time management. I wish I’d known earlier how to manage time more effectively so I can read more and practise more.

You have a degree in digital marketing - how essential (or otherwise) do you think it is for those interested in the field to hold a similar qualification? Are there any other degrees or qualifications that provide a good path towards working in digital marketing?

I started my career in digital marketing a decade ago, and at that time, digital marketing wasn’t formally taught in universities - so the natural course for me was trial and error, and to obtain certifications later on.

However, times have changed and recruiters are looking for candidates with a degree in digital marketing or marketing/business if they are fresh graduates. Digital marketing is taught at both bachelor’s and master’s level at leading universities in the UK, which can be an excellent platform for prospective digital marketers.

A good example is the University of Aberdeen (from where I graduated). The programme is entirely online, and you can easily complete it while having a job.

For students and professionals who cannot start their degree in digital marketing for some reason, the best way forward is to obtain certifications and build up skills. Moreover, they should keep practising with digital marketing tools - i.e. by signing up a free trial - to get their hands dirty.

How necessary or otherwise is it to hold a postgraduate qualification, particularly for those wanting to compete for top salaries?

I did a survey of digital marketing professionals in the UK this year and came across some interesting statistics. For example, 48% of digital marketers only have a bachelor’s degree, and 24%t have master’s degree.

However, there is a direct correlation between top earners and post-graduate qualification, which is why I completed my MSc in Digital Marketing Leadership and will start my PhD in January 2019.

You talk about this being a ‘future-proof’ career - do you foresee any disruptive technology shaking up the industry as it is today? How can people prepare to adapt to industry changes in a fast-moving industry?

Internet of things, blockchain, voice search, and AI are all technologies that can affect digital marketing, but also ones that present an opportunity. For instance, companies are already developing Alexa Life Skills to connect with their customers. It is all about being aware of what is going around you and being adaptable to stay afloat with the technological changes.

What personality traits and skills do you think help people make a big impact in digital marketing? And any personality traits that make somebody categorically unsuited to it?

Digital marketing is an evolving industry which every day presents new challenges. Platforms like Google or Facebook change their algorithm several times a year, which is why I think enthusiasm, creativity, and adaptability are personality traits that help one become successful in digital marketing.

People who are not keen learners are not best suited for this industry, as it requires constant learning and self-development.

Hafiz Muhammad Ali is an entrepreneur and one of the UK’s leading digital marketing career and leadership coaches. He is the founder of international digital marketing agency Omnicore, and a regular contributor to Entrepreneur.

His new book, Digital Passport: Your Pass to a Promising Career in Digital Marketing (Omnicore Publishing), is a comprehensive guide to launching a digital marketing career and is available now on Amazon UK priced £9.14 in paperback and £4.98 as an eBook.

Find out more at www.hafizmuhammadali.com




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