Last week, a friend of mine emailed me to ask my thoughts on how he get started as a digital strategist. My response was a bit rambling, but I think I can boil it down to a few key thoughts. 1.) Don't Be a Generalist. These days, everyone has a base level of knowledge about how digital and social media work, and even the grad fresh out of ad school has "Digital Strategist" on his résumé. Yet many of these people don't have any deep understanding of how an online campaign actually works, or think that a shotgun approach of trying as many different channels as possible is the right way to go. My friend already has a head-start in email marketing and SEO, and I suggested he focus even further on these. As digital budgets within agencies grow, there will be more room for people with this type of specialization and it will be this type of specialization that will help drive results.
2.) Have a Few Case Studies. Specifically, case studies that demonstrate effectiveness and a return on investment. If you're just getting your start, it will be tough to provide case studies. Again, in my friend's example I recommended he spend a bit of time helping another friend of ours build up their online business, and using the results as a bit of an SEO/SEM case study.
3.) Meet People. I think my friend's approach of reaching out to me as someone in the industry was a great first step, and that he should continue reaching out. Finding out different perspectives from other Digital Strategists or potential employers will help guide my friend both in understanding more about what he needs to work on specifically and if it's even something he wants to get into. I'm always incredibly thankful of all the people I met when I first moved to Toronto a while back and who gave me advice and pointed me in the right direction when I was getting my start in the communications business. I also believe that for right or wrong, a big part of finding a job is about who you know, not where you apply. I don't think any of the jobs I've ever had came as a result of seeing a posting and applying, but rather came about through a personal conversation with someone.
I'm sure there is more to it than that. Do you have any advice for my friend? Leave a comment or shoot me a tweet (I'm @ParkerNow) and I'll update this post.