5 Tips to Future Proof a Digital Career
By Quincy Smith
Maintaining a skillset has always been a priority regardless of profession, but for those of us who use a computer for a living, it can get a bit overwhelming with how fast technology changes.
As someone who has been involved with search engine optimization (SEO) for five years, I’ve gotten better at weathering Google’s mood swings but often still feel like I’m playing catchup with technologies and tools that impact our website’s performance.
Yes, digital marketing can be a volatile industry, but the lesson is the same — it’s paramount to keep your skillset up to date if you want to keep your business or your clients performing well.
In this post I’m going to break down five tips to help future proof a digital career and where to start if you feel like you’re falling behind.
Networking is a soft skill, but it will never go out of style and can benefit anyone regardless of industry. I landed my first digital marketing job from a guy who went to my gym — he was launching a new product to be sold on Amazon, I knew enough to be helpful, and the rest is history.
My goal with networking is to cultivate relationships that I can use later on and I tend to take a pretty broad approach:
I add almost everyone I meet in a business capacity to LinkedIn and spend a bit of time every week going through my feed and interacting with posts.
I try to regularly attend webinars on topics that interest me (they don’t have to be related to SEO).
I try to attend one onsite SEO conference per year and do my best to put faces to the names I’ve been seeing on LinkedIn and hosting webinars for the past year.
This approach took a while to bear fruit, but a few years in and I’m seeing a lot more familiar faces at conferences and have some solid LinkedIn relationships I can lean on when needed.
It has also resulted in more than one job offer and plenty of introductions to recruiters than I can reach out to if needed.
It’s worth mentioning that networking is a two-way street — you will need to add value to your connections and be available to respond to messages, etc.
Where to start:
In addition to LinkedIn, there are two easy approaches to building new relationships:
Reddit — there’s subreddit for almost every profession or skill — make a habit of browsing yours and contributing where you can add value. Some of the bigger groups even offer a dedicated Slack or Discord channel.
Facebook groups — similar to Reddit, Facebook offers a great platform to socialize with others in your profession. I’m in two great SEO groups and get a ton of value out of the discussions and collaborative “shop talking” that happens there.
Embrace New Skills
The digital landscape changes quickly, and it’s in your best interest to keep up with new tools, processes, and skills. I try to do this regularly by setting aside time to learn a new skill and am now slowly making my way through Springboard’s free Data Analysis course.
Here’s how I found something that interested me and would also benefit my career:
Browse job postings to find what skills employers are asking for that will help you land the job you want.
Narrow down the skills to those that have free resources worth pursuing.
Choose a skill that you can learn and test while at work — it will help reinforce everything.
Make sure to focus not just on skills that come with certificates — anything can be added to your resume, and a good employer will make sure to evaluate a skill regardless of whether you have a piece of paper or badge on your LinkedIn profile.
Where to start:
Hubspot — if you’re involved with marketing, then Hubspot has some great free certification courses.
Google — if you’re involved with SEO or analytics, I highly recommend checking out Google’s free analytics courses.
Tool-specific training — if there is a tool in your marketing stack that you’d like to get better at, check and see if they have any free resources to work through. We just moved our analytics to Heap, and I’ve learned a ton from their free online course.
Take on New Tasks at Work
I recently started a new role at Ampjar, and as a newer company we’re focused on finding product market fit. To help assess this, we’re spending a lot of time conducting user interviews and I was asked to contribute — not only to help better familiarize myself with user sentiment, but also to see if I could learn something about how we can improve our product.
I had actually never done a user interview before, and while it was a bit touch and go at the start, I’m now confident in my ability and even found a few UX improvements that made our product even better.
The moral of the story is this: don’t shy away from jobs or tasks that you might not be familiar with. If they are asking you to help it’s for a reason, and at the very least you get to practice a skill that might help you later on.
Where to start:
Ask to shadow people — ask a colleague if you can spend 30 minutes with them per week observing their work, and go from there.
Sit in on other department meetings — this might be a harder sell, but most people won’t mind if you sit and observe as long as you explain that you’re trying to learn more about what they do.
Train Other People
Training or onboarding new hires has two main benefits:
It gives you a great platform to practice and reinforce your skills.
It gives you a taste of managing if you haven’t had any.
Even if you don’t have the experience to fully train a new hire, ask a colleague if you can shadow them or assist in some way.
Publish in Your Industry
Getting published is a great way to boost your stock as an expert while also giving you an excuse to research, refine, and organize your thoughts on a subject.
Where to start:
HARO — HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out and is a daily email where reporters and websites submit requests for quotes. Anyone is able to respond, and the best replies often get published in high-profile places.
In the last year, I’ve used HARO to get quotes on USA Today, Databox, and Student Loan Hero — all of which I can reference later on if needed.
Guest posting — guest posting is the act of contributing a blog post to a website that is not your own. This method can be a bit time-intensive but allows you reach an entirely new audience and share your expertise.
Backlinko has a great guide to guest posting if you’re interested.
Publish your own content — the final way to become an authority in your space is to create and publish content on your own (or your company’s) blog. While this won’t expose you to a new audience, it will allow you to hash out your thoughts and theories and build a writing portfolio that you can share later on.
Don’t let this list overwhelm you — pick one or two things to focus on and build them into your routine. The quote “always be learning” is appropriate here — if you commit yourself to constant improvement, you’ll be leagues ahead of most people and become a better employee as a result. Good luck!