January 4, 2018 / Featured

Most careers in advertising started in the mail rooms of large agencies or brands. For a career in search engine marketing, the equivalent path is to start as an intern. I started my marketing career as an unpaid intern after college, and since then, I’ve built teams and organizations. For the past 20+ years, I’ve interviewed and hired interns and other junior talent for SEO, PPC and social media positions and have helped guide careers. Based on my personal internship experience, combined with watching our interns learn and grow over the years, I’ve developed five strategies for young talent looking to turn an SEO/SEM internship into a full-time job opportunity

1. Find the Right Fit. On the first day of your internship, if not sooner, figure out management’s expectations for you in your role. Review the job description and ask questions until you have complete clarity regarding key elements of your job. What type of training will I receive? Who is my direct manager? How does information flow through the organization? What tools do I need to know to do my job effectively? What does success look like for me? How can I stand out in a good way? These are all questions you should be asking in the first week of your new internship.

2. Get to Know the Players. While you should know on your first day of work who your direct manager is and start building a relationship with them, there are other decision makers and influencers that can impact your career. Unless your manager is the business owner, it is important to understand that the President/CEO is a constituent that can help expedite, or end, your career. Unfortunately, many decisions can be made based on perception, so it is important to ensure the owner is familiar with you and your value to the organization. Figure out what makes your manager and other key influencers in your company tick and do your best to make them happy. If the owner makes a request of you, make sure you deliver, or quickly clarify why you’re unable to meet their expectations (and it better be a good excuse!).

3. Do It Right and On Time. The only thing worse than missing a deadline is missing a deadline AND doing spotty SEO/SEM work. When asked to complete a project or task, ask questions until you fully understand the expectations. Pro tip: recite or restate the request back to ensure you are both on the same page, especially regarding deadlines. As a junior hire, you should be given some leeway regarding errors and omissions, but most high performing companies do expect a steep learning curve like we do at Anvil. There is no excuse for making the same mistake twice. Pro Tip 2: learning from the mistakes of others is much cheaper than learning from your own mistakes, so ask peers for insights before tackling a project.

4. Be Humble and Fail Fast. Being humble is an important trait. Humility includes quickly and thoroughly apologizing for any missteps you make in your career. More importantly, however, is the need to fail quickly and move on. Nobody is perfect and everyone around you has made mistakes and failed. I’ve failed tragically throughout my career, but I’ve learned from each experience, rebounded and been better for it. The best places to work embrace failure, because without failure, you’re not trying, learning and growing. Some of the world’s most important inventions were born from product failures, in fact (Post-it Notes, microwaves, etc.).

5. You Get Out What You Put In. Even though my first internship at a Seattle agency was neither smooth or nor easy, I did learn a good deal about what it takes to make it in the real world and a good deal about myself too. I worked hard for virtually no pay and did whatever was asked of me. I spent time getting to know the people on my team and across the agency and even asked my coworkers to complete a survey to give me helpful feedback for my next job. One of my coworkers wrote out an entire page of feedback that provided invaluable insights and aided in my career development. My fellow interns at the agency did none of this and I doubt they received the same value as a result.

I’ve learned a great deal in my career journey across 9 agencies and two client-side digital marketing roles. I wish this information was imparted on my before I started my journey. My hope is that you can avoid making potentially costly mistakes on your search marketing career journey.

Kent Lewis (contributor)

As President and founder of Anvil Media, Inc., Kent Lewis is responsible for ensuring the company is living its mission and vision by managing overall corporate strategy including operations, business development, sales and marketing. Specializing in analytics, search engine and social media marketing services, Anvil is an integrated marketing consultancy which provides measurable marketing that moves clients’ businesses forward. Under his leadership since 2000, Anvil has accumulated the following awards and recognition: • Inc. 5000: Fastest growing private companies in America • Oregon Business Magazine: Best Places to Work • Portland Business Journal: Oregon’s Most Admired Companies • Portland Business Journal: Fastest Growing Private 100 Companies (for five consecutive years) • Portland Business Journal: Corporate Philanthropy Awards winner • Clutch: Top Pay-per-Click Agencies in America With a background in agency-side digital marketing, Lewis regularly speaks on effective digital marketing techniques & trends to audiences as a subject matter expert. Since 2000, he’s been an adjunct professor at Portland State University, where he teaches an SEM Workshop, and also toured nationwide with Online Marketing Institute as a lead instructor. Lewis also regularly contributes to industry publications including Business2Community and iMedia Connection. As a long-time entrepreneur, he’s an investor and advisor to a host of emerging Portland-based companies, including BeetBoost, RISEcx, Read2Hear, Syndical, ToneCommand and Workplace Resource of Oregon. Lewis is co-founder of a variety of organizations, including career community pdxMindShare, eROI and SEMpdx, a Portland-area professional trade association for search engine marketers. Active in his community, he’s currently involved in non-profit charity and professional trade organizations including early literacy program SMART (Start Making a Reader Today), The Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) and others. Lewis’s industry recognition and awards include Portland Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 Award, Top 25 Most Influential Pay-per-Click Experts and American Marketing Association Oregon Chapter Marketer of the Year in 2012 and Top 20 Digital Marketing Strategists 2015.

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