Bridging the gap between studying and landing your first job can be trickier than many realize. In digital marketing, one cause of this problem is that despite having solid practical skills in areas like search engine optimization or social media, new graduates lack the workplace expertise that employers need.
Fortunately, a digital marketing internship can be a great way to remedy this problem. Digital marketing internships offer a unique way to learn more about the industry you’re interested in, while honing your digital marketing experience in the workplace. And since internships are generally pretty short, you aren’t committing your whole career to the field.
In this introductory guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about digital marketing internships and how you can go about landing one.
- What kinds of digital marketing internships are there?
- What skills and experience do you need for a digital marketing internship?
- How to get a digital marketing internship (step-by-step guide)
- Should I study digital marketing or go straight into a digital marketing internship?
- Next steps
Ready to get the low down on digital marketing internships? Then read on!
1. What kinds of digital marketing internships are there?
Before we get into the different types of digital marketing internships, let’s cover the basics.
What is a digital marketing internship?
A popular form of work experience, digital marketing internships are temporary positions designed to offer practical experience in digital marketing. Students who complete a digital marketing internship will learn to apply their skills and knowledge in real-world situations while networking with professionals in the field.
Typically, a digital marketing intern works within a company’s marketing team. They may support a range of tasks, such as creating and managing social media campaigns, conducting market research, or putting together email marketing campaigns.
What types of digital marketing internships are available?
Let’s take a look at some of the options.
Paid vs unpaid internships
As in any other discipline, paid and unpaid internships are both available. In most cases, paid internships pay minimum wage. However, even a modest income elevates the digital marketing intern’s role. You won’t get rich, but having any kind of salary signals that the company values interns the same as any other employee. In turn, this means the quality of the internship is likely to be better. If they’re paying you, they’ll want to help you be the best you can be!
While unpaid internships are also common, we generally recommend avoiding these if you can. Even though paid internships don’t pay much, there’s a big difference between low pay and no pay. Some activists are trying to outlaw unpaid internships on the basis that they promote working for free. However, others argue that unpaid internships are a good way for novice digital marketers to get their foot in the door of competitive companies.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. Digital marketing is hardly a cash-strapped industry. But if you find an unpaid internship at your dream company, you might decide it’s worth your while, especially if it’s only for a short period.
Summer internships vs full-time internships
Probably the most common type of internship is the summer internship. So-called because it fits comfortably into a summer break, this is a popular way for people to get hands-on experience in the industry. You don’t necessarily have to be studying a formal digital marketing qualification to land this type of internship, although it might help.
Another type of internship is the full-time digital marketing internship. More like an apprenticeship (without a formal assessment) full-time internships typically last six months to a year. Crucially, full-time interns are paid. It’s also common (although not guaranteed) that they’ll get a full-salaried job offer once their internship is complete.
Discipline-specific vs sector-specific internships
Finally, you’ll find digital marketing internships in various disciplines and industries. Realistically, most internships aren’t highly specialized, although there are exceptions. For the most part, you can expect a broad introduction to the digital marketing activities required for an entry-level role.
If you’re very keen on learning specific skills, it may also be possible to find internships focusing on these. For instance, a digital marketing internship with an SEO agency is much more likely to focus on these digital marketing skills, than, say, affiliate marketing or public relations.
Finally, if you’re especially interested in a particular industry, you might find an internship in your preferred sector. From fashion and travel to tech and finance, there are lots of options available. You just need to look in the right places! Industry-specific association websites and job boards are a good place to start.
2. What skills and experience do you need for a digital marketing internship?
Since internships target those with minimal experience, most employers won’t expect you to have tonnes of expertise. At a minimum, though, you should have the following digital marketing skills:
- Basic knowledge of digital marketing channels and tools: While nobody will expect you to be an expert, you should be able to demonstrate an interest in everything related to digital marketing. Consider reading a few books, subscribing to some blogs, or accessing other resources to build your knowledge.
- The ability to work independently and take initiative: While you needn’t worry about being burdened with business-critical responsibilities, an intern that needs close supervision will be less appealing to an employer than someone who can take a brief and run with it. Being able to work independently will benefit you a lot.
- Experience with graphic design, web design, or coding (depending on the internship’s focus): None of these are must-haves. But in an ideal world, you’ll be able to bring some design or programming knowledge to the role. Don’t worry: you won’t be building websites or apps. But if you want to become a part of the team, understanding the first principles of design will help you to hit the ground running.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills: Marketing is a communication-heavy industry, so being able to communicate your thoughts and ideas is a must. This means both written and verbal communication.
- Good organizational skills: There are many moving parts in any internship. Keeping track of deadlines, tasks, and progress is crucial for ensuring everything runs smoothly.
Beyond these basic skills, a sound knowledge of the theory of digital marketing is vital. Again, few people will expect digital marketing interns to have practical experience in all these areas. But you should at least familiarize yourself with them:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Social media marketing (SMM)
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Inbound marketing
- Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
- Web analytics
Finally, it might help to put some of these activities into practice. While it’s not strictly necessary to do so, it can give you an edge when applying for digital marketing internships.
3. How to get a digital marketing internship (step-by-step)
Now we know what kinds of digital marketing internships are available and what skills you’ll need, how should you go about landing one? If you’re studying for a formal qualification, there’s often support available from your provider. But let’s face it—not everybody has that luxury. So how do you go about it alone?
Look into completing a digital marketing program
A surefire way to secure the skills you need to land a digital marketing internship is to complete a digital marketing program. Many private bootcamps and courses are available online. If you prefer the traditional route, some colleges and universities also provide them.
In general, an online digital marketing program is more affordable than a full college degree, faster to complete, and typically provides more relevant, job-ready skills. And because they’re more flexible, they can also be an excellent way of learning about digital marketing while completing an internship.
Build a website
Another way to promote yourself as you apply for digital marketing internships is by building a website. A professional-looking website increases your chances of making a good impression on employers. It provides a space to showcase your existing skills, experience, and achievements while demonstrating that you can create and manage an online presence.
If you don’t have any web design experience, that’s OK. There are plenty of tools out there that can help you create a professional-looking website, even if you’re a complete beginner. For instance, Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly.
Design a portfolio
Employers don’t just want to read what you can do on your website or resume—they want to see it in action. That’s why many digital marketing professionals have a digital portfolio. The easiest option is to make your portfolio part of your website. But if you want a creative challenge, you could consider hosting it as a blog, social media account, or even an app, if you have the skillset.
A strong portfolio is a must for creative roles. If you’re applying for a graphic design internship, for instance, you can’t avoid it. Try to make sure your portfolio is up-to-date and relevant to the type of internship you’re applying for.
As a newbie to digital marketing, you might not have loads of projects to include in your portfolio, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create one. Think of it as an organic project that grows as you do. If you’re stuck on what to include, any coursework you’ve completed is a good start. You can also think about any volunteer work you might have done.
Make a list of companies to connect with
Once your portfolio and website are up and running, it’s time to start listing companies to connect with. This list could be companies you admire, have an interest in, or have some connection to. You can also use sites like LinkedIn to find them.
At this point, it’s worth considering if you’d like to connect with companies in a specific geographic area or if you’re open to remote internships. Since the pandemic, remote internships are becoming more common because many full-time employees aren’t at the office enough to support interns face-to-face. If you’re looking for real-world experience, you may want to consider a hybrid option or part-time internship.
When you have your list of companies, start researching relevant contacts—think about someone with a job title that might use a digital marketing intern, such as a digital marketing manager, digital marketing director, or similar. Depending on the context, you could consider reaching out publicly via social media or sending a formal email to introduce yourself and ask if they offer internships.
Some good tips for your first email are to keep it short, give them an easy out (putting pressure on them won’t make them any more amenable!), and offer to follow up in a week or two. If they get back to you before that to say that they don’t have anything available, thank them and ask if it’s alright to write again in six months. People will usually agree to this. Plus, it shows initiative, proves that you’re interested, and is a great way to stay on top of their mind if any other openings come up. But you must make sure you follow up as promised!
One of the best ways to connect with potential employers is by networking. If you have any connections within your list of companies—perhaps you know someone who works there or went to school with someone who does—reach out and see if they’re willing to put in a good word for you.
Another option is to attend industry events and meet-ups. Not only will this help you connect with potential employers, but it will keep you up-to-date with industry trends and developments. Bonus!
If you’re doing in-person networking, it can’t hurt to create some contact cards to hand out. Many are pretty cheap these days, although you can find some fancier business cards if you prefer. Either way, they can add a professional touch to help you stand out.
Tailor your resume
Whether you’ve been trawling LinkedIn or social media, attending events, or both, it’s vital to tailor your resume before reaching out to your contacts. Your portfolio and website can be the same for everyone you apply to, but your resume is the one document employers are most likely to read. It’s crucial, then, that it makes a powerful impression.
Tailoring means more than just changing the odd word here and there—you should be rewriting your resume to focus on the specific skills and experience that make you a good fit for the company you’re applying to. Even if you don’t get the internship, tailoring your resume is a great way to practice articulating your experiences, while framing them in a way that is as relevant as possible to potential employers. This may feel time-consuming but it will vastly increase your chances of getting the digital marketing internship you want.
4. Should I study digital marketing or go straight into a digital marketing internship?
If you’re interested in digital marketing, one option is to consider studying it. There are many online and offline courses available, and studying will give you a strong foundation in the concepts and tools you’ll need to be successful with your job hunt.
However, if you’re interested in getting started right now, consider applying for a digital marketing internship as your first port of call. While studying beforehand can help you land an internship, let’s face it: internships are a way of learning on the job to gain real-world experience. Therefore, qualifications aren’t absolutely necessary.
Let’s explore the benefits and drawbacks of the different options:
- You can learn at your own pace and fit this around your existing schedule
- You can learn from anywhere in the world
- You can access a wide range of courses and specialized programs
- You may not have access to the same level of support and feedback as you would in a classroom setting
- You may not have the opportunity to network with other students and professionals, (a key way of progressing your career)
- You can learn in a structured environment with set deadlines
- You can get feedback from professors and other students
- You can network with other students and professionals
- You may have to take time off work or school to attend classes
- Classes may not be offered in your area
- Offline courses might take longer and cost more
Digital marketing internships
- You’ll learn on the job and maybe even get paid for doing it
- You’ll learn from experienced professionals whose knowledge is fresh and relevant
- Internships are an unrivaled way of making industry connections and even landing yourself a job at the end of the process, if you’re fortunate
- You won’t have as much control over your learning experience
- You may not have the opportunity to learn everything you want to know, as your day-to-day activities will be led by the company’s need
- It might be hard to land an internship without some proof of your expertise, even if it’s just a short course or online certification
Ultimately, your best bet is probably to study the basics of digital marketing via a short course, and then use this to land yourself an internship. All this said, there is no one route. Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, and they’ll often appear in the most unexpected places. So keep your eyes open and keep applying!
5. Next steps
In this post, we’ve explored everything you need to know about digital marketing internships and how you might go about landing one. We’ve learned what different kinds of digital marketing internships are out there and the skills and experience they require.
We’ve also talked through the key steps you’ll need to take to secure a digital marketing internship. From completing a digital marketing program to building a website and portfolio of your work, there are many routes into an internship.
Digital marketing is a broad field with many specializations. As a result, it’s important to keep in mind that your internship is just the first step on the journey—it doesn’t need to tick off all the requirements of your dream job. Its main purpose is to help you get a foot in the door.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in digital marketing, check out this free, 5-day short course. You can also read the following introductory guides: