It is no secret that the job market in Africa is heavily saturated.
According to the African Development Bank (ADB), 10 to 12 million youth enter the workforce each year in Africa but only 3.1 million jobs are created, leaving vast numbers of youth unemployed.
African Center For Economic Transformation (ACET) paints an even bleaker picture by saying that almost half of all graduates in Africa do not get jobs in their respective fields.
No doubt the situation has gotten even worse due to the effects of current Coronavirus epidemic on economies and companies.
There is a need to set yourself apart from the competition on the job market by adding some useful and practical qualifications to your cv. In this article, I will show you how having digital skills qualifications can help your cv to stand out in any area of specialisation.
First things first, let us define digital marketing.
What is digital marketing?
Businesses take advantage of various digital channels, such as search engines ( like Google), social media, email, and websites to connect with current and prospective customers.
Companies use digital marketing methods because customers are spending more and more time online and it's easier to connect with them there.
Why should you learn digital marketing whilst in school/college?
1. Digital Marketing skills will give you an advantage over other job seekers
No matter what field of study you are in, learning digital marketing on the side will be a big plus for you. This is because every organisation wants to get known and connect with customers out there. This is true for law firms, recreational centres, retailers, government institutions, non-profit organisations etc.
In the modern workplace, digital skills are highly valued; in the future, digital skills will be vital.
The implication for you is that if you have a digital marketing qualification you can be a useful resource in the organisation that employs you.
Some organisations are engaging digital marketing agencies and freelancers to help them grow their brands. Imagine how they will be eager to engage someone in-house who has those very same skills!
Other organisations cannot afford to outsource these services but still are aware of their importance. Most people in middle and top management in most companies in Zimbabwe and other African countries don't really understand how social media and other modern digital technologies work.
Suppose these people are looking for a social worker and they have two candidates to consider. Both have the basic social worker qualification but the other one also has a digital marketing certification.
2. Digital Marketing is a profession that is in high demand
Digital marketing is a relatively new profession that has seen phenomenal growth in a short space of time as companies have come to see it's importance in the marketplace.
The good news is that not many people are qualified in digital marketing and this has created what is called the digital skills gap. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, there will be 150 000 digital skills in 2020 but not enough digital marketing professionals to fill them!
Whilst these estimates are from Western countries, you can be sure that something of the same will also be happening in Zimbabwe and other African countries. So by studying digital skills, you will be gearing yourself for an industry in which demand far exceeds supply!
Is this the same scenario with your current/prospective field of study? I am willing to bet the opposite is true.
Remember too, that you can obtain this qualification part-time and at no cost! Is that not a perfect setup? You can do the courses during your vacation and by the time you graduate you will have two different qualifications and thus you will have extended your options!
3. You can start your own digital agency or be a freelancer
Tied with the point above, the demand for digital marketing professionals has created opportunities for digital agencies and freelancers. After getting your qualifications and experience you can then provide your services to businesses as a freelancer.
Since chances are high that you will not be employed immediately after you graduate with your academic qualification, you can be a digital freelancer in the meantime.
You can start with small businesses as you build your portfolio and gain more experience. If you are good and you provide tangible results, your digital skills profile will grow and you will end up attracting higher-end clients.
By then you may have forgotten all about job hunting and you may even end up being an employer as you get people to help you with your clients. Isn't that an exciting prospect!
As an added advantage, you can even offer your digital marketing services specifically to organisations that are in your field of academic study. You will use your academic education to provide bespoke solutions and packages since you have an inside idea of how such organisations function.
4. Digital Marketing is broad
As I stated earlier, digital marketing is very broad and this means that you are bound to find an area of specialisation that you like. Some of the specialisations in digital marketing include:
- Search Engine Optimization. (SEO)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Content/Copywriting (my personal favourite)
- Social Media Marketing & Management (get paid for spending time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc)
- Email Marketing
- Mobile marketing
- Web analytics/marketing automation
You can also even go deeper and specialise within these specialisations. Don't let the fancy names put you off.
In the beginning, it may be a good idea to explore each at a basic level to understand what it entails so that you can choose if you want to pursue it further.
All these options make it easy for you to fit in.
How can you learn digital marketing?
There are various ways of learning digital marketing. I will show you the free ways you can get started with as a student.
Learning Digital Marketing from Google
Google has a great program where you can learn digital skills for free and get certified. To access the course you need to have a Google email address and then you visit this link. You will see a page like this:
As a first time user, you will need to register using your Google email. Once inside the digital garage, you will see a wide range of courses you can enrol in and start learning.
The courses include public speaking, effective networking, business communication, machine learning and of course, digital marketing.
You will then need to click the more tab and then go under certification.
You will then be able to enrol and start the course.
Let me give you a heads up.
This is a comprehensive course with 40 hours worth of video tutorials in 26 modules.
After each video, you will have to take a short quiz to gauge your mastery. After all the modules are done you will have to pass a 40-question exam to get certified.
As you can see this is something quite serious. The good thing is you can learn at your own pace and retake the exam after you fail. The exam is written online and you can't stop the timer once you have commenced.
You need to ensure you have a stable connection before taking the exam.
After you pass you will get a certificate in your email which you can print out or even send as part of your job application process.
The certificate is verifiable by Google.
Attaining this certificate will open a lot of options for you to then specialise and become Google certified. You can then enrol in other classes on this link.
All the courses there are comprehensive and are taught in the form of video tutorials with quizzes and an exam at the end. You can also learn them at your own pace.
Learning digital marketing by following digital marketing blogs and podcasts
There are many digital marketing blogs out there with quality information for free. Some popular digital marketing blogs to follow include Moz, Neil Patel, Social Media Examiner, Backlinko, Jeff Bullas and Search Engine Journal.
You can search online for more of these blogs and podcasts. There are also various free online courses like this free SEO course from freevideolectures.com. You can even download the videos and podcasts to learn from later.
There is no shortage of quality, free learning material online. What lacks in most people is the discipline to learn on their own.
What to do after attaining your digital marketing qualifications
Attaining digital marketing qualifications is great not enough as you will want to get relevant experience. A great way to gain experience and boost your cv is to look for organisations that you can volunteer to work for during your vacation.
You can do this in two ways. You can either look for an organisation that has a digital marketing department and ask to be a volunteer intern.
You can email them and attach your certificates from Google. In your email, you state your field of study and then explain that you are currently studying digital marketing on your own.
You then kindly ask for a chance to put into practice what you are learning in their organisation as a volunteer. Almost everyone you send this email will be impressed by your ambition and if they cannot take you in they are bound to refer you elsewhere.
Depending on the circumstances, you can email these organisations or even visit them in person with your cv and certificates.
Your first preference should be organisations in your area of study where possible. You will need to make it clear though that you want to join them as a digital marketing volunteer and not as a student on industrial attachment in your main area of study.
You can also volunteer to work for organisations that do not have a digital marketing department and there are plenty of these in Zimbabwe especially the small to medium enterprises.
You will first need to explain how the business can benefit from digital marketing so that they will see the value you will be bringing to them.
You will also need to explain to them that you are not yet experienced and that you are looking for a platform to put into practice what you are learning on your own.
Chances are high that you will be engaged by the first company you approach if you can sell to them the benefits of digital marketing well.
After they agree to have you come along you will need to explain to them that you will need a reliable internet connection to carry out your duties.
Bear in mind that most small to medium scale businesses do not have internet connections. So as you search for a company to approach, you want to seek out one that has the capacity to have an internet connection installed.
Joining a business that does not have a digital marketing department may be the best thing that can happen to you. It's a great chance to shine especially if you can bring in results.
For example, the company will be very impressed if you list their business on Google maps and they start getting more enquiries. If something like this happens then you will have a strong reference on your cv and they may even hire you as soon as you finish school.
Don't let the fact that you are volunteering discourage you. Instead, you should give it your all and be determined to make a noticeable impact on the business.
You may end up being like me and abandoning your academic field completely for digital marketing!
The main challenge with learning digital marketing on your own is having a reliable internet connection. All colleges and universities these days have free wifi for students and you can take advantage of that.
If you stay close to the campus you can go there over the weekends especially at the beginning of the semester where there is less pressure and take your lessons.
If you stay on campus you will have more time and you should utilise this instead of engaging in idle chatting or watching tv series.
If you are in High school then having internet access will be a challenge but you can still try and look for ways to get a computer and wifi to learn. Where there is a will there is a way.
I will be the first to admit that taking the courses and passing the exams is not easy but the rewards you get after completion are more than worth it.
Making your free time count by studying something that can potentially benefit you for a lifetime rather than waste it for mindless entertainment.
So what's your take? Are you interested in learning digital marketing skills on your own? Do you think they can benefit you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
PS. If you want to learn more about digital marketing you can read my blog at www.mrtaylor.me