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How can I upskill in my marketing career?


Upskilling is a smart decision at any stage of your career and in any industry you work in. The United Kingdom is in the grips of a digital skills shortage that is only predicted to become more pronounced in the coming years, with Brexit also set to make its impact on the employment market.

That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom for job seekers, however. The potential scarcity of available skills and labour post-Brexit means we’re likely to see an increase in the number of hard-to-fill vacancies reported, while the ever-increasing pace of digital change will continue to encourage organisations to consider how they can maximise new technologies. McKinsey estimates that the UK currently operates at just 17% of its digital potential and suggests that workforce disruptions brought about by digital technologies will pose significant challenges to business leaders and workers alike. While organisations scramble to keep up with the pace of digital change, marketing professionals can take advantage of this digital skills gap and future proof their careers.

With that in mind, there’s no better time than ever to think about how you can add to your suite of marketing expertise. The UK marketing industry employs around 415,000 people and generates £36.5 billion in annual Gross Value Added, contributing substantially to the overall economy. It’s also home to the biggest digital advertising market in Europe, all of which indicates significant opportunities for both new entrants to the marketing industry and existing marketers keen to make lateral and vertical moves. But how can you secure the best jobs?

The business benefits of upskilling

Upskilling – and reskilling – will become increasingly important in the next few years as we meet a workforce skills gap head-on. The UK’s demand for skills is predicted to increase considerably over the next decade, resulting in a skills mismatch where as many as 5 million workers are acutely under-skilled in basic digital skills by 2030, according to a research paper from the Industrial Strategy Council. Organisations are already struggling to find workers with the right skillsets for hard-to-fill roles, with nearly half of businesses saying they’re not as agile as they need to be due to a lack of skills, and the overwhelming demand for digital skills both now and into the future is only going to exacerbate the issue.

Workers across the marketing, digital and communications industry can help to alleviate this pressure and boost their own employment potential by upskilling and reskilling. New technologies and ongoing workplace digitalisation will undoubtedly present opportunities for growth and development, and while 60% of workers think technology will improve their job prospects, only a third are given opportunities to develop digital skills outside their normal duties. So if you’re in a job where you’d like to learn and do more but aren’t being supported by your employer, what can you do to enhance and add to your skillset yourself? 

How can you upskill yourself?

While savvy employers should have plans for upskilling and reskilling in place, this is not true of all organisations and does not reflect the many self-employed marketing professionals who must take upskilling into their own hands. If you’re taking a proactive approach to your professional development, the following suggestions may help:

Identify free or low-cost training and certification programmes

There are a huge range of training and certification programmes available for marketers in the UK, from university degrees through to quick, free online courses. If you have some cash to splash (or better yet, your employer is offering to subsidise or cover the cost of your training), some good mid-range online options include qualification and training from the Institute of Data and Marketing and from the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Digital marketing professionals should look to Google for training and certification, with both Google Analytics and Google Ads key programmes to have under your belt. The Google Analytics Academy has beginner and advanced courses, covers Google Tag Manager and is beneficial for anyone working within digital marketing, while Google Adwords is most suited to PPC specialists and independent consultants. You’ll find Analytics, Ads and more in Google’s free Skillshop hub.

Meanwhile, Hubspot Academy offers a range of completely free marketing courses, including certifications focused on inbound marketing, content marketing, social media and email marketing. The courses are bite-sized (some take no more than two hours) so while they may not be in-depth, they are easy to consume and absorb and can help to develop new skills or polish existing ones.

Subscribe to the right publications

Marketing is ever-changing, which means marketers need to keep up with trends, developments, new technologies and best practices in order to stay ahead of the curve. The internet is a good place to start. Websites such as Digital Agency Network, Marketing Land, The Drum, PRWeek and Marketing Week can be added to your bookmarks and checked regularly for the latest industry news and commentary, while Neil Patel offers a variety of insights and tools to help SEO consultants and other marketers maximise their digital marketing activity.

If you’re more of an auditory learner, podcasts can be a goldmine for marketing news and conversation. Duct Tape Marketing boasts a guest list of some of the industry’s most experienced professionals, while Copyblogger.FM follows an interview format to teach people about conversion rate optimisation, email marketing, social media marketing, copywriting and more.

Explore mentoring and shadowing

If your work has no budget for training and development, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn new things. Mentoring and job shadowing can prove invaluable in showcasing the practical elements of a job, whether that’s in a structured, formal capacity or it’s more casual and ad-hoc. If you’re looking to learn new digital skills, ask to sit with a web developer or programmer for a couple of hours. For someone looking to explore their creative side, a session with a graphic designer or animator could be more helpful than hours of trawling through blogs and articles.

Mentors don’t have to come from inside your organisation. Consider reaching out to someone you admire in the industry or asking your employer, peers or friends if they know of anyone who might be interested in mentoring you.

According to our 2020 market report, 57% of marketers have undertaken training or upskilling in the past 12 months, with the most popular method being attending events and seminars, followed by online training courses and employer training programmes.

What marketing skills are most in-demand?

Now that you know how to upskill, it’s time to consider which areas will be most beneficial for your career prospects. With the digital skills gap only growing by the day, this is a clear place to start. More than 75% of job openings at all levels request digital skills, with workers who have specific digital skillsets not only reducing the risk of job automation, but also promoting their career progression chances. These specific skillsets include data analysis, digital design, CRM and digital marketing.

Our 2020 market report shows that content, data/analytics and website conversions/CRO are the highest priorities for marketing departments this year. Content remains the highest priority for marketing teams, with SEO and PPC gaining in demand across our survey field as digital innovation and adoption continue to drive change. More traditional marketing functions such as brand development, customer insight and external communications remain within the top 10 priorities for marketing departments, suggesting non-digital skills are still important in the online world. Meanwhile, Big Data has been growing in importance for organisations in recent years, and we’re now seeing this being reflected in marketing. Analytics and data skills are in high demand industry-wide but these skills are not widely encountered in candidates, meaning it’s a great area of opportunity for job seekers looking to make themselves more employable.

In summary, the below are key skills in high demand by marketing teams nation-wide:

  • Content marketing
  • Data and analytics
  • Conversion rate optimisation
  • Search engine optimisation
  • Pay-per-click
  • Brand development
  • Customer insight
  • Communications

Marketing professionals looking to secure the industry’s best jobs should take heed and upskill in any of the above. Find your next marketing job with EMR Specialist skillsets drive salaries and day rates up, which means upskilling and reskilling can only be a good thing for your career and the broader industry. If you’re ready to take your next career step, we’d love to help. Take a look at our latest marketing jobs or read more of our insights here.

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