It happens to everyone. A contract finishes before you have another lined up. Or the company lets people go, and you lose your marketing job. Being between gigs in Seattle isn’t unusual. We have lots of tech companies and start-ups with agile business plans. Transitions are a fact of life and creates heavy competition for marketing jobs.
The slog to find something new can get you down, but there are things you can do to boost your skills while searching for marketing jobs. I’ve chosen things that are free, or essentially free because your savings are better spent on rent and food.
Do a Course
There are certificate courses that cost thousands and come with a pretty piece of paper. But what’s more important: a resume point or the knowledge? There are other ways to gain the same skills for free.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have taken the cost and exclusivity away from education. Leading universities, and others, offer some courses online for free. You can learn coding, data, management and coaching. Name a topic and it’s there. Some courses offer cheap certificates of completion too. For professional-level courses, I love Coursera. edX is more university-level. Khan Academy is great to refresh high school math and science. Or learn it as it would be in my case. Hey, I was a humanities nerd.
Learning a second (or third) language can increase your perception and cognitive ability. Both are valuable career skills even if you’re only working in English. While you have some time why not brush up on your high school Spanish or learn a language for your dream vacation. Snakker du Norsk?
Duolingo is a website and mobile app that teaches many languages – all for free. It takes you through written, oral and verbal exercises in your chosen language. Yes, that’s right it has voice recognition to test your pronunciation, and did I mention it’s free? Duolingo also has gamification so you can complete against your friends and earn lingots (the Duolingo currency). I’m using it to refresh French.
Podium by Hootsuite
Hootsuite recently announced their plan to educate one million social media professionals for free by 2017. Podium is their learning platform for doing this. It’s a set of six online modules that teach how to set up social media profiles, create engagement, measurement and how to run a paid social media campaign. The six modules are free and informative. If you want you can sit the Social Media Marketing certification exam, but that costs $199. If you’re after the knowledge then spend a couple of days on the modules and get the skills for free. Hootsuite also offers Hootsuite University for $21 per month giving you deep knowledge of the social media management platform. Update: Hootsuite University has been replaced with the Hootsuite Platform Certificate. And the coursework is free!
Google Analytics and AdWords
These are separate free certifications, but I’ve merged them together. The Google AdWords certification has two rather long study guides and exams; neither of which are a walk in the park. So unless you want to focus on SEM in your career, this one could be skipped.
That said, Google Analytics should be on every marketer’s radar. We need to justify our campaigns and existence with data – real data. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, that’s also free. Luckily their certification is also free. I started studying it a few years ago but had to change directions and it’s back on the list for this year. I use the software daily for work and my clients, but I know I only scrape the surface of what it can do. Imagine your value to an employer if you can set up goal tracking and explain exactly which landing pages convert the best.
At the very least every marketer needs to know basic HTML and CSS. It’s another skill that looks scarier than it is and the courses are expensive. The Codecademy HTML course took me about eight hours and I learned how to make a basic webpage. It was a practical and cheap use of a Saturday night. If you want to get more complicated, they also have Ruby, SQL and PHP courses.
HubSpot is the king of inbound marketing and have created several certification programs. The inbound marketing and HubSpot design certifications are free. I haven’t done them myself, but I adore the HubSpot service and imagine the certification is time well-spent.
Join Twitter Chats
Membership organizations can be expensive, and then you pay again to attend events. This can add up quickly. Twitter chats are free, educational and community-building. It’s cheap networking. I love the Hootsuite #Hootchat each Thursday midday Pacific time. Bias aside, it’s the most organized and informative chat. It’s also one of the biggest social media Twitter chats, so the organization is appreciated. #Bufferchat on Wednesday mornings is the other chat I try to make, and #cmgrhangout on Fridays. There’s always something to learn, and I’ve made some great friends.
There are many nonprofits and community groups who’d love some marketing help. Choose your favorite and give them a call. They’re more likely to say yes if you present a plan, and if you’re worried about making a large commitment then getting a marketing job, make it a one-off project. You get references and experience, they get great marketing.
Start a Blog
WordPress.com is a free platform and very powerful. Use it to create a portfolio to supplement your resume.
Take Temp Projects
Years ago I was burned out at work and wondering if I should quit before finding something else. I was wisely told that it’s easier to find a new job if you currently have one. Taking temp projects gets you out of the house, using your skills and lets you meet people. Not to mention gives you some cash to tide you over. Who knows, it may become your new marketing job. Just be careful because not all agencies are equal. My favorites in the US are The Creative Group and Creative Circle.
One of the hardest things of being between marketing jobs is the isolation. I found working in a cafe helps alleviate that, plus if you choose a cafe that’s not too busy you can linger over a single coffee.
Personal tip: avoid unemployed groups. This comes from the idea you should surround yourself with people you want to be like, but feeling down is infectious. It normalizes negative feelings, so being around other unemployed people can being you down.