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The HR manager Annie Marshal and I set up a stand at the event and about midway through the day I took to the stage to give a presentation on how I got into SEO and to give my advice on the best paths into the industry.
Now Brighton is well renowned for being a hot bed of creative and media talent. But even so, both Annie and I were blown away by the energy and enthusiasm that that the attendees displayed. They were mainly made up of students and graduates looking to break into media, but there was also a real mix of older industry professionals, some just curious about what is going on in 'new media', and many actively looking to make the transition from print to digital.
What stood out for me the most however was just how hungry many of the job seekers were, and how hard they were working to either get a foot in the door or establish themselves in a new media sphere. Almost instantly after the doors were opened, the Fresh Egg stand was swapped by people wanting to learn more about the company, SEO, and digital development and media in general. And the interest didn't let up all morning, making it very difficult for me to leave Annie on her own as I went up on stage to give the talk.
1.) Do your research. Make sure you are hanging out at the right places and learning all you can about SEO. Some great places to start are SEOmoz and Search Engine Land, but there are many more out there for you to find. An employer will be impressed if you can provide a link to your profile on one of these sites showing you have been asking questions, interacting, and generally getting stuck in. You should also know the big players in the industry. Find out who Aaron Wall, Jaamit Durrani, Matt Cutts, Will Critchlow, etc are. You do need to know what is coming out of their mouths, despite whether you think it is profound prophecy or pretentious poppycock.
2.) Know the company. Before you apply for any job, learn all you can about the business receiving your CV. Read their blogs (they will have one), find out what awards they've been nominated for, who has recently joined their ranks, and where they are heading in general. If you can demonstrate in your CV and at interview that you and the company are on the same wavelength, then you're already half way there.
The beauty about media companies as well is that they're probably more accessible than any other. By their very nature they are out there engaging with people all the time and have their ear to the ground constantly, making it very easy to communicate with them. With a bit of hunting (and a few hints) you'll find individual team members out there in the social arenas as well, and if you can start interacting with them, well then you might just acquire some friends on the inside.
3.) Start doing the job. I always think that the closer you can get to actually doing the job before you apply for it, the greater the chances of getting it will be. For example, if an employer can see that you are already getting your hands dirty designing a poster for your dads shop, or producing a short stop-start animation for a pet project at home, why wouldn't they want you doing that for their clients?
There is no formal education or qualification in SEO, so getting stuck in is the only way you are going to learn. Set up your own free blog on Wordpress (but find out why choosing the right domain name is vitally important first), give the blog a theme, and then attempt to rank it for some medium-strength keywords in that niche, trying to pick up traffic at the same time. This is a real sink or swim test, and if you have the ambition to make it in SEO then you will succeed. Any employer will be impressed when you can show them you have increased your own traffic levels by X, and are ranking well for keywords Y and Z. And if you are already doing it for your own site/s, why would an employer not want you doing it for their clients?
I hope you find this information usual, and I would love to hear any advice from other SEOs about getting into this exciting industry?
BTW, Fresh Egg are hiring