I didn't "train" in SEO before my first job or get any sort of academic qualification to set me up. I didn't even know it's what I wanted to do, honestly. It's the same story for most people in the industry I speak to.
In my experience, SEO is an industry with a shortage of very experienced talent but real competition to get a foot in the door. So once you do get in, progression tends to be fast if you're doing well. But getting in is tough.
I've advertised entry level SEO roles before that have had over 200 applications. 200! When application volumes get that high, only a tiny proportion of applicants are ever interviewed.
I'm no career coach, but I've seen an SEO CV or two (or 2,000) in my time so I know what stands out and there are other ways to get on the radar of prospective employers beyond a CV as well. So here are a few thoughts on landing your first SEO job.
Get your own project up and running. It might just be a portfolio website, a blog or a little side ecommerce project. Whatever it is, launch something.
This achieves a few things:
Then rank the website for some keywords you choose. These don't have to be insanely competitive keywords. Pick low competition but relevant keywords (using the free version of tools like Kwfinder.com gives you some information about keywords and how many people are searching for them).
But the ability to show that you've launched a project and you've also started to apply some SEO principles successfully is a great advantage over most other entry level applicants.
There are lots of resources out there to give you a basic grounding in SEO and plenty of them are completely free.
Understanding the fundamental theory again gives you a talking point in an interview. But further to that, it helps you apply principles to your own project and gives you more of an idea as to whether you really want to work in that space at all.
I've hired plenty of people when they've applied speculatively without a vacancy even live. The reality for bigger agencies (less so for teeny ones like ours) is that they're often looking for new SEO talent. Why wait to get caught up with crowd in a long line of CVs?
Pop an email to the careers email address or someone senior in the organisation or even give them a call. Agencies are often receptive to direct applications that don't come through recruitment agencies too.
So if you come across an agency (or an in house brand) who you really want to work for, don't simply wait for them to list something. The worst that can happen with proactively getting in touch is that you don't hear back or they say no. But try!
CVs don't need to be 'War and Peace.' So keep it concise. And in alongside education and work experience, do include side projects and results you've achieved experimenting on your own. For many people recruiting SEO executives, this could be more pertinent that things like educational background!
For me, a cover letter-less job application is a cardinal sin. If a prospective employer has 200 applications to go through, the cover letter may be used to shortlist.
It's your chance to catch attention. It doesn't have to be a separate file. Just pop it in the body of the email. Keep it concise and include:
There are so many small and large events in the SEO industry and many are free. Interested in those free ones? Well here's just some:
Not only do these events present excellent learning opportunities, but there's immense value in talking to other people in SEO and getting to know them. This is a cracking industry to work in and I've met so many people in it I would now regard as friends.
I often hear of opportunities through this network of indutry contacts and often go to them myself when looking for a recommendation for talent. So it's hard to dispute the value of simply knowing and engaging with other people in the space.
Can't get to a meetup. Lots of amazing SEOs are active on Twitter and other online communities. Get involved in the conversation there too.
I love the SEO industry and starting out in it was the best thing for me in terms of career. I've never looked back since accidentally stumbling in. And I really believe that good and experienced SEOs are in huge demand and there aren't enough to meet that demand. So it's definitely a solid career choice with plenty of prospects.
Getting in can be tough. And I'll say it again - I'm no career coach. But if you ever did want to shoot me a question about getting started, you find me on Twitter.