How to gain social media marketing experience before you graduate

By Kiki Schirr, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Standing out amid a pool of college graduates can be difficult. Gaining social media marketing experience is a clear differentiator when looking for a job, especially a marketing role. How do you prove what you’ve learned to potential employers?

I’ve compiled a list of six great methods for standing out from the pack of graduates.

Google Ads and Analytics are notoriously difficult tools to use but their potential for reward is high. If you can demonstrate your fluency in Google’s tools it will make you an attractive candidate for many marketing positions. The best way to demonstrate fluency is through taking Google’s certifications on how to use their various tools. While each series of videos might be several hours, the information is explained simply and thoroughly, making it well worth the time spent learning!

If you can gain competency in AdWords and/or Facebook advertising, you’ll never go hungry!

One of the best ways to gain marketing experience is the Google Ads Grant Online Marketing Challenge. Form a team of 2-5 students, and rope in a faculty advisor at your accredited higher education institute and you’ll meet the basic requirements to get started. You’ll also need to devote at least four weeks to the challenge and complete the fundamentals course at the Google Academy for Ads—but after jumping through these relatively easy hoops you will gain access to a $10,000 per month pool of real AdWords credits.

These credits will be assigned to a non-profit on your behalf and you’ll have the discretion to utilize them to the best of your abilities to build traction for your social good company. The benefits to this program cannot be overstated. Having a chance to allocate real ad spend while still a student is rare, to say the least!

HubSpot is one of the most popular and useful “inbound” marketing tools on the market. So it is no surprise that their certifications hold weight in the marketing industry.

The courses are laid out in short, easily-digested videos taught by professors or other marketing experts. In order to begin the courses you must create a HubSpot account, which will require a website URL and company name—you might have to get a bit creative, but there is an option later to declare yourself a student and not a company. Whip through these courses and you’ll be surprised how much knowledge you have gained! While certifications might not be quite real-world marketing experience, they’re a great way to prove that you know the theory cold.

Hootsuite, another excellent and comprehensive online marketing tool, also offers education on how to launch a career in social media marketing. The catch? The courses range in price from $99 all the way to $999, so unless you have an internship or another short-term employer willing to pay for your education, this might exceed your budget. Even if you don’t have the budget for most of their courses it might be worthwhile to get the free certification in using their posting management tool.

LinkedIn recently purchased one of the Internet’s hottest sites for autodidacts—. With a new focus on certifications, Lynda has been relaunched as LinkedIn Learning. The service is included in a LinkedIn Premium subscription, or can be accessed for $29.99/month. (Some universities have subscriptions for their students.) There is a free month trial, however, so I’d recommend that everyone reading this article at least give LIL a quick spin! You might find its worth that price—or just gain a ton of smarts in 29 days!


Although all of the digital tools I’ve mentioned are nifty, there isn’t anything better than the traditional route of getting an internship.

Internships that are listed on job-aggregating websites can be highly competitive, so I would recommend that you make a list of amazing companies to work for and then target high-ranking members of their marketing staff with a quick LinkedIn search. Try, if possible, to have someone like a professor give you a “warm” introduction. However, if you cannot find a mutual acquaintance to give you that warm introduction, be sure to stress what you bring to the table for that person’s company and how you might help out. Have a teacher’s recommendation ready to send in case you receive a response quickly. Be prepared to send out many of these emails and don’t be hurt if you’re rejected. A polite thank you to their rejection might leave a lasting impression that will aid you when you graduate!

While these six methods are all useful, this list is by no means comprehensive. I’m sure many of the seasoned social media marketing people that read this blog will have additional advice for students—be sure to add to the comments if you have a great technique I haven’t mentioned! And if you know a college student who could benefit from this list, please pass it on.

Post navigation

Translate »