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In our recently published Digital Marketing and E-commerce Guide For Students and Graduates, we received advice from leaders at six companies that recruit graduates. From their feedback on how students and graduates can prepare themselves for the job market, one point came up time and time again – students and graduates who demonstrate initiative and have work experience stand way out above the others.

For those looking to get into digital, the question they then ask is “Where can I get the skills and experience?”

The great news is as long as you are proactive, getting digital experience is not difficult. With all the tools being online, and many of them free or very cheap, the opportunities are easy to reach. Below are seven places where you can go looking for work experience to boost your chances.


The area where many students and graduates might think of first is by doing an internship. Whilst competition can be tough, many students and graduates end up with a job at the end of the internship, or acquire skills and experience which they can add to their CV. In the digital industry, InspiringInterns.com offer many internships in the UK and can assist you with the application process.

Small businesses

Have you ever noticed a small business near you could do better online? Perhaps your favourite local restaurant doesn’t have a website or Facebook page, or doesn’t update it regularly. Perhaps they aren’t even listed on Google Maps. Approach a few local businesses and offer to solve their problems.


As well as established businesses, start-ups are a good place to look with offering help and support. With limited budgets and people trying to do many different things at once, many start-ups are keen to have a helping hand. The website enternships.com offers to match students willing to learn with start-ups looking for help, whilst the British Library Business and IP Centre offers a place to meet those starting up businesses (and learn more about starting your own).

Societies and clubs

Being at university, it is likely you are a member of a few clubs and societies. Do all of them have their digital presence sorted? Even if they do, is the person managing it graduating soon or reducing their responsibilities to focus on exams? Volunteer yourself and get stuck in.


With limited budgets, charities are keen to get volunteers helping out. Whilst some of the bigger charities might already have paid staff, smaller charities are often run by people with full time jobs and other responsibilities. Volunteer your services in return for experience.

Alternatively, think how you can use digital technology to raise money for charity. Run an event, set up Facebook groups and social media channels to build awareness and gain sponsors, and collect the donations online through a service such as JustGiving.com. Being able to prove you are comfortable in using such technology will help you stand out.

Also, for those with a specific interest in web analytics, the Analysis Exchange links those wanting to improve their level of experience with not-for-profit groups that need help with their web analytics.

Crowdsourcing websites

Gain work from anywhere in the world through crowdsourcing websites such as Elance.com. On crowdsourcing websites, clients post projects and jobs that need solving, and providers can make bids on these projects. Whilst the global nature of crowdsourcing websites means that competition is high and earnings relatively low, they can be a good place to get stuck in and start gaining practical experience online.

By trying it yourself

Even if you cannot find somewhere or somebody willing to provide you with an opportunity to use your digital skills, you can start off yourself. Consider setting up a website to showcase an interest, blog about the digital industry, or try to make some money through affiliate marketing.

What's your story?

Have you been successful in getting digital work experience? Has that experience landed you a full-time job? Or are you an employer with ideas for how those keen on getting in the industry can get a foot in the door? Leave your comments below and share your tips.

For further information, download our free digital marketing and e-commerce careers guide (registration required) or find out more about the other free reports offered by Econsultancy. 

Andrew Warren-Payne

Published 6 March, 2012 by Andrew Warren-Payne

Andrew Warren-Payne is a Senior Research Analyst at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or Google+

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Comments (7)

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Nathan Nicholls

Upon graduation in 2010 I struggled to find work within the digital arena. With a marketing degree and 6 weeks PPC experience in a Christian book e-commerce firm I knew that I would have to strengthen my skills as a graduate seeking employment within the digital industry.

I started my own website www.igradu8.com to provide unemployed graduates with advice on how to strengthen their skills, whilst at the same time strengthening mine.

The website taught me how affiliate marketing worked, SEO - the website ranks well organically for a number of graduate unemployment and travelling terms, as well as gave me a sound understanding of web analytics, setting up conversion tracking etc.

From this experience I found voluntary work at a charity, and then went on to help a start-up business thetightspot.com.

I now work within a digital agency www.e-scape.co.uk - so if you are a graduate and are prepared to invest your time into digital it will pay off eventually!

Totally agree with a number of the findings from the report!

over 4 years ago


Alex Williams

While misguidedly studying Law at university, I decided I wanted a complete change when I finished. I'd been a freelance web designer since I was 16 so had a bit of experience in digital already, but I was self-taught and relied heavily on word of mouth.

In a bid to make some money to help me through uni, I decided to set up an online casino and poker room referral website - it reviewed the available software, posted some of the best bonuses on the web, and offered tips on how to play the online games.

It wasn't too difficult to set up and a lot of my friends signed up to the sites, played the games for a while and wrote reviews on my behalf. By setting up affiliate links with these sites and using a combination of (early) social media marketing, paid ads and Google Adwords, I brought a lot of people to my site and made a bit of money.

When I finished my degree, I thought I'd struggle to find jobs in digital, given my degree had been in Law. It turned out that the experience of setting up and marketing my own website, as well as my previous freelance experience, was enough to show potential employers that I not only had initiative, but that I already had the experience that many digital graduates didn't have.

I now work for one of the largest educational publishers in the world, running their social media, email and web campaigns. I'm 2 years into the job and working towards my first managerial role.

Putting in the time and effort to gain experience early on really does pay off.

over 4 years ago

Andrew Warren-Payne

Andrew Warren-Payne, Senior Research Analyst at Econsultancy

Thanks for sharing your experiences Nathan and Alex. Good to see real world examples of where gaining experience early on (and importantly, doing it yourself) can pay dividends.

Also good to see how affiliate marketing can be a great way to learn some of the tools of the trade. Speaking from my own experience, this was how I was introduced to the digital marketing industry.

over 4 years ago


Matthew Jones

Great article, as an employer in the digital sector I can't stress enough the importance of drive and experience to complement a degree, even if that is something as simple as setting up an affiliate website such as the poker example above, or a weeks work experience.

I find that candidates who have applied their knowledge in a real life situation can quickly adapt to an agency environment and all of the tips listed can help achieve this.

We also find that we get far more applicants for work experience from digital designers than we do from developers. Hopefully this article will encourage more graduates to seek out experience in the industry.

One item I would like to add to the list is interview technique. It's essential employers know that a graduate isn't only knowledgeable but that they are confident, willing to learn and work well in a team. It may sound cliche but really is true!

The poker website above is a great example of going that extra mile to obtain experience and show a drive to be the best! Hats off!

over 4 years ago

Andrew Warren-Payne

Andrew Warren-Payne, Senior Research Analyst at Econsultancy

Thanks for the comment Matthew.

Good to get back up and advice from the employers that are hiring students and graduates!

over 4 years ago



Great advice.

over 4 years ago



thanks for sharing your advices!

over 3 years ago

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