Have you ever found yourself thinking:
- I hope I will get the job.
- I hope I will get a raise.
- I hope I will get a promotion.
- I hope I will not be unemployed if layoffs occur.
I certainly thought that way for the first half of my 25+ years in digital marketing. People advised me to set goals and get things done on my own. But I did not follow their advice. The result? I fell behind my peers. The people I trained were promoted before me.
If you don’t remember anything else from this article, remember this: Your career belongs to you. Read on to discover four tips that should help you deal with it.
Tip 1: Expand your professional network
As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” And it’s true: people tend to work with those they know and trust. This is why networking is so important, both online and in person.
References can be a tremendous asset, not just when looking for a job. My three agency jobs resulted from referrals from people I met at conferences.
LinkedIn is the go-to online resource for professional networking. Hiring managers and recruiters often go there first when looking for potential candidates or researching potential candidates. At least one or two recruiters check my profile every week.
So keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. Use a professional quality photo. Be sure to fill in all possible fields, from your work history to your education and other experience. Optimize your profile like you would optimize any website you work on for a client.
In-person networking can be a bit more difficult these days, but certainly not impossible. Take advantage of local trade groups and more general groups (eg chamber of commerce, business development). Public service groups like Elks or American Legion can be a great source of friendships and networking.
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Tip 2: Continue your studies
Change is constant. This is undoubtedly true in digital marketing, where search engine algorithms are updated almost daily, paid search techniques continue to evolve, website technology changes regularly. If you are not a lifelong student of your craft, you will fall behind.
Reading is essential. It not only helps you learn more about your work, but it also helps you expand your mind to think in different ways.
Many statistics indicate that most people stop reading non-fiction books after completing their formal education. Some of these claims may be a bit of a stretch. Still, Pew Research found that about a quarter of American adults hadn’t read a book in the past year. Do not be a member of this group!
Read about more than work stuff, too. Biographies, self-help, and other works can be beneficial.
Part of my reading schedule is through digital marketing websites. I set up the Feedly app on my tablet to browse RSS feeds from Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, and other digital marketing related websites. The news and opinions I read from these sources are invaluable to my continuing education.
Professional conferences are a great way to further your education and develop your networking skills. Many conferences have continued in virtual mode, while others are beginning to return in person. When you’re just starting out, it pays to stick to lectures with sessions that will help you improve at your job.
Later, however, when you have more experience, learn other aspects of your trade as well. One of the things that has helped me in my career is knowing at least the basics of how the different areas of digital marketing work. Being able to contribute to the development of an overall strategy is extremely valuable.
Digital marketing expert Joe Hall recently asked on Twitter: “Have you ever been to an SEO conference? If so, tell me about your favorite presentation you saw. What was it? And what did you like?”
My answer: “There were a lot of them. The ones I appreciate the most are the ones that make me think about things differently that I can apply to the work that I do.
I sincerely meant it. There have been far too many people to list in tweets whose conference presentations have helped me do my job better.
Finally, set up your own website if you are doing SEO or website development work. It’s amazing what you can learn just by playing around with a website that doesn’t involve as much risk as playing around with a client’s website. All you have to do is invest a few hundred dollars a year. Another way to have a website is to volunteer to help a charity that you support. They will appreciate the support and you will get a platform where you can hone your skills.
Tip 3: Always be ready for your next job
Looking for a job can feel like a full-time job in itself, and you never know when you’ll need to look for a job. Having an up-to-date resume handy will help you if that time ever comes.
Avoid using fancy templates for your resumes. Many automated recruiting systems use a parsing system to pull the resume into their applicant management system. Some fancy formatting will completely cancel the data import. It’s good to have a well-formatted version to email, but if you’re asked to download a copy, use a simple format.
Read the full job description before applying for a job. Never rely solely on the job title to guide you. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting the hiring manager’s time and your own.
In some agencies, SEO specialists are called “analysts”. I can’t tell you how many resumes I would get from people in data analytics because of the job title, no matter how carefully I wrote the job description in the ad so that it be clear that this was SEO work. I finally told our recruiter to text search all resumes. If neither “SEO” nor “search engine optimization” was found, then I didn’t want the person forwarded to me for consideration.
Tip 4: Find a job that fulfills you
It’s amazing how many people do jobs they hate just because they need a paycheck. I understand that it is sometimes necessary to do this, but if you hate your job, you have the freedom to go for something else.
I know a lot of people who completely reinvented themselves and transitioned from one career to another. It’s OK to do that. You need to find a job that pays the bills and makes you want to get up in the morning and not dread Monday.
While not all of us can make money working on our hobbies, it’s always possible to apply something you enjoy doing to a job that can earn you a living. Part of that formula, I believe, is learning to work on your strengths. While it’s good to identify the weak spots in your job and improve on them, consistently working in a job where you’re struggling is bad for your long-term mental health.
To flourish at work is to be part of a team with a great culture. You have probably read or heard of “The Great Resignation”. Sesil Pir said in a recent Forbes article that what is happening is something she called “The Great Awakening”. People are realizing that they don’t have to work in crappy, dead-end jobs for companies that don’t value them.
While salary and title progressions are great, they shouldn’t be the focus of your career. Yes, you should be compensated for the value you bring to an organization, but money and titles aren’t everything.
At the end of the day, it’s wonderful to be able to look in the mirror and know that you’re doing a great, useful, and fulfilling job.
Summary: Indispensable appointment
If you haven’t heard this saying before, remember: hope is not a strategy. Now is the perfect time to take charge of your professional destiny. You want to make yourself, as Seth Godin put it in his book of the same title, “indispensable”.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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