So I made it through the first month of my first job (ok I did have two weeks of holiday inbetween but I still feel like this is an achievement). A job that, three months ago, I didn’t think I had a hope in hell of getting, in an industry that, to be honest, I didn’t really know existed. My experience of inbound marketing was zero, but not only have I managed to survive this first month, I’ve learned a lot and grown a bit too.
I wanted to write this piece not only to give other inbound trainees reassurance (you’re not the only one wondering what an MQL is honestly), but to encourage any graduate of any degree to think outside the box as to where the skills you’ve learnt could take you.
But first, I need to confess. I totally cheated in getting this job, at least I feel like I did. Mid-May, I was sweating over last minute revision with undelivered cover letters at my elbows. Like a lot of soon-to-be graduates, I had no idea what I was going to do post-exams. In fact, I was trying not to think about it.
Then a message popped up on my LinkedIn profile.
I’m not going to lie, I thought it was a con at first. I’d never even heard of the company, never mind the guy that owned it. Plus, his name was ‘Strange’. You could forgive me for being suspicious.
After some rapid background checking via LinkedIn and other social media, I decided that it was a legitimate request and decided to respond.
Then I waited about an hour. When nothing came I thought “oh well, never mind, it was nice being head-hunted while it lasted”. Then came this.
Stranger and strangerer.
I’m not going to lie; I was still a bit sceptical about the whole thing. Even if this was a legitimate head-hunt, flattering as it was, I thought, there was no way I could have a career in marketing. Typing up press releases, handing out flyers, and desperately sweating over a sign-up list at the Unusual Vegetable Appreciation Society conference. No thanks, I’ll pass. But then, something pretty remarkable happened – Mr Strange sent be a job description.
No mention of a press release in sight. Was this really marketing at all, I thought. To me it looked like writing and social media sharing, both of which I had done before during my time at student and regional newspapers. Some of it I didn’t understand, ‘marketing automation workflows’, ‘Google Ad-words’ – beats me buster, but I thought it might be worth a shot.
If a man called Mr Strange thought I could do it, then perhaps I should believe I could too.
We arranged an interview and that was that. I was shamefully relaxed about the whole thing. It was too good to be believed. If I got this job I could stay in Leamington with my friends, continue playing rugby and working at theatres and not have to return to the opportunity-less hell-hole that was Derby.
It wasn’t Huw Edwards ringing me after an unfortunate bike accident and offering me his place on the 10 ‘o’ clock news, but it was the next best thing.
The day of the interview came. I was pretty drained from having to write three essays and revise for two exams in three weeks at this point, so I had little energy to prepare for it or even worry about what might happen.
When I spoke to my Mum about it I’d shrug my shoulders and say “Well, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Plus, it can’t be any worse than the interview at the Daily Mail.”
A short intermission: The Daily Mail Interview
Imagine a short, curly haired northerner walking into the glass paned walls of the Daily Mail London HQ. She’s trying to balance a 30cm wide portfolio under her arm whilst tottering in new heels and a pencil skirt (it was the Daily Mail, I was shamelessly hoping that if not talent, a company culture of misogyny would pull me through), sweating from too much coffee and a two-hour commute. She’s come for an interview for their trainee journalist position.
She sits on the plush sofa, looking up at the offices like a bush-baby in a spotlight, when the other candidates enter. Cool, calm and crisply suited, carrying slimmer portfolios and a lot less bags, they looked so much more professional than she did.
“Oh god,” she thought, “this is going to be a disaster I am totally f…”
“So which University do you come from?” another candidate has taken pity on her.
“Err…err. Warwick” she says whilst filling out a questionnaire on the latest news. Whilst she’d been researching the migrant crisis, this questionnaire wanted to know the name of David Bowie’s posthumous album.
“They don’t do a masters in journalism do they?” the other candidate asked with raised eyebrows.
“No, no, I’m just finishing my undergrad degree in English.” The other candidate’s eyebrows raised more. “What is it you do?”
“Oh, I’m at City doing a masters in journalism, we all are.”
She looks round at the other candidates. They all knew each other’s names, and were talking about the same coursework. They were all at City doing a masters in journalism.
“I’m totally fucked.”
“Catherine Lyon, do you want to make your way up to the interview room?”
She winds up the glass stair case, winding herself up to breaking point. She puts her bags down, takes a deep breath.
“They’re ready for you now.”
She coughs, straightens her shirt. Attempts to pick up her portfolio, drops it, scrabbles to pick it up. “Fucking thing”. Straightens herself up again and walks towards through the door in to a blinding white light…
Ok there was no blinding white light but I don’t really want to talk about what happened next. A combination therapy of cider, crisps and Kleenex has helped me to get over it, and now I’m over it. But be assured, no interview could go any worse than that did.
And when Mr Strange answered the door of the office, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be an interview like that one. Especially when I saw that they had an office dog, Maisy. You can’t go wrong with a company that has an office dog. I just hoped that she liked me, if the dog didn’t like me I’d have no hope!
Turns out she did like me, and so did the others. Despite the fact that I felt I was talking a lot more than they were. Asking them questions while they sat back and answered them, I got a phone call 15 minutes after I left to say they were offering me the job.
I still have the message saved on my answerphone. And I’m still here, a month later. They haven’t fired me yet so it must be a good sign. And they’re letting me write on their blog so that must be a better sign. But that’s not to say I haven’t had some challenges, particularly when it comes to the technical side of things.
In fact I’m famously untechnical amongst my friends. I tried a Kindle once and couldn’t bear the fact that you couldn’t sniff the pages. I still used Internet Explorer up until two months ago. How was I going to cope with SEO, analytics, Hubspot?
I started to panic before my first day. Chuck me in a newsroom with shouting editors, screaming phones and a computer with terrible connection or at the scene of a fire to take pictures and grab people for interviews and I’ll cope. But could I actually make a landing page? Optimise something for SEO? Could I even write the way that these guys wanted me to? I wasn’t so sure.
Challenge #1 - Hubspot
So many tabs, so little time. As soon as I sat down in front of Hubspot I thought I was never going to get through it. Not only did I have to know how it worked, I had to be certified in it as well. The ‘social’ bit I could just about get a grip on, but lead scoring? Workflows? Maybe it was time to put my hands up, I was a fraud.
What I’ve learnt: Thankfully for me, Hubspot is quite intuitive, even geriatrics like me can get hold of it and build things. And actually, I quite enjoy it. It’s also helped that from the start I’ve been encouraged to ask questions, or ‘shout up’ as they call it here. Unlike my IT teachers, these guys don’t make me feel like a dunce, put on a pointy hat and sit in the corner.
I’ve still got a long way to go, I haven’t even approached workflows yet and still don’t really understand how the SEO optimisation bit works. But, as I keep getting told, some things just take time to learn.
You just have to play with Hubspot to get a thorough knowledge of it, and I’ve been encouraged to do so from the start. For any trainees that are struggling, I’d encourage them to ask questions, lots of questions. It’s better to ask than not know and shit yourself when you’re asked to do something later. Hubspot’s own tutorials are also pretty good.
Challenge #2 – The language
You could do a PhD in marketing lingo and someone will walk in with an acronym that you don’t know. At the beginning I often sat glazed over and pretended to understand, but in the end I just gave up and asked. I’ve got over feeling like an idiot pretty quickly here.
What I’ve learnt: Again, ask questions. You’ve got to understand what people are talking about, and there’s no marketing dictionary as of yet. It’s alright if you’re on a holiday and you don’t know Greek, but you can’t work in a place where you don’t know what they’re talking about.
Challenge #3 – Marketing Knowledge
There’s so much to learn and, it seems, not a lot of time. You could sacrifice hours of your working day to learning about SEO, or when to post on social media (every article I’ve ever read comes to a different conclusion) but you’ve actually got to get stuff done during the day.
What I’ve learnt: Ask your colleagues what they read, they’ll know where to look for good resources on particular topics. I have signed up to a lot of blogs in the last few weeks, (top tip, before you sign up to ANYTHING, make sure that you have sorted your inbox out to separate blog updates from important emails, you can see how to do this with Gmail here) including some random ones like UrbanDaddy which, though they have nothing to do with B2B, send out some seriously awesome emails.
One subject line that I was particularly envious over was ‘Beautiful Women eating hamburgers’. Come on, who’s not going to open that.
Contently, the Hubspot Marketing Blog and Grow and Convert are pretty good for writing examples and B2B Marketing usually send out some good resources, including presentations and infographics. I’ve also signed up to a couple of good design blogs (Dezeen Mail and It’s Nice That) just to keep me thinking about what looks good and what’s on trend design-wise.
Luckily I’m a compulsive reader and don’t mind spending an hour before bed time reading up on stuff. I’d recommend spending at least an hour a day reading blogs and other bits and pieces, it’s really helped me to understand what’s going on and where the industry is heading.
Challenge #4 – my writing
I didn’t know anything about the clients when I got here. How could I be expected to write for them? I didn’t know their products, their writing style or even how they spelt things. I had no set format to fall back on like I did for news writing AND they wanted me to be creative and original…
What I’ve learnt: Don’t panic. Knowledge about clients takes time to learn. Just think about who they are trying to target with their content and write for them. There are lots of added extras too, like getting personal and expressing yourself. This applies even if you’re talking about CAD software, or something equally dry. It’s a difficult skill, one that comes with practice and one which I’m still trying to get right.
One habit that I have managed to break is distancing myself from my writing. After years of essay-writing and academic reading, slipping back into jeans-and-t-shirt writing was tricky. But, hopefully you’ll agree, I’m getting there slowly.
Challenge #5 – Jumping into the unknown
I felt like a total fraud when I sat at my desk on the first day. I didn’t deserve to be there, there are lots of marketing graduates who would be miles better than me. I didn’t even know what inbound marketing was two weeks before I got the job. I felt like my foot was stretching out over the precipice, ready for me to go arse-over-tit any minute.
What I’ve learnt: It’s quite nice jumping off a cliff, and I don’t like heights. I’ve tried to shake off feeling like a fraud and get on with proving that I’m not one. Like I said before if a guy called Mr Strange thinks I can (and hopefully he still does) then I should probably start to believe it too.
If you open yourself up to every opportunity, you might find what you always wanted, even if you didn’t know what it was in the first place.
How does any of this crap apply to you?
If you’re not in marketing or aren’t a trainee, you’ll probably be regretting wasting ten minutes reading this. I really appreciate your effort but would ask of your indulgence for just a few words more.
The main thing that I’ve learnt in this last month is to be creative, in life as well as in work. Think outside of the box when it comes to the jobs you apply for, not just when you’re finally sitting at your new desk. Be curious, ask questions, don’t take no for an answer and have faith that your skills and good attitude will carry you through.
But, most importantly, learn how everyone likes their brew, they’ll keep you employed for that if nothing else.