It’s tough getting ahead in a qualitative field like content marketing. In an era where BuzzFeed is garnering five million page views per month, technology is taking over marketing, and journalism degrees now require coding and design classes, it’s hard to determine how to steer your career toward sunny skies.
There is some good news, though.
Boston Content held its final event of 2015, featuring four Boston content marketing experts, who shared their best career advice with attendees: Meghan Anderson, vice president of marketing at HubSpot; Joe Chernov, vice president of marketing at InsightSquared; Michael Gerard, chief marketing officer at Curata; and Emily Catalano, eCommerce marketing manager at Converse.
They reassured that doing your homework, showing up, and leveraging your resources can make finding your next career much easier. Here's what else we learned:
The Front Door Doesn’t Always Open
Anderson’s guiding light throughout her career was a burning desire to do something that involved writing — particularly around a topic she was passionate about. Starting as a copywriter at United Way, she made her way to a company called Performable. Once Performable was acquired by HubSpot, she quickly rose through the ranks to her current role as VP of marketing.
Anderson had previously interviewed at HubSpot, but it wasn’t until the acquisition that she was invited in. The lesson is clear: When the front door doesn’t open, take the back way in.
Don’t Be Entitled
Chernov’s journey started with humble beginnings. After quitting his job in human services, he visited a bookstore with his notebook in hand. It was there he found "PR Firms by City," and jotted down the address of every PR firm he could find, because he was too broke to buy the guide. He knocked on door after door, and finally got his chance ... to clean his new manager’s office.
Chernov accepted an internship and was assigned to clean. He didn't think twice about it, and that willingness paid off. His manager said, “This is why we gave you a chance. I knew you weren’t going to be entitled.” That moment of hard work won Chernov a valuable mentor to help him jumpstart his career.
Opportunities Come From Relationships
"I started out doing hospitality, PR, and events in Boston," Catalano said. "I met so many people in that job. Every job I've had since are because of the relationships I made when I was 21, 22, or 23."
Maintain the relationships you make throughout your career. As Chernov noted, "Your resumé matters, but relationships matter more."
Great Writing Is Not Enough
Chernov shared what he warned would be an "unpopular" opinion:
It’s becoming increasingly important to invest in complementary skills. Chernov joked that he would not be sending his children to college, but rather to Marketo/HubSpot/Eloqua/Pardot school, highlighting the importance of understanding and owning today's marketing automation systems.
The landscape is changing. Positioning yourself correctly can help turbocharge your career by amplifying the impact and value you can create.
But You can USE YOUR WRITING TO GET IN THE DOOR
"Your cover letter should tell a story to your resumé," Catalano advised. "It should explain why you went from each job to each job."
Share how your experiences make you a strong candidate, and use your cover letter and resumé to show your voice. Just be sure to craft them in a way that highlights the value you can bring to the company and position, not the value to you as an applicant.
Research is King
Gerard hired a freelancer based in Nigeria because of a cold email the individual sent — one that analyzed his blog posts, presented recommendations, and actually implemented examples of what he could do.
“Show me you know me and the job,” Chernov added. “Doing your homework automatically puts you in the top 20 percent of applicants.”
Chernov regularly asks candidates about their favorite blog posts, and recommended the audience choose three they find inspiring and two posts that could have been better with tweaks.
Walk in Already Hired
“In an interview, you want to get to the point of conversation as soon as possible," Anderson said. "The best people I've ever interviewed have walked in like they already had the job."
By walking in for that frame of mind, it's easier to be engaging and conversational.
And be prepared to ask open-ended questions during your interview. You can also ask the same question to multiple interviewers — it’s a good idea to ensure there is general agreement on what the position will entail.
De-Risk The Hiring Decision
“The hiring manager’s job is to screen for judgement and team compatibility," Chernov said. "The leader’s job is to protect their team from him making a bad hire.”
Chernov routinely asks senior interviewees, “When was the last time someone changed your mind?” The goal is to check for open-mindedness and their ability to collaborate. He will then ask junior interviewees, “When was the last time you changed another person’s mind? What approach did you take?” This gives him insight into how they build a case and what types of arguments they use.
Chernov even admitted to acting curmudgeonly on purpose if he especially likes the candidate, because he wants to see how they take constructive feedback. A candidate can gain an advantage by going on the HR site or doing informational interviews to identify the culture.
"Anyone in the world can go out and start a blog and create content and ghostwrite," Anderson said. "I waited way too long to do that. I was convinced I had to build a resumé before I could get published."
So what are you waiting for? Go create the content marketing career of your dreams.