Do The Next Thing That Interests You
I’ll never forget the day a job recruiter told me I had an “eclectic” work history. It didn’t sound like a compliment. Here’s a brief history of my career. What do you think?
Graphic Designer, Web Designer
Back in the day, I planned on being an artsy-fartsy graphic designer serving a nation-wide client base out of my home office. I soon realized I was an average designer. But when the web became mainstream, I found my new passion.
Upon graduating from design school, I landed a job, not as a designer, but in a production environment, with a company that produced computer painted images on vinyl, used in outdoor advertising.
When the department supervisor quit, they tapped me for the position.
After freelancing on the side for a while, a chance encounter with an acquaintance (who happened to be a programmer) led to a business venture that eventually included three partners.
After an amicable split with my two partners about four years later, I decided to continue the web design business as a sole proprietor, then had an “oh, shit” moment when I realized I needed to sell my services to make a living. So I invested in sales training with someone who became my sales mentor.
And while I discovered I didn’t love sales like I loved web design, the theory and psychology behind it fascinated me.
Once I landed some clients, I realized most didn’t have written copy for the pages of their website I was building. So I started writing it for them — and discovered not only did I love to write, I was pretty good at it.
Before there was such a thing as blogging and content marketing, I created an “articles” section on my website, with topics I thought my client base would find useful to encourage them to do business with me. A few years later, I started my own blog and began writing articles for SitePoint.
Yellow Page Sales Rep
When my wife and I relocated out of state, I struggled getting established in the new area. So I decided to try something new. I took a sales job at AT&T Yellow Pages.
After about a year of feeling like a small fish in a very large ocean, I took a position at my current company — who at that time, was an independent yellow page publisher.
Managing a team of appointment setters was my first introduction to using Salesforce and uploading contact lists to a CRM.
Digital Strategy Director
As the company began adding services like web design and SEO to its offering, I moved into a position to facilitate that process and oversee its marketing.
As a writer/blogger, my first instinct was to create content about web marketing and local search to attract clients. But first I had to learn WordPress in order to rebuilt the company website on its blogging platform.
I’d already been active on my personal social media, so it wasn’t difficult to develop a social media marketing plan as well.
I also started a training program to teach our reps how to sell our new digital offerings. (Note to Self: add “sales training” to list of eclectic work experience.)
Putting It All Together
I’ll also never forget the day — rather the week — that I felt more “eclectic” than ever before. I’d had an impassioned talk with my boss about improving our sales process. A few days later I was geeking out with our copywriter over proper placement of commas (with particular emphasis on the Oxford variety).
Who are you? I wondered. Renaissance Man, or Jack-of-all-trades, master of none?
Neither, it turns out. My so-called “eclectic” background makes me perfectly suited to be an inbound marketer, managing a team of inbound marketers.
My sales experience means I work well with sales managers, because I understand their world. (It also makes me a better marketer.)
My graphic and web design experience means Photoshop and HTML don’t frighten me (because you always need a quick graphic or have to jump into the code, right?)
And being comfortable with platforms like WordPress and Salesforce made learning the HubSpot platform a breeze.
“Do The Next Thing That Interests You”
I got this best piece of career advice long after I needed it. It came from a pastor who often found himself counseling high school graduates who have no clue what career they want to pursue. “Do the next thing that interests you,” he tells them.
In his 2005 Commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs described his own college experience at Reed College, where he dropped out and decided to pursue “the next thing” that interested him.
Because he had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, he decided to take a calligraphy class to learn about what makes great typography great. In his own words, “I found it fascinating.”
None of this had any practical application in his life at the time. But years later, his love of calligraphy found its way into the first Macintosh, as well as the other computers that it inspired. Jobs referred to this journey as “connecting the dots.”
Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
In mine as well.