When I graduated from college with a degree in Sociology from the University of Idaho, let’s just say that people weren’t knocking down my door (or even opening my emails) to hire me. I had big aspirations, I thought I was pretty smart. My college GPA didn’t really reflect that, but I had been bored; I did well in the classes I cared about and I had a good time. Applications to places like Target’s corporate office were probably laughed at. I decided to move to Minneapolis still in 2012 and took a temp job at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage where I spent all day looking at mortgage documents on a computer and reviewing them. It was basically the last thing I had seen myself doing.
When you graduate from a regular school, with a degree without a built-in career you are likely to struggle. It’s absolutely possible to turn it around though.
6 months in I started looking around for other jobs, I had to do something, the money was barely enough and I wasn’t getting the creative exercise I needed. However, my resume was generating absolutely zero interest still, I had no marketable skills at this point besides my understanding of Microsoft Office and a college degree. It was at this point that I met my (future) wife at a concert and we literally were pregnant within a month. We planned it all out so well! Yeah. Making $15 an hour and riding 3 buses an hour to your temp job doesn’t pay for childcare and diapers. It was at this point I decided it was time to just find any full-time job that would help me build some sort of skill. I needed something that could turn into a different position, but wouldn’t be picky about hiring me. What did I end up doing? I sold cars.
January of 2013 I started selling cars, I wasn’t bad at it. I learned about using a CRM, I learned sales skills and how to push yourself to reach a goal. I talked to a lot of people who didn’t want to talk to me. That’s really the thing you take away most from selling cars, it’s true in most fields where sales people are involved…people evaluating a piece of software or a product typically don’t want to talk to someone before buying it. However, in the auto industry it’s magnified 1000x because of how horrible the experience can be. I started making a concerted effort to meet people while I was working, I got names and cards, I tried to learn what people had done to get their jobs. I had grown up around my step-mom who came from a long line of digital marketing jobs and had made quite a name for herself. I wanted to be a marketer, agencies needed to hire me. Unfortunately they didn’t see it that way.
In the summer of 2013 I met someone who owned his own business, he enjoyed talking with me and I even got him interested in seeing my resume. Things were starting to pick up, I was going to be able to do some real work and get a shot at a marketing position. Then, as you might have guessed, it fell apart. My resume was literally the worst. It was poorly formatted, I didn’t properly highlight my skills and proficiencies. I basically had a page of bullet points with previous jobs and my education. I had never really understood how horrible it was until I got this feedback from him, and it really hurt. He told me that he couldn’t send it on to his partner, because he knew it wasn’t good enough. I reformatted, looked at guides on writing resumes, but it was too late. You see you only get one shot to make an impression on someone, I know he was wrong about me. I know I could have done the job if given a chance, but the view I gave him was of someone who couldn’t handle a serious responsibility. Take your resume seriously.
In 2014 I took a shot on a job that I had no business doing, selling cheerleading uniforms. When I walked into All-Star cheerleading gyms, I felt so incredibly uncomfortable. But I owe this company a huge debt, they made me WORK.
I’m pretty sure I was terrible at this job, I took my skills from selling cars and put them to use. I did a good job of drumming up interest, and developed a lot of leads. When it came down to actually understanding the elements of uniform designs, what the customer wanted, and what I needed to do each step of the way…it just didn’t go that well. I did a passable job, and it ran me ragged. I developed the first, and only, migraine of my life on a sales trip through Wisconsin. This wasn’t for me, and having a job that I literally could not succeed in was amazing.
I was worried I would be fired. I applied for a customer service job with a small business that indicated they needed someone to help out with marketing too. I had to take a pay cut, but they gave me the job. They had Google Analytics, were spending a little money in Google AdWords, and had two great developers/designers who were doing everything they could to generate sales online. I was in way over my head, but the owner of the company let me get my hands on everything and learn. I studied and took my AdWords and Analytics certifications at work. Writing website copy, email campaigns and auto-responder workflows, building Google Shopping campaigns, understanding Analytics and the thousand little things I had to were the culmination of the years I had spent being paid very little and doing things I couldn’t stand. I was making less money than ever, and I still felt a little constrained, but I had never been happier about my career. 6 months in I started applying to agencies.
I couldn’t get an interview at the first 3 I applied too, then a miracle happened and I got a job at an agency trying to build a paid media program that was willing to take a shot on me. What happened then? I took control of a paid media program with nobody supervising me. I multiplied revenue almost 7x in the first year, spoke at a local marketing event, started writing for Search Engine Land, and completely changed the perception employers had of me. When a lead came in for paid media I developed the strategy, pitched it, closed the deal, built the campaigns, optimized them, managed the client relationship, delivered reporting…I did it all. I was a good sales person because I’d been mired in years of sales experience. Project management didn’t bother me after staring at HUD documents. Emailing with prospects and pushing forward felt easy compared to selling someone a Jeep. I had found my home. One of the agencies I applied to, and couldn’t even get an email back from, contacted me a few times over the next few months. I received an offer, decided to stay with my current agency with a little raise…but finally made the move to Leadpages. So here I am. How did it happen?
When you feel constantly overlooked, you can still succeed. But you need to be internally motivated, or have an external force pushed upon you that accelerates your personal growth. I was not a hard worker, but having a child made me a success.
See that advice above? Don’t go out and have a kid just to jumpstart your career. There are other outside forces that can do it. But seriously. The first thing you need is internal motivation to make a change, or something outside that pushes you harder than you can push yourself. Having my daughter Blair caused me to be responsible, put myself into consideration for positions I would have never taken, and take risks in my career.
If you have something of an eclectic range of experiences, identify the key skills you were building during your time there and get them on your resume. Please, take this seriously. Don’t lie on your resume, but take long look at your past jobs and write out the tangible (And not so tangible) results. I became a sales person, a captivating emailer, possible reply-all scandal maker, project manager, copywriter, email marketer, and then settled on a niche in paid media. The odds were definitely stacked against success, but I had enough crazy experiences that the outside force of becoming a father coupled with how poor a fit these jobs were for me accelerated my career path by several years.
When you have your motivation (internal or external), several jobs that pushed your limits and made you crazy, you have recipe for a job application storm. I probably applied to 200+ jobs between temping and my agency job. I became very good at it. When you are looking for the job to get you out of your rut, the job that pushes you over the edge…this is what to look for.
Find a position you are qualified for that will allow you to learn the job you want. I worked in customer service and took a big pay cut for a chance to learn marketing hands on.
When you are looking around for a job, indicate in your communication with the hiring manager what your big interest is. Not all of them are going to be able to embrace it, but voicing that interest is the only way to make it real. If you have worked in retail before and are applying for a technical support job at a small business but want to put your degree in journalism to work by writing press releases for the company. Ask. Do it. Prove why it should be yours and never look back. When you go this route you are going to have to work hard, harder than you have before. But for the first time in your life, it will feel worth it.
Follow along with me at www.brett-middleton.com to see what I’m up to now.