Being young and extremely career driven, I honestly didn’t expect to stay at the University of Georgia for more than a few years. Five years later, here I am. Not only did I love my job and the organization I worked for (mainly because I truly believed in their mission), but I also love The Classic City. There’s just something special about Athens, GA.
However, being the ambitious person that I am, about a year ago, I began to get antsy about my career and started to feel as if my career was becoming stagnant (as there was no promotion opportunity available with my former position).
I thought I wanted to move from a Marketing Manager to Director of Marketing. It’s the natural next step, right? However, there was no room for a Director of Marketing position at the UGA SBDC. Although my salary had increased and my job responsibilities had increased, my official title had not… and I began to feel stuck.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I’m a hustler. I have high aspirations. My goal is to be a VP of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer at some large company somewhere, somehow, someday. Staying in a stagnant job with no promotion/progression opportunities is definitely not the way to achieve these goals. But as we all know the universe has a funny way of making sure people are where they need to be at the right time. This was definitely the case for me (and the same for when I moved to Athens).
A little over a month ago, I was given a giant push by the universe to “do my own thing.” I left my job at UGA and set out to figure out what I really wanted to do next and what would help me achieve my goals… one day.
Fast forward to NOW… I’ve landed my dream job for where I want to be at this stage in my life. I am confident that this is where I’m meant to be NOW and that this next chapter in my career will surely make me one of the most well-rounded creative marketers there is looking when I am finally ready to break into that C-Suite life.
Here’s what I did and how I did it:
#1. Networked my pants off.
When I first set out on my journey to land my dream job, I knew I needed to browse my “rolodex” and reach out to the people that knew people.
I actually sat in a session with ParkMobile’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jeff Perkins, at the Digital Summit Series in Atlanta a few years ago who basically said, “Stalk your heroes.” But what he really meant was, build a relationship with those in your industry who you look up to. He went on to say, “If you want to be a CMO, find CMO’s who work for companies you would like to work for, reach out to them, buy them a coffee, and listen to their story of how they got to where they are. Learn from them. Turn them into your mentors.” So, I did just that. (Oh hey, I also wrote an article about this session, check it out here.)
I sent out a tweet with a few key mentions of those in the industry who I’m slightly obsessed with, which led me to several great conversations with those currently in jobs that I hoped to one day be in myself.
From there, I landed conversations with companies like ParkMobile and HubSpot about contract work that would help build my portfolio and add a few big names to my resume.
I got a lot of great feedback as well.
One of the best pieces of advice was from the 30-minute conversation I had with Jeff, who I now owe a coffee. He essentially told me that I have the “bones” of a CMO, but don’t quite have the experience yet. He then told me that instead of being a jack-of-all-trades (even though that’s a great trait for a CMO), I needed to specialize. I needed to figure out what I’m really good at and the most passionate about. He also told me to make a list of companies I really want to work for and try to network with them. They may not have a position now, but they might in the future or possibly have an opening, but haven’t posted the job yet. This was solid advice.
#2. Figured out what I’m passion about.
After my conversation with Jeff, I thought long and hard about what it is I really wanted to do and what I was naturally talented in. I knew I was naturally gifted in design, as well as have had formal training in the field. However, I wasn’t sure a Graphic Designer path was the route I wanted to take. It wasn’t quite challenging enough. I wanted a job that allowed me to be strategic and solve problems… which is probably what drove me to marketing originally. Then I realized… I would make a great UI/UX Designer. I would be challenged, be able to apply strategy to solve user experience problems, in addition to scratching my design itch by creating dope user interfaces (is it interfaces or interfi lol??).
So, I decided to narrow my job search to more Visual Designer, UI Designer, UX/UI Designer type of roles.
#3. Surveyed the lay of the land.
Before I started applying to every Visual Designer, UI Designer, UX/UI Designer role out there though, I wanted to survey the land. I wanted to see what was out there, what companies were looking for, the skill sets that these companies’ ideal candidate possessed, and, how much these positions paid.
I scoured LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, and Google and realized that there’s not many of these jobs out there… at least not in Georgia. So, I knew I really had to make my applications count. I couldn’t “half ass” apply to these jobs. I really had to knock it out of the park. One of the ways I tried to make this happen was to invest in LinkedIn Premium.
#4. Splurged on LinkedIn Premium.
I invested in LinkedIn Premium. Not only does it move your application closer to the top of the list of the employer, but it also provided competitive analysis between your profile and the other people who have applied. So, not only knew what the salary of the job posted could potentially be, but I also got to see how I stacked up. Most of the positions I applied for, I was in the Top 25% of all candidates, and a lot of the jobs I was in the Top 10%.
Luckily, in the creative marketing industry, there aren’t many applicants with a Masters degree. I firmly believe that between being a LinkedIn Premium applicant, having a complete LinkedIn profile, and having a Masters degree, the combination at least got my foot in the door and a first phone call with a company.
#5. Beefed up that resume.
Before I started applying to jobs though, I knew I needed to update my resume and ensure that it was current, used industry lingo, and I tailored it to speak more to the job roles in which I was applying for. But the most important aspect of my resume was to stand out and represent me as a creative marketer as a whole. What company wants to hire someone whose resume doesn’t showcase their skill set? I’m a designer. My resume needed to be pretty… but also functional… but also define me as a creative marketer.
“If you don’t define yourself, someone else will.”-JEFF PERKINS, Chief Marketing Officer, ParkMobile
In addition to having a solid resume, I made sure my LinkedIn profile was complete, as well as contained all the keywords I wanted recruiters and companies to find my by. So, I made sure my headline contained UI & UX, as well as design, and marketing.
I also fine-tuned my previous experiences job duties in a more bullet form manner to be easier to read, as well as display more of a results driven approach like “I did this and the results were this,” rather than a “I did this, and was responsible for this, and can do this.”
I applied this same strategy to every career-oriented website I could find to try and cast as wide of a net for job opportunities as possible.
#6. Applied, applied, applied… until I was blue in the face.
The job hunting process is brutal, man. I honestly felt like I would wake up and start applying to jobs and would continue to apply for jobs until it was bedtime or I was blue in the face.
I didn’t want to rush through applications though. I took the time to thoughtfully complete each and every application as thorough as I could. Sometimes, I would take me a solid hour to complete an application. It was mentally draining and felt like a full-time job trying to find my next job.
Like honestly, the idea of being a bartender was more appealing than going through the process to secure my dream job and progressing my career. But…
“Nevertheless she persisted.”-ELIZABETH WARREN, Senator, Massachusetts
I probably applied to 50 jobs within a two week time period. It was nuts. At first, it seemed like I wasn’t getting much interest. But then… about a week later, I started to get phone calls… A LOT of phone calls. I probably had 15 phone interviews over the course of the next two weeks, in addition to a handful of in-person interviews.
It will happen… and when it does, it will happen quickly and all at once… in normal chaotic universe fashion, of course.
#7. Learned to talk about myself like a boss.
This used to be the hardest feat in my younger days. When a company asked if I knew A, B, C, programs (and I didn’t), I would instantly be like, “No I have never used those programs and don’t know how to use them.” However, fast forward 7 years into my career later, in addition to a Masters degree (which I’m starting to realize really helped me become a better speaker due to my extremely talented cohort that I constantly had to compete with… and sound equally as smart… so, thanks guys!), now when a company asks if I know how to use A, B, C, programs (and I don’t), I instead reply… with confidence, “You know, I’ve never had the opportunity to become proficient in said programs. However, I do know X, Y, and Z programs, which are fairly similar. I’m also very tech savvy and adapt quickly to new technologies and programs.” BOOM! *check mark from interviewer*
I’ve also learned how to talk about my experiences and projects in a way that it relates back to the position in which I was interviewing for. You would think this would be a no-brainer, but amazingly enough, when you get in the moment, sometimes this strategy goes out the window.
One instance of this is a more analytics-based/digital marketing project included in my portfolio. I was asked (by a company in which I was interviewing for a UI/UX Designer position) what the most complex project I ever worked on was and I instantly said, “The Social Media Dashboard me and my Graduate Assistant worked on.” Although the premise of the project was data collection and reporting of the growth of digital marketing efforts, I was able to incorporate how the visual design of the data and the way the analytics were translated revolved around user experience. I replied that you can have all the data in the world, but if the person you’re giving the data to doesn’t understand the significance, it does no good. So, I designed the Social Media Dashboard to not only report data, but also linked it to a presentation that visually depicted the numbers in color charts and graphs, as well as included a textual description of the data and significance, as well as recommendations on how to improve the numbers next quarter. This presentation not only was user-friendly for the recipient, but it was easy for the creator as well due to it being linked to the data spreadsheet which required a simply click of the “update” button once new data was dumped into the sheet that would update all of the charts and graphs in the presentation.
Knowing how to talk about yourself, your skillset, your experience and projects in a smart and significant way will most definitely set you apart from your competition.
#8. Wasn’t afraid to wait it out.
It’s incredible how much has changed in seven years from my very first “real job” search to now, as I’m not just looking for a job, but rather my dream job and progression in my career.
When going through the interview process, I could tell almost instantly if the company was going to be a good fit for me or not. There were several companies that requested additional interviews that I declined because I knew that although I might be a good fit for them, they weren’t a good fit for me… and that’s what I was looking for. I didn’t want just a job… I wanted THE job.
In fact, I interviewed with VMWare several times and was in love with the job and the company. I was positive if they made an offer, THAT was THE job I was going to accept.
I had one interview with TaxSlayer, a phone interview, and something about the job just felt right… from the very beginning. As soon as I spoke to the person who would potentially be my boss, I knew that TaxSlayer was now the front runner. We hit it off.
After the second phone interview with TaxSlayer, I was invited for an in-person interview and from the moment I sat down, met the team, and casually chatted, I knew that TaxSlayer was the place for me. The entire experience/job/team fit like a glove. It was everything I was looking for in my next job and phase of my career.
Sometimes you have to dig through a mine of ore to find gold.
#9. Was real in interviews.
I’ve never been afraid to be me… except in interviews. I’ve always assumed that being a member of the LGBT+ community would negatively affect my career, especially when interviewing for a job. However, early on in my career I decided that if a company wasn’t going to want all of me and who I am, then I probably didn’t want to work for that company anyway.
I think the reason I’ve received so many second interviews is in part due to me just being me in the interviews. Although, a large part probably has to do with my experience and me knowing how to talk about myself, skillset, and value to a company, I think me being real also helped.
By being real, the interviewer doesn’t feel like they’re talking to a “suited-up robot.” They’re talking to a person who could potentially fit into their company culture. A lot of job candidates sound very rehearsed and try to avoid using slang and casual lingo. However, I took the opposite approach. I was open about who I am, I used the same lingo and conversation-style I would use with my pals. In fact, Greg even mentioned that it was refreshing for someone to be open and honest about who they were and to be authentically them.
In the same session with Jeff Perkins that I mentioned earlier, he also encouraged the audience to “Be like George. Do the opposite.” He followed his statement up with the following Seinfeld clip and summarized it as “too many people letting others define them. If what you’re doing (or what they are doing) isn’t working… DO THE OPPOSITE.” I’ve really taken this to heart.
So, in the end, me being me and being real paid off.
#10. Was memorable.
In all of my interviews, I try to be fairly memorable. Whether it be following up with a personalized/branded “thank you” note, or, leaving my “extended resume” behind, I want to make sure I stand out.
If you’re competing for a job that you really want, go above and beyond to be memorable.
At TaxSlayer, I knew that I was the last candidate to be interviewed. Often times, being the first interview by a company is best because they compare every person after that to you. So, I knew I had to ensure that I was remembered and that I had to make a statement. So, I left behind a branded business card (click here to see it) and an extended resume booklet (click here to see it).
If you think about it, this step could also include a “Be like George” moment as well. If you watched the clip above, to the woman he hit on, he will clearly be remembered.
At the end of the day, if you follow all ten steps mentioned throughout this blog post, I can almost guarantee that you will for sure be memorable.
Those are the 10 steps I took to land my dream job for the next phase of my career.
It’s true what they say, “Everything happens for a reason.” I’m a firm believer in this. Everything in my life seems to connect and build off of things that seemed bad at the time, but turned into something great.
Although leaving Athens, GA, a city that I truly love, is hard… and sad… I know that if I want to progress in my career, I need to close this chapter of my life and start a new one, which happens to be in Augusta, GA, where my career (ironically enough) first started. This next chapter will be a great building block to my core skillset/experience that will later help me achieve my goals.
- Network your pants off. Stalk your industry heroes, reach out to them, buy them a coffee, and listen to their story of how they got to where they are. Learn from them. Turn them into your mentors.
- Figure out what you’re passionate about.
- Survey the lay of the land. See what’s out there, what companies are looking for, and what the competition looks like.
- Splurge on LinkedIn Premium. It’s worth it.
- Beef up your resume. “If you don’t define yourself, someone else will.” Make sure your resume is updated, tailored to the job you want, and conveys who you are as an industry professional.
- Apply until you are blue in the face. It will happen… and when it does, it will happen quickly and all at once… in normal chaotic universe fashion, of course.
- Know how to talk about yourself. Knowing how to talk about yourself, your skillset, your experience and projects in a smart and significant way will definitely set you apart from your competition.
- Don’t be afraid to wait it out. Sometimes you have to dig through a mine of ore to find gold.
- Be real. Don’t be a “suited-up robot” that sounds rehearsed. “Be like George. Do the opposite.” Be your true, authentic self.
- Be memorable. If you’re competing for a job that you really want, go above and beyond to be memorable.
I will leave you with this: Everything happens for a reason. You will be where you’re meant to be… until you aren’t meant to be there anymore. Don’t take a job just to have a job. Wait for the right job that will help progress your career and allow you to do what you’re passionate about. And never be afraid to be your true, authentic self.
That’s how I landed my dream job.