How I Landed My Dream Career

How I Landed My Dream Career

 

First, I just want to say this isn’t an article about how everything happens for a reason, and if you just focus on success, it’ll happen. This is a story about not settling. This is a story about how a job and a career are different things.

A year ago, I felt like my career was going nowhere. I left a job I loved because I just couldn’t keep going on a path that was all dead ends. So I took a job that I thought would move me into the right lane, and the pay was great. I soon learned that the job wasn’t what I expected. So I moved on after a few months to a position that paid more but still wasn’t what I wanted to do. But it gave me the time I needed to focus on where I wanted my career to go.

However, this was just a job, and I was a contractor not an employee. As a contractor, it was hard to feel like I was a part of something, which made feel disconnected to the work. I worked with some very smart and competent people. But no one seemed to have a plan for my role. It was like they went on a hiring spree, I showed up, and they weren’t sure what to do with me. I was used to just being thrown in, but when you work for a large company, it’s basically impossible to create work. But I tried. And really the clichés about large companies are mostly true: lots of red tape, corporate speak is rampant, and most of the time, new ideas aren’t appreciated. These were not bad experiences. I did learn things. I learned a lot about what I didn’t want for my career and that having at least some leeway to be creative is essential. And that I really like working and collaborating with others. The in person meeting is hard to come by in global companies. Technology allows for alternatives, but in my opinion, there’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye and giving them your attention.

I also learned that in a large company, your role is just one small cog and that was hard for me to swallow as my experience has been one where I’ve had to wear a lot of hats. I was able to connect what I was doing to the bigger picture; I just had little opportunity to influence the strategy. It became easier to just do what I was told. And that’s not me. I need to be challenged and engaged. Otherwise, I just feel like I’m simply showing up.

But during the year of contacting, I enjoyed flexibility that allowed me to find exactly what I wanted and focus on continuing to improve my skills and connections. This time allowed me to connect with some amazing folks and do some really cool things. So even if my day job was blah; I had work that was creative and challenging. I also took this time to learn new skills. I can now create landing pages without the help of a developer! Life doesn’t really hand out opportunities just for showing up. Attitude about your situation is what you can have control over, not much else.

So while I could worry less about financials, I had plenty of time to find the right fit. I had a lot of bad interviews. Not that the people were bad; it’s just I kind of immediately knew it wasn’t for me. I never turn down interviews even if I was already on the fence. You never know who you might meet or what it might teach you. I, at one point, thought I had found a great opportunity but because of situations beyond my control, the company made the choice not to fill the position. I did meet a great guy who 100 percent believed in me. We were completely on the same page so it turned into an opportunity, just a different kind.

The worst interview had to be the one that made me literally sick. It was so hot in the room, and I was in there for over an hour with no water. I’m not saying it was a literal toxic environment, but I decided my body was trying to tell me something.

So it was months of bad interviews or jobs that seemed like a good fit but were under my salary requirements. I could have just gotten comfortable in my day job routine. But I knew I wasn’t fulfilled so I kept putting myself out there.

Then something amazing happened. I applied for a job on LinkedIn and had a phone interview with my now boss. I immediately knew I wanted to work for him. Then in my in person interview it got even better. I knew I had found my people and my place.

I’m just finishing my first week, and thus far it’s as advertised. The people are fun and friendly. I’ve already received so much praise and recognition for my work and ideas. That’s pretty amazing! And I’m thankful everyday that I get paid well to do what I love, write and marketing!

My advice to anyone unhappy in their career is that only you can change it. Your boss isn’t suddenly going to start appreciating you. The work won’t become interesting and challenging if you wish hard enough. But don’t settle. You deserve to be treated well and paid fairly. I bring up pay because it’s important to ask for what you need and not back down. I know what I’m worth, and in the end so did they.

If the offers don’t come then keep learning and growing. Top talent is a bit of a unicorn these days. If you know how great you are, make sure employers do, too. Tell your story because we all have one. I’m feeling really blessed right now, and right now, I feel that my career story has just launched into an exciting new chapter.

Happy Birthday, Jen

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Today is a very special day; it’s the birthday of one of my favorite people. This amazing woman has been a constant in my life for over 25 years. I often write about my life and tell stories of my triumphs and tragedies. The story today is about my friend Jen.

Calling her a friend doesn’t really fully describe our relationship. She’s more than a friend, she’s family. The wonderful thing about adulthood is that you get to chose your family. I’m so glad we chose each other.

We met in middle school. I liked her wit and her bright spirit instantly. Our high school days were filled with the kind of memories you only have if you grew in a small town. We had a lot of fun, none of which I can repeat in this blog. Just in case her kids read it. Let’s just say we had many adventures, and we lived to remember it.

I almost lost her decades ago when she was in a bad car accident. Seeing her in the hospital was something I can still recall. But she never felt sorry for herself. We even laughed at our attempt to navigate a Wendy’s while she was using a walker.

Adolescence soon merged into adulthood. And by then I had already been dealt many blows. And she was there. No matter what heartbreak I had, she was there to listen and love me. It’s hard to find someone who always show up for you.

In all our years of friendship, I cannot recall an argument or harsh word. There have been times when we haven’t talked as much because you know, life. But she is someone I could call to be there. I’ve called her in tears many times, only to finish the call with a smile.

She has since grown to be an amazing wife, mother and neighbor. I know this because of how she lives her life, never judging, always forgiving. She is the epitome of selflessness. She’s much more selfless than I could ever dream of being. She makes every room brighter for being in it. Her kids are such lovely boys who love and respect their mom.

I do worry that she doesn’t do enough for herself. I encourage her to take time just for her. She deserves it.

Some of our best times have been lately. We are just so in sync with each other these days. We don’t see each other near enough to suit us, but we commit to making time for each other. I can be completely honest with her, showing her the good and imperfect parts of myself. There’s only a handful of people I genuinely trust, and she’s in that select group.

With her in my life, I’ve had much more laughter and love. I look forward to many more years of adventures with my pal. I’m so blessed to have this beautiful lady by my side in this crazy, amazing life.

Happy Birthday, Jen. I love you!

Hey law firms, here’s an introduction to inbound marketing

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I’m what you’d call an inbound marketing evangelist. I have no doubt that using inbound strategies is the key to quality leads and substantial growth. Unfortunately, not every industry has embraced it and prefer to stay stuck in traditional marketing. One industry that seems to be lagging behind but has so much opportunity is the legal field.

Attorneys love advertising. I know this because they are constantly on my TV or smiling at me from the vinyl wrap of a bus or everyone’s favorite on the back of a phone book (just so you know, I don’t have a phone book, but I think they still exist). When I see the ads on TV or read their billboard, I am amazed at how little they have progressed. From their shiny hair to their 90s suits, it’s bad. But maybe it works for them; although, I am not sure exactly how they derive ROI from ad spend, and I would assume that ad spend is substantial.

An introduction to inbound

So, attorneys or marketers who work for law firms, I’d like to introduce you to inbound marketing. When people need an attorney, it’s usually not for a good reason. And most people may already have a negative feeling about lawyers (sorry, you just aren’t likable). So how do you get a prospective client to like and trust you? By providing users content to answer their questions. A content plan that targets the specific reasons someone may need an attorney could be much more valuable than your billboard. Here’s why. When we need something now, we ask Google. We, for the most part, trust the results that Google provides. So if I’m asking Google what I need to know about some legal predicament, like personal injury, negligence or family matters, that’s probably what I’m going to ask Google. If you have relevant content that answers the question and is optimized correctly, there’s a good shot you’ll be in the results.

Not all law firms have resisted the inbound revolution. Hubspot shared a case study of a law firm that cut paid advertising and increased its leads by 186 percent by adopting inbound strategies. The firm moved away from traditional formats and started creating a content marketing strategy that generated interest and in turn new clients.

Some are dipping their toes into the inbound pool

I did a little research myself looking at some law firms in Charlotte, N.C. I did some simple searches wherein I was seeking answers to legal problems. This is what I found:

  • For family law, there were a lot of paid ads on Google, none of which went to a dedicated landing page that would have been considered an Awareness stage offer, like an eBook.
  • Some of the family law practices I looked at did have blogs, but the publication was sporadic, and there didn’t seem to be a real content marketing plan; the topics were too general and didn’t really answer my questions.
  • For personal injury, there were plenty of paid ads, none of which would be considered an optimized landing page. The designs were dated, and nothing about the testimonials or content felt authentic.
  • The personal injury firms also had blogs, but the tone was off in that it didn’t feel human or compassionate, which is what prospective clients are seeking. It makes me question if they understand their buyer personas.

Inbound can work for you

Whether you are a boutique or international law firm, inbound marketing can work for you. It starts with relevant content targeted to your ideal client. The content can’t be about how amazing your firm is; rather it needs to focus on answering questions or providing tips to help those in need of legal advice. Of course, the blogs would never be considered legal advice (as I’m sure all attorneys may worry about this if producing content), but they must sound human. The general public doesn’t understand legalese, and they will be immediately turned off by it.

Here are three ways to introduce inbound into your firm:

  1. Start a blog; if you already have one then create a strategy for it to include topics, frequency, tone and promotion.
  2. Create conversion-centric landing pages to use in paid ads and organic search. Don’t distract your prospect with 10 different actions. Offer them a piece of content that is relevant then follow up with a friendly email, but don’t push.
  3. Get active on social media. Post your content here. Engage with thought leaders, prospects and clients. Depending on your specialty, you may find success on a number of different platforms. Let the platform dictate the content. For example, on LinkedIn write posts that may help businesses who need legal services; on FaceBook, post an infographic on data related to divorces, as this may be the platform that users would be looking for individual legal advice.

I’d love to hear from law firms that have been successful with inbound and content marketing. Or if you think your firm is ready to adopt inbound and need some help, let’s connect and chat.

If you wonder why I left

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If you wonder why I left

If you wonder
why I left
just know
it was probably me
not you.

You, see
there’s this duality in me.
The before and after;
before the deaths
after the deaths;
before the truth
after the truth.
When my history
looked less like what the photos say.

I would never say
my life hasn’t been beautiful,
dusted with pure and brilliant
moments: saltwater lips, wake up hugs,
that can’t be
dimmed by the heartbreak of loss and fear and leaving.

If you still wonder
why I left
it’s because I can’t dissolve into your memories
because they are not mine.
Those photo albums, they tell stories.
I was a blonde haired little girl with ideas and fears,
feeling less like a child every day,
but loved without constraint
by the person who mattered most.
I know it because she looked
at me
like I mattered,
like my ideas and stories were bigger than that small town.

If you wonder
why I left
there’s the answer, or part of it.
The pictures don’t show it all;
the black
the blue.
No one puts that in an album.
We don’t show off our brutality; we hide it.

So if you wonder
why I left,
why it’s been 20 years
just know I needed my own story, one where
everyone doesn’t die.
One where it’s okay to expose the shatterings of a child soul.
In the real story, there was a family,
and they all loved,
and they all hurt.
One day it was just me,
sitting in a rubble of stories,
other people’s stories.
I never wonder why I left;
I did it to write my own ending.

Why do we have to make things so hard?

 

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In life, whether professionally or personally, we often make things much harder than they have to be. Many people seem to reject simplicity and believe complexity is the only way, especially in marketing. Why? I think there are several reasons why this is happening in organizations across the U.S. Here are some observations of why people can’t seem to understand that simplicity is not inferior to complexity:

Confusing simplification with “dumbing it down”

I have run into this wall many times when working with technology and software companies. They believe that the complexity of their product or service is validation of its greatness. WRONG! What these types of companies fail to remove from the marketing and tone is this bias that they are experts; their customers are not. If you use words that require a dictionary then your message is not on point. Simplifying your message to focus on value and benefits to your end user will get them to listen. If they want to know more about the specifications and technology, they will ask once they are closer to making a buying decision. Strive to be simple and human in your message; not formal and condescending. This is in NO WAY “dumbing it down.” It’s about creating a message that resonates with your audience.

Creating complexity to ensure purpose

Are you the only company offering your service or product? Probably not. Maybe you have a different angle or approach, but there are always others that can offer what you offer. So to ensure your purpose, you market or write about your product’s complexity as a differentiator. I don’t think this is a good move. Competing on complexity isn’t really a winning strategy. There has to be another way to substantiate purpose; I think it’s in the “why.” The “why” is just that: why you do what you do (not to make profit, although of course that’s part of it). But defining the “why” is much more powerful to users than how complicated your product is.

Internal communication is absent or strained

Marketing is not an island unto itself. As a marketing professional, I’ve worked closely with sales, operations, R&D, ownership and almost every other department. Marketing’s job is to create messaging and campaigns to spread that message to attract leads. But marketing often has to work with subject matter experts (SMEs) or other groups to capture what is happening in the industry and what users are saying. I’ve had both great and strained relationships with these groups. And in some organizations, I’ve seen ZERO communication or collaboration. If as an SME or technical expert, you can’t explain to me why someone would need or want your product then I’m going to have a hard time translating this. It’s been such a struggle in many organizations that I have just become the SME myself. SMEs or others may not know how to effectively communicate. But marketers can teach them. By asking the right questions and pushing back, you can get some great nuggets of information. My final advice on this topic is that all stakeholders should meet regularly, learn to trust each other and of course communicate!

Goals are unclear

I have an excellent example to illustrate this point. My dog, Fawn, does not like to put her harness on. She has to wear a harness because she’s a puller. She likes to think it’s a game, but I’ve assured her it’s not. Usually trickery is involved to get her into the harness, but the reward is she gets to go outside for a walk and more than likely will also get a treat. So she completely understands what the harness means, and she does love to go outside. Yet, she always makes it more difficult than it has to be. You may be doing the same thing with your marketing. Your end user understands his or her goals. They have a problem; they need a solution. Their preferred end state is to have something in place that removes the problem. If your marketing isn’t geared to your buyer’s end goal then this is a huge problem. It really is that simple: be the reason somebody’s life or job just got easier. When you don’t align marketing with the buyer’s journey (Awareness, Consideration, Decision) then you miss the mark often. You may be making it to complex for the end user to see how your solution solves their challenge. Look at the pathway from prospect to client, where are the gaps? Is it too hard to do business with your company? If you don’t simplify the process and make it user-friendly, you will lose prospects and clients.

Parting words: simplicity is your friend; complexity is your foe! I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and please share if you found this worthwhile.

A letter to my mom, 20 years later

A letter to my mom, 20 years later

Dear Mom,

This isn’t a regular day, but I don’t need an anniversary to remind me of how irrevocably my life changed 20 years ago. For years, I could barely function on this anniversary, although I don’t know why it’s called an anniversary. I’d rather not remember that day, and 20 years have certainly helped it fade. The truth is I wasn’t there. I was on the way back, but I felt it even before I knew it, like some seismic shift in my foundation. But you were not alone.

You were never alone. People loved you; your laugh, your wit, your brave honesty. People still love you, and I think of you every day. You are my anchor. You are my constant. You are still the opinion that matters most. For every decision I’ve had to make or obstacle that’s been in my way, your voice is the one I heard inside my head.

I am lucky for this. It’s strange maybe to say lucky. What’s lucky about me, the girl whose family died? Then I think of all the love, grace and drive you gave me, much more than most get in a 100 years. So, yes, I was lucky.

Even though you prepared me well for life and its many disappoints, I have made many mistakes. I’ve fallen into black holes that consumed me for years. I’ve not always done the right thing the first or second time. I know you forgive me. I know you understand why I’ve veered off course. I did the best I could without you. Because that’s the reality of these 20 years, learning to live without you.

I never stopped writing. Without it, I don’t know where all the fear and anger and pain would have gone. It helped me save some of the memories and face the truth. No one likes uncomfortable truths, but because you always faced your truth, it helped me find mine.

And after the horrors of the last 20 years and burning down all the tragedy to ash, I’ve arrived at some kind of happy. Happiness, I’ve learned, is something that nips at our hearts in moments. And I’ve had beautiful moments, the only thing missing was you. I’ve made a life for myself, probably not the one you imagined for me. But it’s a good life with the kind of people that don’t treat me like I’m damaged, rather they see my imperfections as evidence of a good and humble character. This life includes an amazing husband, who I think you’d love because of his sweet, calming soul. Your only objection may be that he’s a Cowboys fan.

I do wonder though if you’d be disappointed that I’m not a mom. It just wasn’t in the cards for me. That wasn’t my path. It still hurts sometimes, but I look at the love and devotion I give to my animals. And it’s simply enough for me.

A million horrible and wonderful things have happened in the last 20 years, and for every one of them, you were the first person I wanted to tell. In a way I still do because I’m always talking to you. It’s the greatest language I know.

Your time as my mom helped me survive the life I’ve been living without you. It has given me a unique yet haunting perspective. It has pushed me to know very precisely how I want to leave this world; knowing I shared my stories, I worked hard, I loved fiercely and I took every adventure.

I do still think about what that parallel world would have been; the one where you live; the one where we get to be friends. Because you always told me, “I’m your mother, not your friend.”  I would have loved to have been your friend. All those moments that never happened. I won’t get over that; it can’t be mended. Glad to have finally learned that some scabs never heal, and some holes never get filled.

But I am honored to have been your daughter. It was one of the greatest parts of my life. Even though it wasn’t for long enough, and I would’ve learned so much more from you about life. I’d still choose you over and over again even though I know you’ll leave too soon.

So although this world hasn’t had you for 20 years, I know I never lost you, I carry you in my heart. That’s a place you can never leave.

Love,
Beth

I almost died last Tuesday

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I almost died last Tuesday. Okay that sounds super dramatic, and to be clear, I’m fine. I work in the downtown area of Charlotte, N.C. It’s not exactly pedestrian friendly. I’ve had close calls before, while I was in the crosswalk and had the green light. This was different. I was crossing one of the main roads on my way back to the office from running an errand. I’ve learned to hesitate a second or two even after the light comes on that says walk. I stepped out into the road, and an SUV ran the red light and literally came within inches of hitting me. A lady behind me even gasped. But as I said, I’m fine, not even a scratch. So what did I learn about myself in that split second?

I learned that it doesn’t take almost dying for me to know my priorities. I’m not suddenly going to start using YOLO as my mantra or seize the day. Because I’m already seizing the day, at least as much as I can.

You see, this isn’t my first brush with mortality. I’ve lost almost everyone that was important to me. And I’ve been in the room sitting across from the doctor hearing him say words like “cancer” and “surgery.” Maybe this gives me a unique perspective. Sometimes I’d probably trade that perspective to just have one more moment with my mom. But that’s not the path my life has taken. I often say, “Life rarely turns out as expected, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be wonderful.” I really believe this 84 percent of the time. I’m not perfect. I often get caught in the cobwebs of the past or the shininess of the future.

But I don’t think you need loss or trauma in your life to realize what’s important. I read something the other day, “I want to die with memories not dreams.” That’s a really powerful statement. We all have dreams that still haven’t quite come true. My biggest unrealized dream is to have one of my novels published and to finish my memoir. The routine of life gets in the way of dreams sometimes, but I want more than dreams; I really do want memories. I want to live a life that’s full of beauty as well as heartbreak. I understand that a life well lived has both because you have to take chances, fail terribly and pull yourself back up, which sometimes takes longer than you had planned. I want to see more than the five miles around where I live. I refuse to let fear keep me from experiencing life; whether that be traveling abroad or sharing my stories. I’m not paralyzed by what “might” happen. I understand the reality of what can happen.

I’m not completely fearless. My worries are not uncommon: bills, loved ones, rejection. But you know, I’m just not afraid of death. It’s inevitable. Nobody gets to bypass it. I just want to be sure that when that day comes, however it comes, that I lived a life, took every opportunity, lived by my own rules and left nothing on the table.

How do you really live your life? What keeps you brave?