As the economic climate worldwide has shown uncharacteristic elements of strife and turmoil, I've been getting more and more questions asked about finding and keeping a job in the Internet marketing space. As a CEO, and someone who employs quite a few folks, I think I can give some fairly detailed, albeit personal, advice on this topic.
So - if you want to keep the job you've got, or earn your next one, let me recommend these strategies:
- Be Metrics Driven
If you can show a company that's thinking of hiring you that you know how to track metrics around search - whether it's rankings, competitive intelligence, PPC performance, etc. - and you have the pretty charts and graphs to show them from your last (or existing) gig, you're well on your way. Management at companies large and small love data, love charts and love "chrome" - seriously. The better and more robust your charts and datasets, the better off you'll be. Make Excel your friend and learn to love pivot tables (or just get really good at splicing Omniture/Google Analytics in smart ways).
- Show Initiative
You don't have to implement a new project under the table or in your spare time and then try to convince everyone it's great. In fact, management can often get frustrated by employees who use "spare" time on their own projects without running it past someone first. However, just an email every few weeks with a project idea, a way to speed up production, a test implementation of new technology, features or report layouts goes a long way. Your superiors will feel like you aren't just in this for the 9-5, but that you're actively trying to make a difference.
Case in point - today I got emails from three different people at SEOmoz pitching some new ideas for improving YOUmoz, building a new tool for Labs and re-organizing content in the PRO library. Not all of them can be pursued right away, and a few take dev time and resources, but they show dedication and interest - which is far more critical to the growth and success of a company in an emerging field like search.
- Pro-Actively Improve Your Knowledge
I absolutely love it when I find a skill in an employee that I myself haven't cultivated. It adds so much extra value to the organization, in everything we do (Q+A, tool development, guides, consulting, etc). Go out and find a niche you're passionate about, dive in, and report back with your findings. A quick email to your SEO or marketing team commenting on trends in acquisition of affiliates, building reputation management accounts, learning the Google image search algo more thoroughly, etc. is a fantastically positive indicator.
- Support Your Co-Workers
Trust me when I say that one of the biggest positives is when someone in the organization is overwhelmed and another team member can pitch in to tow the line. The teamwork that builds and the emotional positivity that flows from those types of actions is irresistable. It's the type of action that can make you a company favorite for months or years to come. So, if you see a co-worker drowning under the load, offer to help, dive in and kick ass. That's the kind of person every manager wants on their team.
- Don't Play Politics
Likewise, when rough issues arise, or feelings run hot, don't panic, don't over-react and do what's best for the company. It's easy to be selfish when you're feeling overlooked, under-appreciated or bad-mouthed, but standing strong and never swaying from a position of objectivity carries considerable weight. Let your potential new employer know that this is the kind of person you are and you'll remove a huge element of risk that every manager worries about.
- Don't Be Thrown Off By Logistics
The dev team doesn't have time to implement your idea. Management is too busy to approve a formal budget. Your co-workers' time is caught up with other projects. Don't worry. Take your idea and find ways to scale it down or re-think so that you can design/implement on your own. I know how hard the barriers can be to taking initiative in companies where times are tough and focus is tight, but if you can do it independently, you'll earn the respect and admiration of your execs. It's incredibly hard to let someone go once you know they can build value all by themselves, even if/when the rest of the team is swamped.
- Create Accurate Expectations
I haven't ordered these by importance, but if I did, this might be #1. In business, as in usability (and life), creating expectations and delivering on them is the most critical aspect to success and happiness. If you tell your boss you can have something done by a certain date, have it done on that date. If you deliver reports, analyses, written documents, blog posts, etc. at a certain quality level, don't suddenly produce something of lower value. Likewise, if you've just joined a new position and want to impress everyone (or are worried about your job and are attempting to compensate), don't create expectations in others you can't regularly fulfill. It's excellent to demand more of yourself and improve with time, but I believe false expectations are one of the biggest causes for dissatisfaction on both sides of the employment aisle.
- Maintain a Positive Profile in the Industry
There's no doubt about it - search is a strange industry. We've got cults of personality, popularity battles, people willing to go to extremes to get noticed and a lot of personal branding (much of it professional & positive and some the reverse). To prosper at a job in the search space and to help keep your chances for the next gig as robust as possible, keep your personal brand positive 100% of the time. Thinking about leaving a nasty comment because you felt slighted? Skip it. Want to post something harshly controversial on your Twitter account? Better think twice. At a bar with comrades who are speaking negatively about another individual - feel free to provide an opinion, but refrain from personal attacks and unprofessional comments. This industry is still tiny, and I can tell you that every day, comments come back to me about what person X said about person Y (especially if it was said "in confidence"). Keep your nose clean, and you've got a far better chance that others will do the same when it comes to your references and reputation.
- Provide Productivity Statistics
A few of the folks at SEOmoz have started a weekly email series describing their tasks, projects and accomplishments for the week. I absolutely love it. It's an easy way to get caught up on what's going on in their professional lives and in the operations of the business without feeling nosy or interrupting. It's also a fantastic tool for employees who are worried their efforts might be overlooked or under-appreciated. If I've got an email in my box telling me what you've been working on, I'm much more likely to give praise and direction than if those tasks (even the critical ones) fly under my radar.
- Bring Business to Your Organization
If you participate in the social web, attend events, have contacts in the field of business or even just go to a local meetup every few weeks/months and create a positive impression for your company, you're doing very smart things for your career. In a downturn, organizations seek to cut the excess; they don't want to potentially dismiss a direct source of revenue (even if it's just possible revenue). And for managers who aren't always great at accepting internal reviews or trusting their own judgement, external validation from a customer or partner goes a long way.
I hope these have proven valuable, and I'd certainly love to hear others from hiring managers, directors and CEOs of other firms in the space. I also now owe some quid pro quo and a blog post on how employers should treat their people in order to find and retain the best quality staff. After all, employment is a two-way street, and both parties need to be able to both give and receive in equal proportion.
PS: This Article is originally written by randfish