I was in a rut.
I was working hard, doing good things for my company, but spinning my wheels when it came to getting out of my current role and heading in any real direction with my career. I had been working toward an internal job in marketing for years, but I was going nowhere fast.
I had been in a customer engagement position since 2014, which I got to build from the ground up. I loved it.
The only problem was that I never had ownership over anything. This was especially painful for me when it came to copy, as writing was my passion and it was rough sitting by and seeing so many of my ideas – which came from experience and talent – get swept under the rug due to my position. I needed to get into a spot where my ideas were heard and had worth – not just for my sanity, but for the good of the company.
So, I chugged along trying to find my break within uShip. I even started applying for jobs outside the company, so as to not put all of my eggs in one basket. The funny thing was though – every time I got offered an interview, I’d freeze up and choose not to go. Why was I applying to all of these jobs when, as it turned out, I really did want all of my eggs in one basket. I wanted to work at uShip, and it was up to me to figure out how to make that work for myself. No more waiting on a position to open. No more wasting my talents away in my current position. It was time to do something, so I did.
It’s funny, when I started this blog – in which I announced my intention to phase myself out of office life in 5 years, go tiny, and hit the road playing music – I received a little bit of push back. There was concern that once I went public with this news, it would ruin any chances I had of landing a new job or getting promoted within my own company. This was a fair concern, but I wasn’t worried. I felt that if I put my intentions out into the world, good things would start happening. The world would help to get me where I needed to go. I’ve always been an open book – honest as they come. It was time to stop shaming myself for this trait, and put it to work for me. The funny thing is – as soon as I changed my mindset and started putting myself out there, good things did start happening for me.
As far as my career went, this good thing started off with a job that I didn’t get.
In an effort to find my path, I decided to go for a Business Analyst position at uShip. I went for it because I knew I was qualified. But, I also knew that it wasn’t really where my heart was at. The Project Managers who were interviewing me knew that too. I didn’t even make it to the second round of interviews. I got something even better – a recommendation from the Project Management team that would change my life.
“Maybe we can help you champion a Product Marketing role?”
This brings me to the first step in creating the job you want.
Step 1: Figure out what you want to do.
I immediately became enamored with Product Marketing. I started researching what the position meant at different companies, and I started meeting with friends and acquaintances who held that title. The position is unique in that the exact responsibilities seem to vary by organization, but the philosophy behind the position was the same across the board – a Product Marketing Manager was responsible for putting new releases on the shelf by owning product copy, and teaching the Marketing, Sales, and Member Support teams how to talk about the product to our customers. This was what I already had been doing, and wanted to continue doing in greater depth. I was sold.
Step 2: Build a proposal.
I needed to get champions behind me if I was going to get a brand new position approved in a company on a tight budget. To get champions, I needed a solid proposal. I needed to clearly define why uShip needed this position, how it was going to help build revenue, and why I was the only candidate for the job. The proposal came together in the form of a concise 10 page deck, which answered these questions in a way that showed off my resume and my deep company knowledge. The goal was to make this something you couldn’t not get behind. While building this proposal, I had to become the Product Marketing Manager for myself.
Step 3: Recruit an army of champions.
I’ll admit that this wasn’t entirely difficult in my case, as the Product Management team had already offered to champion this position. My manager, Ingrid, had been rooting for me since day one. There were still a LOT of people I needed to convince though, including the entire Executive Leadership Team. I literally needed everybody onboard from Customer Ops Management to the CEO. The best way I found to do this was to start small by sharing my deck with just a few people managers and a few of the Product Managers I was closest with – to get suggestions for moving forward. I got some valuable feedback, and used it to put a nice bow on my deck. From there, I let word-of-mouth take its course. Suddenly, it seemed like everyone in the company was reaching out on Slack, asking for permissions to view my proposal. My champions were doing the work for me, and I suddenly had champions on the executive level who were able to use their footing to sell the proposal to other executives. This is where the magic happened.
Step 4: Meeting with the right people and sealing the deal.
If you have a solid proposal, ideally, it’s an inarguable truth that the job is needed and you’re the only candidate for it. In this case, I’ll say that my own work was mixed with a little bit of luck and good timing. It turns out that just two weeks after my initial research on the position, we hired a new VP of Product. Her name is Claudina, and she came to us from HomeAway. She was here to shake things up, and one of the first things she wanted to do was to hire a Product Marketing Manager for the team. So awesome! I’ll admit, that this was a pretty lucky coincidence and it made this step a lot easier for me. All of my efforts up until this point got me to a position where I was meeting face-to-face with Claudina. It was during this meeting when she decided she wanted me for the role. She proceeded to convince the remaining few executives to get onboard, and an offer was made to me the following week.
Can it really be that easy?
To be honest, the whirlwind of five weeks, which started with research and ended with a promotion really was this easy. What wasn’t as easy was the four years of patience and hard work that led up to this point.
This is my advice to anyone who wants to get ahead in their company.
- Give your all every day – no matter what you’re doing. Even when I was in the phone queues for my first year at uShip, I made sure my metrics were topping the charts every month. Challenge yourself to be the best at whatever you’re doing. Always be competitive, and always be dedicated to quality.
- Don’t complain or spread negative energy. Sometimes things are hard. Sometimes things are reeeaaally hard. I had a point last September when I thought I almost couldn’t handle it, and considered leaving the company I loved. I felt that I wasn’t being supported, and I even felt that I was being pushed out of a project I had been invested in. I made sure that the right people knew that I was struggling. I didn’t spread the negativity to my fellow associates. I stayed strong, and spent the next few months trying to pick myself up again. I did, and I survived. Had I melted down under the pressure, I guarantee I wouldn’t be where I am today.
- Go above and beyond. Never settle for the box of your job description. Nail your basic responsibilities so well that you’re bored, and then create your own job description. If your creative energies aren’t completely maxed out, and you’re not learning a new skill every day, then you’re not giving it your all, and you’re not on a path toward getting noticed. Take chances. Talk to the right people. Make sure you’re giving everything you can to the company, while focusing on the things that make you happy. For me, this involved writing as much as I could for marketing, taking control of the Customer Ops content, and launching product beta testing programs. These projects, and the dozens of additional projects I took on, were NOT in my original job description. I took them on because I was hungry for more. You have to always remain hungry.
- Don’t focus on what you’re getting for it. The more you do for a company, the more you’re learning. That’s what you are getting for it – an education. You’re learning new skills, and you’re getting paid for it. You’re getting noticed. You’re keeping yourself entertained. If you’re only willing to go beyond your job description when there’s a raise or promotion involved, then you’re not doing it right.
- Meet the right people. One of the best things about going above and beyond is that you get to network within your company. You get to work cross-functionally, and understand your coworkers’ talents and struggles. You are able to find the holes and fill them. In addition to taking on extra projects, make sure you’re also attending company events and signing up for mentorship and coffee dates with people who you don’t typically work with. Building relationships is so important, and the lasting results can go a long way toward your success.
I am so excited for this next chapter of my career. Over the next four years, I plan on creating this position from the ground up, documenting my processes, and turning it into a role multiple other people can jump into as our company grows. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn and further my skills, as I enjoy the upcoming years at uShip, and start thinking about ways to eventually transition these skills into remote opportunities on the road.