Welcome to another post in the $100k Club series. You can see the full series here. This is "My Morning Routine" for content marketing folks making six figures. The goal is to shed light on the skills and habits that enable people to achieve lucrative jobs and help get more people in this club.
These will be anonymous and updated regularly. If you make more than $100k/year and want to contribute, email me.
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What was your first full-time job in content? What was the salary?
My first job out of college was as an SEO Specialist for a small agency. I think they paid a little under $30k. It wasn't much, but it got my foot in the door. I kept telling myself to think of it as a paid internship.
To be fair: It was in the late aughts in the middle of the recession. As a graduate from an advertising program, the job prospects were slim.
How much do you earn today? What's your job title?
Senior Marketing Manager is my official title, though I tweak it depending on my focus area. I make around $110k plus benefits.
What's the single biggest salary jump you've made? (either from job-hopping or a promotion/raise)
Jumping from my previous company to this one was a dramatic life changer. My salary nearly doubled. Since then my growth has continued through regular pay increases and exceeded performance goals.
What is your most valuable skill?
There have been a ton of changes over the years. I feel like I've done a pretty good job of rolling along with each one. I guess you could say it's been a steady case of structured chaos. I love it.
What's the best book you've ever read on writing, marketing, sales, business or productivity? (Feel free to suggest more than one!)
Recommendations for anyone coming in green:
Getting Things Done was an early read, and I still swear by the GTD fundamentals. It pairs nicely with time-boxing, and applies equally to life and work.
Selling The Invisible and What Clients Love are two of my favorites for anyone in the business of selling services. They're easy reads that get you thinking about little touches that matter.
Good to Great is a business classic, even though the profiled companies haven't all stood the test of time. There are core concepts in this book that are as useful today as they were decades ago.
E-Myth Revisited is a solid lesson in the importance of developing systems and processes that can help you zoom out and scale up. Just skim past the annoyingly condescending narrative parts woven throughout.
Tribal Leadership looks at how teams and organizations can move towards a sense of "we're great, life is awesome" by recognizing and adapting to social group dynamics.
I could go on for another few pages. TL;DR = Read often, steal the bits that resonate, apply those concepts to your work, and remix it all to suit your style.
Have you had a career mentor/coach? If so, how did you find them and what have you learned from them?
I've never had a formal mentor or coach, but I've had similar relationships with some colleagues, managers and professional connections.
My criteria is pretty simple. Their philosophy on business and life needs to align with my own, and they need to have more experience -- at least 5+ years -- under their belt.
Top three lessons that've stuck with me:
- You need early wins to prove yourself, and you need to do the work to show those wins. Don't wait for someone else to recognize your achievements. Roll your own performance reports and get them in front of your manager on a regular basis. Even a weekly "here's what I did last week" counts.
- Teamwork isn't limited to your team. Join forces to work around silos. Figure out who you need to connect with to get stuff done. Help them with what you can, and chances are they'll help you in return.
- Start small and iterate. Don't wait for everything to be perfect. Get a proof of concept out the door to test your ideas and check your assumptions. If that works, awesome, figure out how to improve it for next time. If you need more resources, build a business case around your proof of concept.
What skills or habits help you thrive at work?
In addition to the flexibility I mentioned earlier:
- Understanding the customers we serve, and having a willingness to rattle cages on their behalf. I use almost all of our products so I have first-hand knowledge of what the experience is like, what the strengths and weaknesses are. That helps me make more meaningful connections between our content and our solutions. I can go from abstract concepts to click-this-specific-button detail.
- Writing a lot of documentation. I'm a huge advocate of documenting your processes and internal knowledge sharing. Nearly everything I do gets captured in a playbook that I share with my extended team. I'll use those playbooks for my own reference, for onboarding new hires, for handing off tasks while on vacation, etc.
- Proactive communication. Weekly check-ins to reflect on completed work and work in progress; monthly lookback reports doing the same (with more quantitative data, e.g. Analytics reports); quarterly planning; and annual goal setting/roadmapping for top-level priorities. Bonus points if you share all of this alongside your other docs. It's applying the lessons of Austin Kleon's Show Your Work for an internal audience.
- Voraciously reading and teaching myself new things. I read a lot (and share a lot) through public and private networks. This sort of curation helps me process what I'm reading while also putting me on others' radar. I don't have a ton of time to do deep writing anymore -- most of my day is split between meetings and admin tasks -- so I squeeze this in where I can.
- Being as helpful as possible. If someone needs a hand with something, doesn't matter if it's in my job description - if I can try to help, I will. Be careful though. This can bite you in the backside if you're not careful at managing your mental bandwidth.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to join the $100k club?
Don't think of yourself as just a content marketer. You're more than your role. Zoom out. Consider all the areas of a business where you can be valuable: Marketing. Sales. Support. Retention.
As the business needs change, where can you slide in to help? And while you do that, look for ways to increase your own ROI: your knowledge, your skills, your experience, your output. What can you bring to the table, as an individual, to make yourself an indispensable asset?
Related reading: Buffer's approach to developing T-shaped marketers.