What I learned in 11 years of my career in Marketing and Business strategy

How was your University time?

My time at university was a very unique one. I went with the intention of getting a degree in IT/Computing. Back then there weren’t as many options as what exists today in the IT industry. There only existed Networking and Programming. I chose Programming.

My days consisted mostly of dreading going to school for classes, and dreading the class itself. I would arrive at school before class and would spend time hanging out with friends. As soon as it was time for class there was this huge cloud of heaviness that fell on my shoulders and suddenly I just wanted to sleep.

I would sit in class and notice everyone diligently taking notes. Even the so-called ‘idlers’ were even taking notes. For a time I thought something was wrong with me. For some reason I was the biggest loser because I wasn’t even willing to take notes in class.

I hated it, and I wanted it to just be over. The irony of it is though I really hated it, I was also good at it because I’m great at critical thinking (wasn’t aware of this at the time). To be honest I was really doing it because my mom had paid for me to attend university, and I didn’t want to disappoint her. I held on as long as I could.

There was one moment I enjoyed, and that was a semester when I did Marketing (take note of this, it’s going to be important later on).

For three and half years it was an endless cycle of feeling as though I was wasting my time and my life being at school.

One day I decided to do some research. I asked all the fourth year, third, and half of second year students why they were doing IT, and if they liked it. It totalled 100 students exactly. Out of the 100, 97 (or 97%) of students said they didn’t like IT, 3 (3%) was neither for nor against it, they were just ‘meh whatever’. Out of the 100 I asked why they were doing it 100 (100%), yes you read that correctly, said they didn’t even know why they were doing it.

In that moment I knew it wasn’t just me, I wasn’t a loser, everyone else felt exactly how I did. They hated it and was doing it probably for some reason outside of themselves or what they truly wanted. What truly made them happy.

The reason I went through the task of telling you this story is because as a job seeker I want you to understand something: you should NEVER seek a job just for the sake of getting one that pays money. You should ALWAYS study and do what you’re passionate about and what makes YOU happy. Yeah I know it’s cliché to say, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Even if you’re seeking a job because you have bills to pay and they are about to repossess your car and evict you from your home, take a job that you need to help you survive for the moment. However, don’t stay in the job, always have an exit strategy to secure the job and career that makes you happy to wake up and go to work every day.

Why did you Seek a career in this field?

This may sound a bit ‘Jedi’ but truth is the career of Marketing found me. When I was studying IT at university I had no idea I had a passion for Marketing, or that I have a natural talent for it. All I knew at the time was that I hated IT and I didn’t want to do it.

The moment I knew (like truly knew) that Marketing is the career I wanted to spend the rest of my life until death doing was when I spent my last dollar in my early 20’s and bought a book on Marketing. For me this was a huge deal!

Reason being, at the time I hated reading. I only read to pass exams, and even then I still didn’t read most of the material. Still, I was willing to spend my last dollar on a Marketing book. I got home and dove right in and I couldn’t stop reading it. That was the moment I knew we were meant to be.

The advice I would give to those looking to start or change careers is pay attention to what truly lights you up inside (there’s that passion again). When it comes to your career the heart never lies, and it will always point you in the direction that truly makes you happy.

What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you to get to where you are today?

I don’t quite remember what my first job was, but I know it was a summer job. What I learned very early from my first job in high school is that always be willing to do more than what is expected of you. Employers like people who show initiative and are willing to bring their own talents and skillsets to help the company grow and become better.

In one job I was assistant to the IT Manager. She was in charge of maintaining the network for a huge construction project across the entire country. If you understand Networking then you know when things are bad, they’re really bad. But for the most part there’s really nothing to do once everything is up and running how it’s supposed to. There were many days I had nothing to do, so I would go to other departments in the company and help out other staff with their tasks, and they loved me for it.

Another job I was a summer worker for the university I attended working in the Student Faculty department (I think that’s what it was called). My job was to hand out insurance cards to students. I’m someone who gets bored with mundane tasks, so as before I wondered in other departments. I had learned graphic designing from a vocational program I did previously, so I used that skillset to design flyers for the university. Soon they put me in charge of organizing the entire orientation program for that year, and also had me supervising other summer workers. Keep in mind that I was a summer worker myself

The point is when you’re willing to go the extra mile and do more than what is expected of you, the right company with the right leadership and right people will recognize your dedication and will promote you in positions that you may not even be qualified for.

How did you prepare for an interview?

Typically for interviews I spend my time doing two things: 1). Researching as much as I can about the company, specifically any special promotions, product/service launches, or anything new that they have going on at the moment. 2). I look to see how my talents and skillsets can contribute to the overall success of the company, and also to help whatever they currently have going on to be successful.

So in one job interview for a Marketing position the company had a promotion going on. I learned as much as I could about the promotion, and put together a marketing strategy that they could use to make the promotion more effective (again taking the initiative).

What’s great about doing this is that other candidates will never think to do this much when they haven’t even gotten the job. The fact that you go above and beyond will show employers that if you’re willing to do this much for an interview, then you’d be willing to do much more on the job.

Always think about two things: 1). How can I impress the interviewers? and 2). How can I stand out from every other job candidate?

Books that helped you.?

This is really difficult to answer because no one book completely changed everything for me. There were simply different books that helped me to get from one point of my career journey to the next at different stages of my life. Still, if I were to give a few that I read that has helped me that can also do the same for you it would be:

  1. Becoming a Person of Influence (John Maxwell)
  2. 360 Leader (John Maxwell)
  3. Awaken the Giant Within (Tony Robbins)
  4. Unlimited Power (Tony Robbins)
  5. Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill)
  6. Magic of Believing (Claude M. Bristol)
  7. The Practicing Mind (Thomas M. Sterner
  8. Selling Results (Bill Stinnett- if you’re into Sales)
  9. Understanding Brands (Peter Cheverton- if you’re into Marketing)
  10. Conceive, Believe, Achieve (David Imonitie)

Things are changing very fast in the industry, how do you keep yourself updated. Please list techniques or newsletter, podcasts, events etc?

I try not to keep up with every person out there or every trend, because it can easily create overwhelm to take in so much information at once, and you fall into a place where you’re reading a lot but executing nothing that gets you results.

A few people/blogs/newsletters I keep up with:

  1. Content Marketing Institute
  2. Neil Patel
  3. Gary Vee (mostly his keynotes that have useful tactics and insights)
  4. Marketing School podcast (Neil Patel & Eric Siu)

My advice is really the best way to keep updated is to: 1). Choose a handful of people/blogs/newsletters to follow, take the information they give, execute it, learn from it, improve on it and on yourself. 2). Spend a lot of time observing human behaviour.

A big technique for me is just going on the different social networks and observe how people interact on these platforms. If you pay attention to any industry you really understand that it’s the consumers now that determine shifts in industry and trends. Watch them to stay ahead of the competition. While everyone is reactive you’ll be proactive

What can you recommend on CV?

Make your CV specific to the career you want to have. Many job seekers (myself included in the past) made the mistake of listing any and everything they do. The problem with this is that if you’re applying for a specific position employers are looking for specific qualifications, skills, and experience to the job they are hiring for. A generic CV won’t show them at a glance why you’re one of, if not the best, person for the job.

An example is my CV, if you look at it without even second guessing you will be able to tell what type of job or career I’m looking for. Here’s a link to it: https://drive.google.com/file/d/17-Wq5Cza8NmHdu3EQBcaPWuglf-QgE3p/view

Another thing is make you CV stand out by making it graphically appealing. I have gotten many job interviews where I asked them why they decided to shortlist me and majority of the time they said it was because of how my CV looked.

Advice for someone looking for job?

Don’t search for a job that pays you the most, search for a job that will bring you fulfilment and in the area you’re passionate about and help you grow personally and professionally. If you do this the money will eventually come. Why? Because your passion will transfer in the work you do, you’ll continually work with zeal, enthusiasm, and motivation. You’ll go above and beyond when everyone else quits at 5pm. Your passion will help you stand out, which will lead to you being recognized, and you being promoted.

If nothing else on the days when the world sucks, and even your job sucks and it’s difficult you’ll still enjoy it more than most.

Why do you think you were selected among other candidates?

  1. I was always willing to go above and beyond everyone else
  2. I showed the value to the organization by doing more than was expected
  3. I did anything that helped me to stand out
  4. Most importantly, I created my own experience even when I didn’t have a job (I wrote a post about how I did that you can check out)

Lessons from jobs that you couldn’t get.

I’m happy you asked this question because it’s something no one ever thinks about when they don’t get the interview or the job. The number one thing I learned that I would share is whenever a company doesn’t choose you, you shouldn’t feel completely down about it (just a little because you’re human). Change your perspective of what it means. Instead of thinking you weren’t good enough, think of it as you didn’t have enough wins under your belt that demonstrates how valuable you could be to the company.

What I recommend in this instance is learn more, and gain more experience. Find more things you can do in the area you want a job in that increases your experience points. It’s like a game. You couldn’t defeat the boss because you weren’t strong enough. Now you need to complete more quests, to gain more experience, to get stronger, to defeat the boss.

In 2016 no one would hire me because they didn’t think I had enough Marketing experience or could add enough value to the company. January 2017 I started my blog and used it as a means to build my experience. By the end of 2017 I had five jobs offers, three of which I took. Now I’m looking to move to a higher level, so I’m levelling up my experience by doing more and gaining more wins under my belt.

A final piece of advice is for every job interview you get ask this question “Why did you decide to shortlist me?” This will help you know what made them consider you for the position, and once you learn this double and even triple down on it, even if you don’t get the job.

Remember it’s all about increasing your Experience Points.

Winston Henderson is a Marketing professional with over 11 years of experience in Marketing and Business strategy. He has worked with and helped B2B, B2C, and B2G organization development more effective Marketing strategies to achieve their business goals. When he is not obsessing over his love for Marketing, he helps to coach and mentor others on how to create the life they’ve always wanted, rather than settling for the life they have.

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