*Hey there, George again. I figure if comedy comes in threes, the same can apply to blog advice. Enjoy.
Let’s jump back three years. A young, (well younger, I’m still young), George Chunias was fresh out of college, full of spit and vinegar. Technically Bud Light and vinegar might be more accurate, but spit and Bud Light are kind of interchangeable. Regardless, I had a freshly printed marketing/communications degree in my hand and I was ready to take the marketing world by storm as a newly hired intern at Drift.
Here’s the problem. As I quickly discovered, I didn’t know the first thing about B2B marketing.
Yeah I knew the big marketing concepts (Porter’s 5 Forces, the Five P’s, a bunch of other things that come in denominations of five for some reason). But as Dave will tell you: no one goes to school for B2B marketing. What ensued was an overwhelming few months of learning on the fly, screwups, triumphs, and a lot of pivot tables.
Beyond the actual marketing knowledge I picked up, I learned that one of the most important things you can do as a new hire is not to hang back and lay low, as might be your instinct. But to actually step into the spotlight and make your presence known. So without further ado, here are my 3 biggest tips for making your mark as a new hire.
Ask Questions (But Look for the Answer First)
First off, I don’t mean to ask questions just for the sake of seeming engaged and interested. No one likes Sammy Sycophant. But when you’re a new hire, especially if this is your first job, and even more especially if this is your first job at a startup, you’re going to have a LOT of questions.
(No way that sentence is grammatically correct ^)
So if you’re assigned a task in Excel and you don’t know how to do it, fiddling around with an If/Then formula for 5 hours isn’t going to make you seem like a devoted employee. You look silly and accomplish nothing all day. That’s a situation where you should first look up the solution (there’s a lot of Excel tutorials on YouTube). But, if you really can’t find anything, just ask the person who assigned the task for a little clarification. No one will get mad. They know you’re new and want to help.
Sara Pion (Sr. Marketing Manager, Alyce/my homie/overall badass), put it best in a recent LinkedIn post.
I promise you that your company has a ton of internal resources to help you along. Even if you’re dealing with a problem that can’t be Googled because it’s specific to your company, check the Wiki. Search for an unknown term in Slack. Read through your orientation booklet. The answer most likely is somewhere in there. You can usually find it without having to bring someone else in.
The other reason I mention Spion, beyond her sage wisdom, is that she’s my example of a sub-piece of advice here: find someone you can trust and lean on.
My first day at Drift, it became abundantly clear to me that Sara knew her stuff and was confident in what she did. She is also very close in age to me, so I felt more comfortable going to her for advice, questions, issues, etc.
Find someone like Sara at your company that you don’t fear ridicule or scorn from who can help you adjust and learn the ropes. That person can certainly be your manager, but if you’re hesitant about the hierarchy and chain of command, look to someone who has no stake in your career development. It’s much easier to go to them with your “stupid questions.”
Make Yourself Available
Your focus really early on in a new role should just be to do as good a job as possible with your role and get yourself on the right track. BUT…once you’re firmly established in that role and feel confident executing on your day-to-day, that’s when you want to branch out.
Start looking for areas on your team where you think you’d be an asset. And then make yourself known to the key stakeholders in those areas that you’re available should they ever need any help.
Here’s what that looked like for me at Drift:
I was running the webinar program. That was my day-to-day. Creating new programs, planning the calendar, contacting partners, writing promo copy, etc etc etc. And while it was a major undertaking at first, eventually it became automatic. I had a literal checklist that covered every step needed to put on a great webinar. By month 3, I didn’t even need to look at it anymore. The whole process was second nature.
And while I was happy to see the webinar program functioning well, I wanted to do more of what I loved and didn’t get enough of running webinars: writing. Around this time, I noticed that the content team was being inundated with tons of edit requests from members of the team who weren’t natural writers. This was in addition to the substantial amount of work they had to do writing blogs, ebooks, guides, etc.
So I put out a post in the marketing Slack channel:
“Hey guys, I created a Trello board for any copywriting or editing requests you might have. Figured I’d take some of the smaller stuff off of Content’s plate”
A couple people took me up on it. Then a couple more the next week. Before long, people from other teams started Slacking me copy to edit because they had heard I was “the copy guy.” By just making myself available to other work beyond my usual to-do’s, I had gained a reputation around the company as someone who is adept at writing copy.
Now the only word of caution I’ll give here is that you can’t neglect your day-to-day job. Ultimately, that’s what you’re being paid for. Even if you like your side hustle better than your regular role, the latter always has to take priority. You can’t get a promotion if you aren’t taking care of your main channel. But putting yourself out there as a resource to the team catches the eyes of the higher ups and puts you in a great position to advance up the ladder.
Shoot Your Shot
One of my main tasks when I was an intern at Drift was to write the promotional emails for webinars. This is before I was fully in charge of the webinar program.
And as someone who had never even heard of webinars until a month prior, I was naturally cautious about my approach to these emails. So much so that I used my manager’s template for Every. Single. Email. I don’t mean I used the same general concept. I mean I used the same exact template and just swapped out the webinar title and date to fit the current program.
It didn’t take long before I was drowning in unsubscribes and bizarrely angry emails from customers and prospects wondering why I was sending them the same thing over and over.
So I started making subtle changes, infusing my writing style bit by bit into the emails. One day, I was trying to come up with a promotional concept for a December webinar with Sendoso on how to merge online and offline marketing campaigns. And I started thinking along the lines of Christmas. Then the opening line of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” popped in my head. And that was all it took. 45 minutes of furious scribbling in my notebook and some concerned looks from David Cancel and my manager later, I had this:
That poem changed everything for me. The instant I sent it out, I was bombarded with LI messages, Slack comments, social tags, etc from people who appreciated the creativity and the change of pace from the usual marketing emails.
From that point on, I became the person that the customer team would go to for their year end thank you poem to our customer base, or the man on the street for the video team’s latest project. People wanted me to be the creative front man because I had taken a risk, shot my shot, and put out something I thought would be successful, outside of the status quo.
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Go celebrate dad.