Change is scary. Change is hard. But gosh darn it, it is SO WORTH IT.
Let me share my story of how I managed to move across the country and made a big leap into Silicon Valley.
(I am going to spare you the details of my legal marketing days and briefly summarize here…) I spent the first 10 years of my career in professional services industry, mostly in legal marketing and business development. That meant I served as a corporate strategy advisor to the law firm partners to grow their books of business, finding ways to cross-sell expertise across different practice groups and stay on top of the clients’ latest business transactions and activities to find new opportunities for legal work. After a decade of moving up the corporate ladder and being promoted to a middle-management position, I felt unhappy and unfulfilled.
While I enjoyed working with many partners and colleagues (some of whom I’ve developed a great friendship with) and working on challenging business proposals, I just couldn’t see myself doing it for the next 20–30+ years. I was scared, but my fear of being unhappy and “stuck” was far greater than the fear of being unemployed and starting over. It took me a LONG time to finally see how I was never going to be satisfied in that industry.
Why did I leave a perfectly stable job?
I could literally see this linear path… you stay doing exactly what you are already doing for the next 20–30 years, move up, get title bumps and a nice pay raise each time. BUT at the end of the day, all the glory and credit and $$ you bring in go into others’ pockets. Sure, you get a pretty good paycheck, but the people whose books of business you just helped to grow just got 10X of what you got. Call me selfish, but I was not happy with that.
I am a very hands-on, ambitious person so why the heck did I spend 10+ years being a “support staff”? (oh yes, that’s the term used by law firms for non-lawyers) I’ve always thrived in leadership roles. I love leading people and coming up with strategies and tactics. I wanted to be a revenue generator. I wanted to see results of my efforts.
I was watching the tech industry from afar while managing the technology practice group at the law firm I worked for in NYC. I loved reading about the new marketing strategies and tactics and many ways the tech industry is really leading the way for B2B marketing. I didn’t want to be a bystander anymore. I wanted to be part of it and not get behind. So my husband and I packed our things one day and moved out of New York City to Silicon Valley!
Was it easy to find a job in a completely different industry? Short answer: NO!
Here are the top 3 lessons (and counting) that I’ve learned:
You will face rejections and naysayers
Failure is part of success. It wasn’t easy to get my foot in the door. After all, who would be willing to give a chance to someone who had ZERO B2B tech experience? But I persisted. I applied and told my story of why I left a stable job to pursue a career change where I would have to learn a new set of skills and expertise from start to finish. Tell your story. Storytelling can be a powerful tool when you are transitioning to an entirely different industry.
Rejections were hard. But the important thing is not to have an ego and listen more. It can be quite an ego crasher when people interview you not knowing how much you did at your previous jobs. I sometimes couldn’t help but scream in my head “of course I can freaking learn marketing automation and digital marketing. I managed a $20M client account and wrote RFPs with 200+ pages!!”
But I get it. They couldn’t figure me out. They couldn’t quite place me. After all, a lot of marketing jobs out there aren’t really data analytical as they are in the tech industry.
ALWAYS be willing to learn and be humble, no matter your experience level.
In spite of all the hurdles, I kept pushing and moving forward. I didn’t give up. I watched a lot of webinars, video tutorials and talked to a lot of marketing professionals in the tech industry to learn. I got certified in Google Analytics and learned in’s and out’s of Google AdWords, HubSpot and other essential tools in tech marketing. I proved what a fast learner I am and how flexible I can be. I demonstrated that I am never too experienced, too old or too cool to admit I don’t know something because then I won’t learn. Fast forward to where I am now, just a few years later, I am currently a Marketing Director for a SaaS company, leading the development and execution of marketing tactics that bring in qualified leads for revenue generation and growth. It’s awesome and I love what I do.
Give up “oh but I did this before” “I’ve been working for x years, I know what I am doing” Don’t just rely on the # of years you have under your belt. I hate to break it to you but not all the experience is equal. You may have 10, 20, 30 years of experience but if you were at the same company during all those years with the same role, the way you operated might be completely different from another marketer who moved around across different roles and industries.
Focus on results. Be specific.
If you saw my resume from 2–3 years ago, you would see the list of responsibilities, but now, you will see #s and %s. Today’s marketers need to show how they contributed to the company’s growth. What was the ROI of your marketing campaigns? How many leads did you get? And what % of the total revenue did your marketing tactics contribute to?
Everyone thinks they are marketers, but the field is changing.
Decisions should be made on data. I mean, REAL data, not because it’s common sense or because someone at the top thinks so. That’s what I like about the tech industry. Let our customers tell us what they want, not the other way around.
Bonus lesson: the role of marketing is changing
I see the big gap right now… highly accomplished marketing senior executives are what I would call “traditional marketers”. They focus on branding and advertisements. BUT, those tactics are costly and not results-driven. Then, there are very junior marketers. They are equally brilliant and stay up to date on the latest trends, tools and tactics, but they lack that work experience to be truly strategic. So we need a hybrid marketer, which I feel I am. I can come up with a bad-ass strategy but also know the tools to execute it. It’s the folks like me with 10–20 years of experience range that can truly pull this off. You know what though? I would not have known this, had I not made this move to this industry!
So what’s the point here?
Don’t make excuses as to why you can’t change or switch careers. Trust me, I did that for too long and it only made me more miserable. Do. It. Today.
As cheesy as it sounds, I have moments of total gratitude from time to time realizing how making this big career change has made me a much happier, productive and well-rounded person. I am still learning (aren’t we all?), and I enjoy every minute of it.