I’m by no means an expert when it comes to marketing. I’ve been in the industry (marketing and advertising combined) for almost 4 years — not a long a time. However, I’ve been working since I was 10 years old.
You’re a sum of your experiences, and for me, professionally, that means a lot of diversity. I’m a Growth Marketer at a startup called Yieldr. But before landing in the advertising industry, I had my own snow-shoveling business, I worked in construction and I got my feet wet in the financial sector. Each unique job experience taught me something that I still carry with me today.
I encourage anyone (especially young people) to strive for a cross-sector, non-linear career path. I believe there are certain things you can learn only by stepping outside of your professional comfort zone and trying something new. You don’t know what else is out there until you try it. Don’t limit yourself!
More importantly, there’s no such thing as bad work experience. No matter what you do there will be takeaways that you can apply to any industry. That was certainly the case for me. Three of my past jobs have nothing to do with my current industry, but they’ve taught me things that still resonate with me. Here are my biggest takeaways.
Shoveling Snow: Building a Reputation Through Dedication
My parents divorced when I was young, which meant the snow shoveling responsibilities fell solely on my mom’s shoulders. This is no easy task when you live in Canada. She asked (or more precisely, told) me to help her. I was a bit reluctant at first, but I quickly realized — even at the age of 10 — that this was an opportunity.
We lived on a street where everyone knew each other, so I went around knocking on doors and asking my neighbors if they wanted me to shovel their snow for them. I gave them them two pricing models: they could pay a monthly fixed price or a per shovel cost. I was able to sign up 6 houses — not a bad conversion rate if I do say so myself :P
I’d wake up before school or practice, clear everyone’s sidewalks and driveways, and then do it all again after school if it snowed during the day.
This job — my first job ever — taught me what dedication meant. It didn’t matter if I had practice at 7am or if it snowed during the night, I would be out there at 6am. I made a promise to my clients that when they left for work, their driveways and sidewalks would be cleared.
Being dedicated and honoring your word is essential to building a professional reputation. If you mention in a meeting that you’ll send out a summary of what was discussed, do it. Like right away. If you tell your boss that a post-campaign report will be sent out on Friday, stay a couple hours later on Thursday to ensure it’ll be completed. Your boss will take note and you’ll quickly build a good name for yourself.
If you say you’re going to do something, you do it.
Construction: Never Stand Still
When I was 16 I got a job in construction, helping build a boathouse in Muskoka. If you don’t know about the Muskoka region in Canada, it’s where wealthy people have their “cottages”. I put cottages in quotations as most of them would pass as mansions if they weren’t surrounded by forests and lakes. The boathouse I was hired to work on was bigger than my home in Toronto.
I had never worked in construction before, but I saw this as an opportunity to learn a new set of skills and to work outside during the summer. What I didn’t know going in, was that it was going to be just me and one contractor building the entire boathouse.
The contractor was a man in his mid-40s: he was tough, spoke his mind, and came from a military family. He ran the worksite like it was a boot camp. We’d start working soon after the sun came up and stop working only when he said so.
One thing this contractor preached (SHOUTED) that has stuck with me is that no matter what, there’s always something to do. If you’re waiting for parts to be cut, you can be sweeping the floor; if you’re waiting for paint to dry, you can clean the saws. If I was standing still, he’d call me out. He wouldn’t accept any excuses, only repeating: “you can always be doing something.”
I remember one day it was maybe 32 degrees Celsius outside and I had just finished sledge-hammering a support beam into place. I was sitting on a tool box exhausted. Almost as soon as I sat down the contractor said, “You can be tired and still sweep the floor!”
I have carried this mentality with me throughout my career.
It doesn’t matter the size of the company you work for, there’s always something you can be doing to improve yourself and the organization. No matter the day, the project you’re working on, the dominoes you’re waiting on to fall — you can always be doing something.
Go do it.
Financial Investors’ Assistant: Build Trust, You’ll Need It Later
The following summer I got an internship working for two financial investors. It couldn’t be more different than what I was doing the previous summer. I was working on the 30th floor of a skyscraper in downtown Toronto, working for two mid-40s financial bros who I had to get Starbucks coffee for every morning. They exclusively dealt with investment portfolios that were between $1 million to $10 million.
Besides getting coffees, my job was mostly dealing with paperwork and other clerical work. One project I remember was to organize and file any contract signed, trade agreed upon, or important email from the past 10 years. It wasn’t the most glamorous work, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t an opportunity to learn from what was happening around me. In fact I got to see firsthand what incredible customer service and professional relationship management looks like.
To be one of the top financial advisors in the country, you don’t need to do that much on a daily basis. Most of these investors’ clients were investing for their retirement, which meant diverse, low-risk portfolios. Slow and steady. This meant day-to-day there was little as far as investing and trading activities. But that didn’t mean the investors weren’t working. Most of their job was customer service: sending emails, making phone calls, and ensuring to their clients that the strategy they chose was the right one. I saw an extreme example of this in August that summer.
On August 8th, 2011 there was a global market crash after Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S credit rating from AAA to AA+. There was mass panic across global markets as stock prices dropped. The investors I worked for got hundreds of calls and emails from worried clients. I heard what incredible customer service is, mostly through eavesdropping on these calls.
The investors knew everyone’s names, they knew their clients’ spouses names, they asked how their kids were doing, or how their home renovations were coming along. They were fully transparent with the clients and would walk each one through what was happening at their own speed, not stopping until the client felt comfortable once again. They’d set up coffee dates, golf rounds, anything to keep the client happy and maintain the necessary level of trust.
This was a huge takeaway for me. If you can create trust between you and your clients or customers, even in crisis, they’ll stick with you. Being transparent, communicating through multiple channels, and going above and beyond to provide a personal touch will create a loyal following through the good and bad. This is a HUGE part of marketing and branding. Having that level of trust and buy-in from your loyal customers that you build up with each campaign and activation will allow you to weather the storm during a crisis.
If you don’t know what you want to do, especially if you’re in high school or university, don’t be afraid to try a bunch of unrelated jobs. You might end up disliking a lot of them, but at least you’ll learn what you don’t like. You can then use that as motivation to pursue other professions. No matter what, you’ll learn something unique in each job that you can carry with you to future career endeavors.
Best of luck!
This article was originally published on Medium.