I hope this article gets out to someone still in high school, because it’s something I wish I’d learned back then. I wish I had been told to start building up my “career capital”, as Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, calls it. By now I’d have a portfolio full of work and skills that I could show to a potential company.
I wouldn’t have had to take just any job. I would have skills and experience I could leverage to allow me to pick where I wan to work.
Instead, right out of college I didn’t even land a marketing job. I was bussing, and it lasted a week. From there, I worked at a pizza restaurant. And shortly after I got an internship at a tiny marketing agency. That internship eventually turned into a job, and now I have an additional, part-time job at a place I really like.
This website is an exercise for building up my career capital, and it’s also my way of helping people who eventually want to break into marketing, so they can be better off than I was when I started out.
Think Long Term
If you’re still in high school, you have plenty of time to start building up your skills and portfolio. Don’t rely on your marketing degree to land you a job. You need real, tangible skills and experience.
The perfect place to start is on your own. The beauty of the marketing field is that you can practice it at home, practically for free. The basic things you need are a domain name, hosting, and setting up a simple WordPress theme.
Get creative! You can start marketing anything you want. If you’re passionate about the Miami Dolphins, start a site about them and learn how you can position your site to stand out from the competition, and figure out ways to grow your monthly visitors.
Once you get confident enough in your skills, reach out to local businesses to work on a project by project basis. These projects will become the basis of your portfolio, which you can eventually show employers in the future.
The reason I say to think long term is because you’re not going to build up your portfolio overnight. You need to plan ahead. In a recent Authority Hacker podcast episode, Noah Kagan mentioned how people want overnight success but it’s like growing plants. They want to plant the seed and have a plant right away. If you want quick results, you’ll end up eating the seed. If you want long term results, you’ll end up with a vegetable you can actually eat.
If you know you’re going to be looking for a job after college in 3 years, then you should be starting now!
What if I need a job now?
This is the position I am at. I’m in the middle of working, plus building up my career capital in my free time. Unlike when I was in high school or college, I don’t have the luxury of spending as much time on my side projects as I’d like. But I’m still doing it, knowing that it will pay off in a few years time.
Don’t expect results right away, or you will become disappointed easily.
It’s easy to start a website, but hard to keep it going. Look at iTunes and the many marketing and business podcasts that fizzle out after just a handful of episodes. On the same Authority Hacker Podcast episode, the host Gael mentioned how it’s easy to work hard for a week, but difficult to work hard for two years. This is in regards to people trying to build websites and blogs. They start working and posting articles for two weeks and then give up, when you actually need to be willing to put in consistent hard work for two years in order to see results. And not many people are willing to do that.
The enthusiasm for starting a project is infinite! But the enthusiasm to write a 2,000 word blog post after a 9 hour workday is much less so.
Pick a project you know you can dedicate two years of consistent effort to and put in the work! Trust me, you’ll be ahead of 99% of other applicants in a few years.