25 Social Media Marketing Experts on the Career Advice They’d Have Given Their Younger Selves
Careers are tricky beasts to navigate. So many of us go through life unsure of what we want to do, of how to find our life’s ‘purpose’. And now that we’re all practically expected to have our career paths mapped out before we’ve even learnt to crawl, it can sometimes be good to take a step back and find inspiration from those who have done it right.
Here at Kubix Media, we’re lucky. We’re a happy bunch – we get to spend our days using design and marketing skills to help brands grow and flourish online. But not all company employees are fortunate enough to say that they truly love what they do, so we thought it was time to do some digging. We reached out to the people who’ve already brought their A-game in their fields; the experts who’ve found success creating unique content and sharing their wisdom with the world. We went and asked them the ultimate question:
What career advice would you have given to your younger self?
Their answers didn’t disappoint. Career advice doesn’t get much better than this, so have a read and get inspired.
1. Douglas Karr – Renowned for his humour, intellect and experience, Douglas has been named a Top 25 Marketing Influencer in the world. The CEO and Founder of DK New Media, Douglas stays busy helping businesses to form epic marketing strategies. (Indiana, USA)
Everything that happened to me stemmed from my initial lack of confidence as a young professional. I looked and listened in awe of leaders in my industry and never thought that I could walk amongst them. It took until I was 40 before I realised I wasn’t just sitting at the table with these folks – I was leading them. So my advice would be to never hesitate to step out and stop listening to anyone who was questioning whether I was ready. I could have had more than a than a decade on the competition, launching my business, and building my success!
2. Ann Handley – As a best-selling author, social media content marketing keynote speaker and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, Ann knows a thing or two about success. Cited in Forbes as the most influential woman in Social Media, Ann is a true pioneer of all things digital marketing. (Massachusetts, USA)
For those who want to become better leaders, creating and maintaining a professional blog will help you, because writing about your ideas and thoughts on issues you care about helps evolve them.
Writing is thinking. So if you want to become a thought leader, you need to write. Think of your own blog as self-directed professional development. Even if your audience is just you, your mom, and your dad. I didn’t really lean into my own blog at AnnHandley.com in earnest until I’d already published Content Rules; I wish I’d started it sooner.
3. Ted Rubin – Ted is a leading social marketing strategist, keynote speaker, brand evangelist, and acting CMO of Brand Innovators. Known for his enthusiastic, energetic and undeniably personal connection to people, Ted is listed as the most followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine and #13 on Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers. (New York, USA)
- Be careful about looking back too much. Learn from your mistakes, but try not to second guess yourself too much.
- Surround yourself with friends you trust… A network gives you reach; a community gives you power!
- Some friends will be for when you just need someone to listen and offer comfort; some will be for when you need advice. Associate with people who will drag you out of your comfort zone.
- Model yourself after people you admire.
- To reinvent yourself: (1) Ask why aren’t you happy, why do I want to reinvent? (2) What are you passionate about — can you make it a career? (3) Once you make the decision to do it, go for it! Stop worrying about the perfect plan. Try things and get immediate feedback (which you can do easily these days through social media).
- My biggest mistake: Giving up too soon and letting too much time go by before trying again.
Relationships are like muscle tissue, the more you engage them, the stronger and more valuable they become.
4. Jacob Cass – Jacob is the founder of JUST Creative, his design studio and graphic design blog. He specialises in logo design, branding, web design and offers design services to businesses of all sizes around the world! (New York, USA)
Don’t undervalue your work and seek criticism, not praise. Always keep learning and don’t be a static learner. Do this by reading books, magazines, blogs and practising. Collect & share things. Teach others. Never give up. Keep practising. And again, keep practising.
5. Zac Johnson – Fascinated from a young age by all things business and advertising, Zac has been making money online for nearly 20 years now. His blog ZacJohnson.com is packed with over 1,000 original and real life experience based articles.
If I could tell my younger self something about business, I would have said to invest in a software solution or something that can be packed up and sold. While I’ve had great success over the past 20 years, I’ve also seen many friends and services I’ve used (from their infancy) go on to sell for millions of dollars. With so much money flowing around the internet space and billions of dollars in cash lying around in accounts for Facebook, Google, Apple and thousands of investors looking to spend, the opportunity is too great to not cash in on a big buy out deal.
6. Christoph Trappe – Christoph (aka The Authentic Storyteller™) is a career storyteller who has worked as a journalist, nonprofit executive, and a content marketing strategist and consultant. He is a global keynote speaker, frequent blogger and author, and is currently helping hospitals across the United States share their authentic stories. (Iowa, USA)
7. Erik Emanuelli – When Erik isn’t busy in his role as a professional blogger and social media marketer, he can be found making the most of his passion for extreme sports – from bungee jumping, to rafting and diving. Erik’s main blog No Passive Income is stacked with business tips and blogging advice. (Italy)
8. Lee Odden – Lee is the CEO of TopRank Marketing, a digital marketing agency specialising in strategic internet marketing consulting services. He is frequently cited for his digital marketing and PR expertise by leading industry and business publications such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. (Minnesota, USA)
9. Sean Si – Sean Si is the CEO and Founder of SEO Hacker, an SEO company in the Philippines and Qeryz. A start-up, data analysis and urgency junkie who spends his time inspiring young entrepreneurs through talks and seminars. Check out his personal blog where he writes about starting up two companies and life in general. (Philippines)
I’d have told myself to be more patient. Don’t listen to the world. Don’t follow your heart.
The world will tell you this and that but it’s all noise. Listen to yourself – what you think and feel you should do that will bring value to your immediate environment – then to your community, then to the city, then to the country.
10. Rick Ramos – Rick Ramos is the Chief Marketing Officer for HealthJoy, a full-service healthcare technology platform uniting consumers with doctors, healthcare specialists, and bundled medical saving plans. (Illinois, USA)
I had a lot of early success in my Internet marketing career. I started working 20 years ago and the industry was quite different than it was today. Within 2 years of working in Internet marketing, I was in charge of the marketing department for a top 50 web property. Very quickly, I was asked to write for different blogs and magazines and I always turned them down. I didn’t considering myself a writer and thought it was a waste of time. Oh boy was I wrong!
Writing is like any other life skill, the more you do it, the better you get. Yes, their are going to be some exceptional writers that are “naturals” but anyone can write. You’ll get better over time and it will become easier. My writing isn’t perfect and I always have an editor proofread my work but writing isn’t rocket science.
Having written a few books and articles for VentureBeat, Wired, CMO and others has given me an amazing platform that I’m able to tap with whatever I’m doing in life. I bring this platform wherever I go in my career and its definitely an asset. Just the other day I wrote an article on our chatbot technology at HealthJoy.com for VentureBeat and it was shared socially over 1,000 times. This type of exposure is so important to companies and highly valued. Don’t be scared about writing and what others will think. Start hitting the publish button today and you’ll quickly start seeing the benefits in your career.
11. Ed Leake – As Founder and Managing Director of digital marketing agency Midas Media, Ed spends his days consulting with big brands to deliver brilliant marketing campaigns. He’s also partial to good coffee and doughnuts. (UK)
This might sound controversial, but when you want to work in the ‘modern industries’ such as digital marketing – scrap schooling. I don’t mean skipping school entirely, do your required legal minimum. Why? I’d question the validity of a degree in marketing, and the financial burden that comes with higher education. Someone who left school in their late teens and hit the ground running, will have a 3-5 year head start, founded in real world experience. I’m being serious, the college material is out of date and you simply can’t learn what you need to succeed from books alone.
Instead, get a job. Get a job doing anything. Don’t burn other people’s money experimenting. Use your own cash to test your own marketing merits. Go buy into a highly reputable online course. Buy several including books on specific subjects of interest. For me, that would be online advertising.
Another caveat being that I wouldn’t trust everything the ‘experts’ tell you, instead test every facet using your own time and resources. After all you don’t need to spend big to understand which elements work and will scale, and which you can ignore (or perhaps more importantly – you don’t find interesting).
Then, knock doors. Speak to local businesses, explain and demonstrate what you’re doing and why. Offer your services free for 14-days, on the agreement [in writing] that if you have a positive impact, they pay you! Get one paying customer. Congratulations, you just formed your first micro-business. Now go get another success.
Start small, get out there, and whatever you do – learn from the coal face – not the library.
12. Dr Paul Johnson – Paul has worked in the travel industry for more than 25 years and has travelled extensively, from his home in Cumbria (UK) to places all over the globe. He is now Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog, one of the most popular travel blogs in the world, and is also a Director of The Dedicated Partnership Ltd. (UK)
Do what you enjoy. There’s little point spending your life chasing a dead-end job that you don’t enjoy. Identify what truly drives and interests you, and find a way to make a living from it.
13. Cody McLain – Despite being only 26, Cody has had his fair share of life experiences. From founding his first company at just 15, Cody has gone on to build and sell 4 companies grossing in the millions. Today he blogs regularly on his site CodyMcLain.com and runs creative digital agency WireFuseMedia. (Texas, USA)
“Trust your gut.”
When you’re young, you don’t feel qualified to trust your first instinct. You think that a “bad feeling” has to be substantiated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. With the very basic life experience that you, as a young person have, the little nudges within that sort of propel you in the right direction are like a compass. If you get a feeling like “this just isn’t working”, don’t ignore it in hopes that it will fade away. It won’t fade and as it becomes more apparent that the situation is worsening, you will end up following your initial feeling at what appears to others as the worst time. This is if the repercussions of ignoring your gut are not worse.
My advice is to trust yourself. Your relationship with yourself will determine your relationship with others and to a greater degree, how your career progresses.
14. Marko Saric – Marko has been busy creating websites, producing content and growing audiences online since 1997. His site How To Make My Blog features practical, action-oriented and easy-to-consume blogging advice. (Denmark)
The best career advice I would give would be to rely less on traditional career paths, but to put time and effort into hobbies and other projects I’m passionate about. Start that website, get that idea launched. Learn and get real life experience from actually doing things. I’ve found that this is the best way to develop yourself, to improve your chances, and to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
15. Sara Hawkins – Having been practising as a licensed attorney for nearly 20 years, Sara was considered a “social media lawyer” long before the term social media had been coined. She now regularly speaks on legal topics relevant to online professionals, content creators, bloggers and more. (Arizona, USA)
I would have told myself to speak up more because what you have to say is valuable. Often in the legal profession, new lawyers are expected to do as they’re told and pay their dues. I found in some instances this is especially true for young women lawyers. I would want my younger self to know that my insights, perspectives, and knowledge are important. The way women lawyers are often portrayed in the media means sometimes we have to play against stereotypes. This was especially true when I first came out of law school in the 90s. Today, I hope young women lawyers don’t feel the same pressures. If they do, though, I hope they seek out a mentor to help them navigate so they can grow professionally.
16. Chris Makara – With over 13 years of digital marketing experience, Chris is an Interactive Marketing and Digital Strategist, offering solutions to a wide range of clients through his website ChrisMakara.com. (Texas, USA)
There’s so much I’d tell my younger self…But I’m not Doc Brown from Back to the Future. So I’ll stick to some wishful thinking.
I think the biggest thing is that I would reiterate the importance of always learning something new. For me, this has been very instrumental in my professional growth over the years. Over the past 14 years, this has been something I have done consistently (even though it’s not always easy) but has made a huge difference from where I was to where I am.
The other thing I would tell my younger self is to not underestimate the power of making and maintaining connections with others (both personally and professionally) as you’ll never know where your paths might cross as time goes on. These relationships can help your career in ways you would have never imagined.
17. Chris Guthrie – Chris said goodbye to the 9-5 job in 2009, and since then has been self-employed, helping businesses with their online marketing and websites. His blog is called UpFuel.com (Washington, USA)
Learn as much as you can about how to build and ship minimally viable products and use your time outside of work to focus on building an mvp. Working on your own projects in the evening is how you can eventually quit your day job. So my career advice hinges primarily on if you’d like to become an entrepreneur and not everyone wants to walk that path, but if you do that’s what I did and it worked out well for me.
18. Ferg Devins – After 30 years in the beverage alcohol and hospitality industry, Ferg gained exposure and experience to communications, public relations, marketing, and all things social media. He is now the Communications Strategist at The Devins Network Inc. (Canada)
Watch for, embrace and lead change. Gone are the days of status quo, of the best practice, the usual expected standard. The world is transforming constantly with new ways of doing things, innovations in technology, efficiencies in getting work done. Transformational change will be more dominant in our lives. Those who are flexible and adaptable and in a position to seize opportunity by embracing and leading the change will be successful thought leaders. Step into what the future might hold, rather than clinging to what was.
19. Suzanne Hoenig – A writer by nature, a content marketer by circumstance, and a lifelong student of community and belonging, Suzanne consults on social media strategy, content creation and curation, with a healthy dose of random copywriting and copyediting thrown in. (Texas, USA)
To my younger self: Some people know what they want to do early. Good for them. That’s their path, may they walk it well. Yours is not yet to know. Live into the questions, as Rilke says. I wish I could say that you are an obvious fit for some standard and lucrative profession. You are learning that there is no one right job or career for you. The thing is, Younger Self, you live in a world of such vast tech-social-geo-political change that even 20 years from now, the pundits will be gaping like landed fish as they try to find just the right hyperbole to describe the pace of it all. The revolutions are coming at a faster clip; e.g. the Industrial to the Information. And with each new revolution — you said you wanted one — the work changes. The “good” jobs change. Just ask the sawyer, the cooper, the candlestick maker, the steel worker and the knowledge worker.
Young One, your career path doesn’t exist yet. Wanderer, you are not lost. You make your path by walking. Play to your strengths. Find your tribes. Reread Your Money or Your Life. Lower your living expenses. Value experiences, people, places, not things. Uncover your dharma and live into it until you can return home and know the place for the first time, feasting on your life.
20. David Schneider – David is the CEO and CoFounder of digital marketing software NinjaOutreach, which helps small businesses find and outreach to bloggers to grow their sales. Before he stepped into his busy role, he spent time travelling the world and starting various online businesses.
I can say don’t stick with a corporate job and start your own business ASAP – which I eventually did after a few years working in finance. I’ve been pretty happy with how things turned up in my career since then. One business advice I would tell my younger self about, though, would be to invest the time and effort to do things right the first time. Don’t subscribe to the “just get it out there, you can always fix it later” mindset. Get the foundations right first, and you won’t have to waste any more time, sweat, and money, fixing issues that will inevitably crop up if you try to scrimp too much, too early.
21. Jodie Cook – As an entrepreneur and Managing Director of jcsocialmedia.com, Jodie has established herself as one of the UK’s leading social media experts – delivering comprehensive social media management and training to hundreds of businesses. And if Jodie wasn’t busy enough, she also spends her time as a competitive powerlifter! Check out her site here. (UK)
Persevere! Don’t be disheartened with hearing a ‘no’, keep asking the questions, keep knocking down doors and they will open. 95% of what separates those who make their venture a success from those who don’t is the relentless belief that it will happen, with the actions to match this confidence.
22. James Norquay – An SEO & Content Marketing Consulting Director based in South Sydney, James has made over 100 websites since he first began in 1999. He works with big brands, funded startups and B2Bs to drive huge growth online. (Australia)
23. Tor Refsland – Tor has been busy mentoring businesses for the past decade. An expert in all things time management, productivity and goal setting-related, he is the Digital Strategist and Business Coach at Time Management Chef. (Norway)
I guess I would have told myself that I should have faith in myself and keep hustling, and everything will be all good in the future.
I have always been very strategic and hard-working, so I was aware that the jobs I had in my younger days weren’t my dream jobs, but I still gave it my all and learned new skills. That, in addition to focusing on building genuine relationships with people, has been a key to my rapid success in my career. And when I decided to leave my six-figure corporate job in one of the biggest companies in Norway to start my own business…Then guess what? I applied the same focus and massive action in my own business. This resulted in me being able to 20x the revenue in my business last year thanks to focusing on business coaching.
Whether it’s in your career or in your business, focus on the activities that will really move the needle regarding getting great results…and then go ALL IN!
25. Looay Gharib – As our very own Kubix Media Founder and Director, when Looay heard that we were running another roundup he was keen to get involved! When he’s not on the road meeting clients or keeping the Kubix office in check, Looay spends his days overseeing our marketing and social campaigns and putting his 12 years of agency experience to good use. (UK)
If I could go back to my younger self right now – back to my first real marketing-related job – and give myself some advice, it would be to simply learn as much as you can. Whilst simply saying ‘learn’ might sound clichéd and too obvious, in reality I have found throughout my career that the guys who dominated their fields truly knew their stuff. There were times where I probably rested on my laurels as I thought I had my A-game covered, but in reality I now realise that you need to know your field inside out, everything that’s happening, new tricks, who’s who and why. Constantly ask WHY and learn the reasons behind things: stay interested, and things will always be interesting.
And then if I’d had the time to add anything else, I might have said to myself 10 years ago: “You might want to create a simple game called Flappy Birds…”