I am wondering if, now that I have acquired a certain level of digital marketing skill, I am needing a change of pace in order to make another leap from intermediate to advanced client facing digital marketing consultant. For the first 2 years I have seen tremendous growth from company-provided training of digital marketing fundamentals and over time greater understanding of how to provide a basic to intermediate digital marketing level of service. I also received two inadvertent one-on-one mentorships from two very skilled in the industry, one, a digital marketing expert, and the other a client-facing marketing expert. The digital marketing expert helped connect the dots of digital marketing techniques and tactics in ways that I would not have been able to on my own in any reasonable amount of time. The client-facing expert helped me read and interpret client’s responses and pro-actively anticipate a good many more for my reporting presentations. There was also an element of how to get recognition for work that I had been doing but might have not known how to effectively communicate the value to the client and get credit for it. As a perfectionist, I found great value in my growth path with this support in becoming a digital marketing expert. And yet, now, after being here for over 2 years and the environment completely different due to a few unforeseen changes (the digital marketing industry is always pivoting), I am wondering what the next phase of my growth should look like. My growth has been gradual and about 4 months ago I basically came up for air after having been moved from my previous role and into a more heavy client facing role without much senior level oversight. In a sense, I was thrown in to sink or swim, managing the full digital marketing program for a large number of small accounts. I was about to see how skilled I had become. You see, for the first two years I have been stressed and constantly frustrated, trying to prove my value not just to myself but to my employers and specifically to get approval from my two senior-mentors. Not to say I had been doing a bad job, but I had wanted to knock it out of the park. Now that the transition has fully taken place, I have been able to step back and observe the outcome a bit and I have been pleasantly surprised with the results. I certainly have not ‘arrived’ as I have areas that I hope to improve in, such as, advanced reporting capabilities and developing more technical campaigns. But, I may have not noticed I had accomplished a certain level of expertise except that these changes came outside of my control. Here’s the full story.
I had recently been moved to a new client facing team to manage a lot more small digital marketing accounts instead of my previous role of onboarding new accounts and managing larger strategy client facing roles. With this change, I was less connected to my ‘senior level’ mentors who coached me for the first 2 years at the agency. On top of that, our office went through a renovation to which my new direct report practically said, ‘Don’t come into the office except for one day a week.’ So, for three months I have been working from home for 4 out of 5 days. And at first, I was quite concerned about not being in the office with my peers and senior-level advisors. Being in the office allowed me to get feedback at a moment’s notice. On top of this, it came with a loud, collaborative, stress-induced education for those that are wanting to go from newbie to skilled digital marketer. When working primarily from home, not only was I expected to produce at the same level as I would in-office, but the rapid-fire communication would be less available. We certainly have online tools to communicate, but in the office I can simply stop what I’m doing and go find an answer. When working from home, I have to schedule a time in many cases which often causes me to stress about the situation and by stressing about the answer, I’m not being productive. This is not as much of a problem if I need help with a small number of things in the day but if I need help with the majority of client questions that come across my plate and the client is highly toxic, then I might be stressing all of the time! This was the sure-fire test to see how far I had come in my digital marketing capabilities. Being self-directed, not to mention self-reliant was a little scary.
After a few weeks of setting up my work-from-home office and getting into a new routine, I have been very pleased. It took several weeks to get used to working in complete silence. Our in-office work environment is very collaborative AND often too loud to think. But, after a few small episodes of freaking out and worrying about the changes and how it will effect my work, I started to relax more. Without the stressful commute every day to the office I experienced a more peaceful morning. Over a week or two, I realized that I could stand on my own two feet without as much guidance. I noticed that I had come to a place where I could be self-directed and very productive allowing myself a little more room. I started to make time to exercise again, do a little more leisure read, and have time to think – all while still getting a very productive 40+ hour work week in. There were multiple benefits to all of this. Over the 2 years of in-office stress, I had neglected exercise and taken on a lot of constant, unshakable stress. Some of this comes from having two kids, but I was constantly concerned about my skill progression. The spiritual, physical, and emotional side of my life was pretty much put on the backburner. There were some elements that were certainly present but not a part of my daily and weekly routine. I had been so concerned about the career side probably somewhat stemming from my tumultuous job history. Working from home 4 out of 5 days gave me a new perspective on the role and just how far I had come as a digital marketer. For example, many things are now intuitive in my day to day work whereas before they were skills in the making. As I have had more experience, I have less need to bounce my thoughts off of others more seasoned.
Now that the renovation is over and we are making the transition back to the office, I feel a little lost. I have adapted well to the work from home environment and it feels like I have hit a different stride than I was used to before. Really, this feels different than my work experiences since I graduated from college. But that makes sense since I have not worked for more than 2.5 years at one company since moving to Dallas in 2007. Over the past few months of working I have started to trust my instincts more and have seen satisfied, and in some cases delighted client responses. I know that I am entering the skill level in digital marketing where I’m working to go from intermediate to advanced.
I am starting to wonder if working in-office and all that comes with it, the fast paced hectic nature and the stress that I feel just thinking about it is not as pivotal for me and in a way detrimental. For 2 years I have worked on my personal productivity and seen great results in my contribution levels all while working in-office 3 to 5 days a week. The pace of learning and consuming new information required at first is much more than what I need now. The collaborative workflow seems to have been necessary for me as a beginner in digital marketing. But, is it beneficial for one who has grasped the reins and is solidly in the intermediate level? Most of the company-led training and overall noise from the office teaches the ingredients, the science, of digital marketing. Since I am self-directing strategy and implementing digital marketing programs effectively in the smaller business model, I now need to step into the ‘artistic’ phase of digital marketing. In other words, how can I build on and improve in pro-actively anticipating client concerns, managing their expectations, and delighting them with results in their digital programs. With this comes the desire to develop enhanced reporting capabilities with greater insights than standard reporting processes can achieve. I need to grow a level of expertise applying my training across multiple disciplines to help establish more brand presence and visibility in search engines for my client’s leads, prospects, and customers. I want to help my clients identify and understand their customers needs so intimately that I can help them know where our focus in acquiring them should be spent. As a result, I will need to build more room into my schedule to think, rest, observe, and step away from the digital projects at times. Information inundation was necessary for the first couple of years but balance is necessary now. Education will still happen but I will search out a higher level of digital training and process OR potentially create the more advanced training for myself which will require deeper focus. In a way, there is some element of ‘boredom’ that I am searching for in moving from digital ‘science’ to digital ‘art’. Not having to be constantly polished and present on my iphone to my desktop screen that goes with the in-office collaboration. Basic digital implementation is more intuitive and less of a challenge to me now, so where do I go from here? I will work to find deeper insights in the crevices and the cracks of standard digital marketing work. It seems that some get to this point and still thrive in the noise and distraction of the office. They may love the internal people management and the acknowledgement of their peers and some seem to thrive out of that environment. I wonder how anyone can sustain this path indefinitely and maintain their family dynamic while keep other priorities intact.
I believe the current path is for me to work toward collaboration with a small team that can challenge me, and I them, to get better results for clients while still finding that level of balance. Here’s to renewed rest, exercise, and pursuing growth into an advanced digital marketing consultant. Here’s to exploring ways to get more advanced training without the other added noise. Here’s to slower reading, deeper focus with less distraction, and time to think and develop how I express the ‘art’ of digital marketing. Here’s to finding a new and hopefully an improved pace and level of growth in my ‘2.0’ digital marketing training years.