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Transition From College to Work: My First Job at a Digital Marketing Agency

The mixed emotions of graduating college and the struggles of landing that dream job.

As graduation day approaches, you become overwhelmed by numerous emotions.

You start to reflect on the most incredible four (or five) years you’ve spent in college. Those late-night pizza runs, sleeping in on a weekday, meeting new people, hitting college-discounted deals at the bars and so on.

However, the most important thing to reflect on is how much blood, sweat, and tears it took to get to where you are at right now and what it is going to take to accomplish your next milestone.

We constantly are lost in our busy work and don’t have time to reflect on what we want to accomplish.

My Story

As I reflected on my college career, I flashed back to the transition from college to work and what the process was that took place.

I studied advertising at The University of Colorado - Boulder and graduated in May 2018, so not that long ago! I knew once I got out of college that I wanted to pursue a career in advertising or marketing, due to my high-performance in the fast-paced field, and was ready to dive in head first.

But where did I want to work? How should I find the right agency that fits my needs and goals?

Asking these questions helped me decide which company was suitable for me as well as where in the country I wanted to live!

For me, I needed to get out of Colorado and move somewhere in order to grow as a person as well as accelerate my career.

So what did I do? I packed up my bags and traded the Rocky Mountains in for the Pacific Ocean and moved to Newport Beach, CA.


This was a scary transition at first, but also thrilling. Moving out of my home state helped me put more pressure on myself to perform well because I was out of my comfort zone.

By “out of my comfort zone” I mean I didn’t even have a place to live! I was living in a hotel for a month as I got my career going but it was all part of the journey that was worth every initial struggle.

I currently work at Directive, a leading B2B and enterprise search marketing agency, headquartered in Irvine, California. I made the decision to apply here due to how their visions and goals closely matched up with mine.

Directive’s key visions are the following:

  • Embrace reality. Don’t manipulate it.
  • Transparency is our default.
  • People > Clients.  
  • Balance is our choice.
  • Ownership breeds excellence.
  • Proactively communicate with clarity and empathy.
  • Perception is reality.

It is important to understand what your company stands for because the culture of a company defines how successful you will become.

Craig Powell, CEO of Motus, has previously discussed how “those who prioritize the right values and build a culture around responsibility and teamwork achieve greatness.”

Craig also has mentioned how “businesses or organizations that don’t have strong cultures often deteriorated because there was no emphasis on cohesion, trust and an objective greater than any single individual.” (You can read his full article about company culture here)

Many graduates, myself included, will apply to various companies and have zero idea what that company believes in.

We’re so caught up in finding a job we don’t realize that some actually aren't good or a place we want to spend the majority of our lives!

When making the transition from college to work you must be selfish and willing to turn down jobs that don’t help you accomplish your goals.

Making strict rules for myself allowed me to find Directive and be confident that when they did offer me the job, I knew I was making the right decision and ready to take on the workplace.

Since starting my career and making the transition from college to work, I learned three essential tactics that will help you get a head start as you start looking for a job in the digital marketing world.

Learn How to Work with Various Departments

As you will see early on in digital marketing, there are several departments of teams that help make the company run. At Directive, we have PPC (my team!), SEO, CRO, marketing, sales, account management, and the best interns in the west.

It’s easy to get caught up in your department’s own ways but it’s crucial to know what else is going on to help the entire unit run as a whole.

PPC and SEO should be aware of what’s happening on both the paid and organic side of search marketing and it’s imperative for marketing to have a solid relationship with the CRO team to work with creatives for various events and presentations as well.

There are different departments for employees with different expertise, but if you stick to what you know and avoid expanding your knowledge, then you are hurting yourself and the company in the long run.

This is a huge point because if you are not being proactive and asking questions then you are not going to be successful in your career.

Why?

The O.C. Tanner Great Work Study looks at cases of great work worldwide and found out that 88% of great work starts with an employee asking an inquisitive question for example questions like "Why don’t we?" or "How can we improve this?" and so on.

As you begin your career, remember to always question the process to see if you can find a better way.

Remember, the company who hired you did not hire you for your experience but they for your potential and that must be shown in the first couple of weeks you start.

Find a Job Where The Team is Put First

In an agency, the biggest mistake CEOs make is putting clients over their own team.

Time magazine published an article that talks about Jeff Bezos’ input on work-life balance and he discusses that “instead of viewing work and life as a balancing act, it’s more productive to view them as two integrated parts.”

If a company is solely focused on clients and not the people who run the company, then the quality of work will suffer and, your clients will start to notice.

The people doing the work are your most valued clients and the faster you start to adopt that thought, the more successful your agency will be.

My CEO, Garrett Mehrguth, says “if we can keep empowering our people and focus so much on them, our clients are going to get the best results.”

Garrett talks about how important it is to empower the employees in order to drive massive results for our clients. (You can watch the full video here.)

This is reassuring because it proves he practices what he preaches and pushes me to be better each and every day.

My cup is full so I’m able to better serve my clients and I enjoy my work days.

Additionally, our company recently partnered with a company called Marketplace Chaplains, who makes weekly visits to our office simply for the purpose of fostering relationships and lending an ear to anyone who needs it.

No matter how big the issue is, they are here to help our team.

Having a company that goes above and beyond for our physical and mental health truly makes me feel cared for, especially when I’m so far from home.

You deserve the same.

Work Somewhere That Believes in Your Skills

This ties into self-reflection, but everyone has opinions and thoughts about what they know, especially in their professional careers.

In order to be the best marketer in today’s digital age, you must be generating your own thoughts and opinions about how the industry is moving.

Everyone has their own industry experience but not a lot of people write their own content, simply because they are too caught up in their clients’ work. They don’t have time to reflect on how they are influencing their industry!

However, I’m living proof to inform you that creating content for yourself is the best way to get exposed to industry leaders and show potential clients that you are an expert in your craft.

It will also help you step back and write down what you have learned while working in the industry; you might surprise yourself by how much you know!

For example, when I first started writing, I thought there was no way I could generate quality content. However, after I just put the pen to my paper, the information started pouring out.

The hardest part in creating your content piece is beginning the process! Once you start, you will be amazed by how much you know. 

My entire team created their own content pieces, which made it easier to get mine done because here at Directive we are always in it together.

You can find some of their pieces here.

According to Neil Patel, “60% of marketers create at least one piece of content each day.”

If you create the right content and target the right people you will start to see your traffic increase.

Takeaway

After reading my experiences, I hope you realize it’s okay to not have all the answers right away as you transition from college to work.

However, it’s crucial to know what goals you have and to look for employment at places who will help you accomplish them on the quickest path possible. Remember, you should never apply to a job without understanding the ins and outs of the company.

Show you care about what they’re doing and that you’re willing to bring your skill set to the table to help them be even better.

This will prepare you for a successful interview and also help you know in advance what values they hold, which can be a deciding factor before you accept the job.

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