• January 16, 2009

    Letters of advice to a guy named Jeff R.

    I get a number of letters from listeners but this one was written with a passion that sort of stood out from the rest. It started a short series of correspondence. In early December 08, I received a message via Facebook from a Webcology listener named Jeff R. He lives in La Verne California which is a bedroom community of Los Angeles. I ended up writing a lengthy reply. Earlier today, he wrote me back and again, I responded with a lengthy reply. I also asked his permission to use the letters in a blog post. I think there are a lot of techies like Jeff out there who are seeking similar advice.

    (Dec4, 08) Hello Jim, I have been listening to Webcology since August and thought that maybe you could answer a question for me. There is nothing in the world that I want to do more than work in Internet Marketing, SEO, and Social Media. I am also a recent college graduate from the University of La Verne in California with an E-commerce degree. I have been using Indeed as my primary resource for looking for work and I am not finding anything specifically SEO/SEM. What I am finding is a lot of web design positions that need someone to be the web designer, database developer, and marketing specialist. How would I go about finding employment? I must be doing something wrong. Thank you for your time. Jeff....
    I mean seriously... You gotta answer letters like this so I did.
    Hi Jeff, Thanks for listening and taking the time to write me. I hope the answer below helps... First of all, I am writing from the premise it is much harder to find entry into SEO/SEM right now than it was six months ago. The industry has been in light (but advancing) contrition for several months now. We'll see a bit more stability in late January or early February when 2009 ad-spends start rolling out and SEO shop owners' fears begin to recede but it will take a few months beyond that before we see the same demand for workers we've seen over the past few years. That said, here are a few suggestions. a) Have you tried industry job boards? Marketing Pilgrim http://jobs.marketingpilgrim.com/ Search Engine Watch www.searchenginewatch.com (see left hand nav-bar) SEMPO http://www.sempo.org/jobs/ There are more but these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. b) Keep plugging away at it. You gotta understand that most SEO/SEM shops are micro-small businesses. They need all-in-one workers but suffer because their people do too many tasks to specialize and get great at any one channel. It's an out of date business model but it persists because of the nature of very small and start-up businesses. The most successful search marketing shops diversify the talent and get them to specialize in whatever becomes their passions. That kind of stability is hard to come by in the micro-small business world. 2 simple paths to seeking employment in SEM + 1 way to get to those paths. 1/ Be an outsource vendor Find a way to serve larger SEO/SEM operations as a contarctor. This might be a good idea since a lot of work is being outsourced to save $$ on salaries. Anything from Link Building, Content Creation, Analytics, or site design can fall into the outsource contractor role. This is how I run my personal business. I am a contractor blogging & consulting for Metamend.com and producing & hosting for WebmasterRadio.FM. 2/ be secure with a job. Get an entry level position. (see job boards above. try Monster.com too. the SEM community tends to favor Monster as a mainstream job board. +1) go forth and network your ass off In this industry, name recognition goes a long way. Get to know the folks who run SEO/SEM shops in the industry and, more importantly, let them get to know you. Running a SEO or SEM crew is a delicate balancing act of responsibility and guile. Employers are most willing to take risks on known quantities but have a harder time trusting their clients to new people. The best way to do that is in person. These folks are easy to find because at least once each month, we all see each other at whatever conference is happening in whatever city. Next week it's Chicago for SES. Conferences can be expensive but they are also where the best access is. SMX has a good deal where you buy a Social Pass for $399 (I think). While you can't attend sessions w/a Social Pass, you do get to all the evening events where you get to meet those neat folks who can literally change your life. The next major search marketing conference after SES Chicago is (conveniently) SMX West in Santa Clara in early Feb. The bar patio is an amazing place to meet people and have good conversations that go beyond tech. Last year a kid named Fred Works squatted in the hotel stairwell (someone eventually offered him their spare bed) just to hang out on that patio for two nights of socializing and job seeking. I'm pretty sure he ended up getting hired by one of the affiliate specialists but I can't recall which one. k. gotta go play hockey now. last game w/Team Metamend before I move to ft. lauderdale. best to ya and let me know how the job seek goes. jim
    He must have written to a few people because he wrote me back later that evening:
    Hello Jim, This is great information. I am very thankful that you took the time to give me the best advice that I have received thus far. I will definitely be able to put this advice into practice. Jeff
    A few hours ago, he wrote me again:
    (Jan 16,09) Hi Jim, I am not sure if you keep e-mails in your inbox on facebook so I will quickly remind you of who I am. I graduated last February with a Bachelor's degree in E-commerce from the University of La Verne in So. California. Last month I wrote to you and asked if you had any advice on how to get an entry level position. I lack skills in working with PHP and ASP but I can create websites using CSS, HTML, and Dreamweaver and I know a little about MySQL, Flash and how to optimize and market websites. Since you gave me a lot of great information, I have another question for you. Do you think that it would be a wise decision to go back to school and get an MBA with a concentration in Marketing? This may buy me some time so that I can possibly learn how to work with PHP and gain some valuable marketing knowledge. Currently, I believe that I may have limited myself too much by getting a Bachelor's degree in E-commerce. Thank you for your time. Jeff
    Jeff brother... You've written at a very weird time in the industry. I have no idea what happens next. Really. I do know it's scary out there. I've made enormous changes in my work focus because of the harsh realities of the economy. Everyone's a republic now. Smart planning and timely execution is always good but today it is necessary. (also of note: Florida is like, 365 days of HOT and Canada is brutally cold this time of year and often chilly at night in the summer.) I replied:
    Hi Jeff, If you can swing it, right now is not a bad time to be in school. As the industry starts to shrink due to layoffs and retrenchment, the more skillsets and languages you have to bring to the table, the better your chance competing for a steady job. In the meantime, I would get used to the idea of working short-term contract to short-term contract. Clients of SEM firms are starting to have a hard time paying their bills. Since such stuff rolls downhill, SEM firms themselves are starting to have a hard time. These things work in pendulums in marketing. A quick contrition in the world of service providers will leave vacuums that will need to be filled quickly when the overall economy starts to recover and small to medium businesses (the bread and butter of SEM shops) begin to recover their sense of confidence and start spending money again. No idea when that will be. Anyone who says they do know is lying or possibly self-deluded. One thing I do know... If you can swing it, right now is a pretty good time to be in school. best to ya, jim
    He just wrote back:
    Jim it is perfectly fine with me if you would like to use the letters as a part of the blog. Thank you for all of the great advice you have given to me. I am sure that I must not be the only person asking the same questions. I will keep in touch to let you know how things are moving along. JeffR
    I hope he does.