I distinctly remember the feeling in my gut as I put down the phone, having just been hung up on by the person interviewing me for a marketing job I was really excited about.
Apparently, I hadn’t made it clear that I was still in my last semester of college and wouldn’t be ready for full-time work for another couple months.
I had prepared for days. Rehearsing answers over and over. Brushing up on terms and strategies. Doing all the research I could on the industry and company.
And then just minutes into the phone interview, sitting nervously in my car between classes, he hung up on me.
“Wait, did you say you’re still in school?”
“Yes, I’m not sure if you saw the resume I sent in, but I don’t graduate for another two months. I was hoping that I could —”
“Oh sorry, call us back in three months —”
And that was it.
At that point, I was so tired of applying for jobs; sick of scouring the common places like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed every day for something that looked at least remotely promising. It seemed like I was never going to find a job. Just a couple months away from graduation and nothing even close to a career in marketing.
It seemed like every “entry level” job required an MBA and 3+ years of relevant experience. How does that even make sense?!
So how did I manage to not only get a marketing job but then also land my dream job two years later?
First, I’ll share the timeline of my experience and how I got to where I am today. And then I’ll share a bit about what lessons I learned and what actually got me to where I am today.
Early on in college, I realized that I loved marketing, not finance. It took two years of Economics and a couple of accounting classes for it to finally hit me that maybe I wasn’t all that into it.
I found myself reading complex guides on Facebook Ads and email marketing instead of paying attention to my accounting class. Instead of doing homework, I was helping friends create marketing plans to launch their next project.
I was spending every waking moment learning about and helping others with marketing. Sending ideas to strangers. Creating mock marketing plans for people and companies I didn’t even know. Designing websites, creating e-commerce storefronts, teaching local businesses how to get more traffic to their website.
It wasn’t long before my phone was literally completely filled with ebooks, audiobooks, and podcasts that I’d go through every day. My (then) 32 GB iPhone could only hold so many enormous files, so I’d usually have to go through and delete the old stuff to make room for the new. I would spend four to five hours a day reading or listening to material on marketing or starting a business.
Given that I was driving ~three hours a day between commuting to school, going to work, and going to see my girlfriend (now wife), I had plenty of time for podcasts and audiobooks. And then any free time I had was spent in a book or reading blog posts.
The internet is truly magical in this sense. I don’t say this to demean a college education, but there’s literally 1000x more educational material on the internet with more relevance and real-life application, and most of it is 100% free.
Don’t underestimate what you can learn for free (or cheap) just by doing a couple of Google searches. I’ll dig in more further down on some resources.
After the interviewer hung up on me, I collected myself and went to class to continue my day.
Except I wasn’t paying attention — I was searching Google for the next opportunity to pursue.
I remember it clearly: “best places to work in San Diego” was my search query.
One of the search results had a list of companies that had been awarded as a “best place to work” (a gimmick, but I digress…) and the links went straight to each company’s careers page.
One by one I opened the pages. Click. Skim. Scroll. Exit.
Then I stumbled across one that stood out from the rest. A tech company with an opening for a marketing intern: Cordial.
When I went to the main website at the time, I literally didn’t understand anything. It might as well have been in Mandarin. But I applied anyways.
The process was rather simple:
I quickly edited my resume to better match the job description and then got to work on the essay in class.
It was simple, but I believed it communicated who I was and how I thought:
Looking back, I don’t even necessarily agree with some of the things I said anymore, but that’s also part of the journey — you evolve.
After proofreading a few times and running it through a couple of text editors (I didn’t know about Grammarly or Hemingway yet), I decided to just send it and move on to the next interesting opportunity.
A couple of hours later I got an email back.
What? Already? Are they declining it so soon?
“Can you come in on Thursday? Let’s talk about the position.”
I was instructed to meet for the interview in a building on B Street in downtown San Diego.
I always told myself I wanted to work in a “shiny building.” Working in a shiny building meant a nice job, a cool company, and something better than the manual labor I was used to.
I took a few wrong turns downtown but managed to locate the right place. Shiny building? Check.
I managed to find my way up to the right suite, make a good impression, say all the right things, and avoid throwing up all over the place despite the enormous butterflies in my stomach.
“So what do you think? Want to work here?”
“Of course. I’d be honored!”
It was official. I now worked in the world of tech. But now I had to figure out what the heck I was doing!
*Cue nervous breakdown*
The imposter syndrome began setting in.
What am I doing here? How am I going to do a good job? What if I fail?
Despite what I was feeling inside, I showed up every day eager to learn and do whatever was asked of me.
I had more to learn than just marketing. I also had to learn the company, the people, the product, and the industry. Something that I greatly underestimated.
It probably took me a good six weeks just to finally grasp what our product was and who it was for.
Some of my first tasks were simple:
There were a lot of “firsts,” but I did my best and asked for help when needed.
After three months, I was close to graduating, and my boss set a meeting to talk about what was next for me.
Despite my own imposter syndrome, anxiety, and limited experience, I managed to get offered a full-time job as the first marketing hire in the department.
The next year and a half was a crash course in marketing.
While I had been studying and practicing (to a limited degree) marketing before, I was now in the trenches with a growing startup that had just raised their Series A round of funding and had a serious need for tangible results.
Shortly after, another marketer joined our team, and we added another person to the team every few months.
Starting out, I was either assisting or fully handling a wide range of responsibilities: events and conferences, social media, email marketing, demand gen, our website, messaging and competitive research, sales enablement materials… you name it.
As time went on and the team expanded, I gradually started to specialize more. My first 11 months were focused on events, demand gen, and sales enablement materials. My last 10 months were focused on content, webinars, and partnerships.
Essentially, my job was to do whatever needed to be done. We attended and sponsored over 20 conferences and events. I ran ad campaigns for content, events, and product announcements. We worked on press releases and go-to-market strategies for new features and partnerships.
After we brought on a Field Marketing Manager to handle all events and direct mail, I had the chance to really focus on more inbound functions. We revamped the blog, I partnered with a lot of smart people in the e-commerce industry, and wrote mega-guides for lead generation.
The marketing team, and myself especially, were also really involved with the sales team. We’d collaborate on email campaigns, how to close deals, and who to target and how to get their attention. While I “specialized,” it was still a broad range of responsibilities.
Early on in my exploration of the world of marketing and entrepreneurship, I discovered Baremetrics and all the great content Josh produced on the blog and podcasts. Not to mention that all of Baremetrics’ own metrics are published publicly!
As an aspiring entrepreneur, Josh’s transparency is second to none. From the moment I first discovered Baremetrics, I related so closely to it and everything that it stands for.
Josh tweeted that he was thinking about hiring for someone in marketing or sales and asked for advice from the community.
That’s when I knew he was probably preparing to hire someone.
And then just a few months later, he announced that they were hiring for a Head of Growth.
At first, it didn’t cross my mind to apply.
I’m happy! Plus, I probably wouldn’t be considered anyways.
So I decided to write Josh an email instead, detailing my advice for whomever they hired. I genuinely just wanted to be helpful.
But after I sent the email, I kept going back to the job posting. I just couldn’t help it.
Man, this would be my dream job.
The term “dream job” is a bit cliche, and I think you can have multiple dream jobs, but I think it’s when the job has an exceptional combination of characteristics like:
For me, the Head of Growth position at Baremetrics checked many of those boxes:
And then it hit me:
Why not apply? What’s the worst that could happen?
I didn’t even realize it at the time, but sending that initial email offering advice was essentially what Ramit Sathi calls “The Briefcase Method.” Adding value, being able to talk specifics, and proving that you care about the company goes a long way in the interview process.
It wasn’t long after I applied that I began talking to Josh about the position and beginning the interview process. The next several weeks consisted of a few rounds of interviews, both over email and video calls.
While I wouldn’t describe the process as intense or difficult, it was definitely thorough. Every round required thorough homework, preparation, and specific responses.
We had many long email exchanges. I prepared an entire table full of 100+ growth experiments and the logic behind them. And we did a couple of video interviews as well.
And then the day came.
Almost 8 weeks later, I was offered the job.
The timing of it all still baffles me, but I almost didn’t take the job.
The day after I was offered the position, my father passed away. He had battled multiple strokes, diabetes, and partial paralysis for two and a half years. While it didn’t come as a surprise, it was certainly much sooner than we all expected.
Is this too much change? Is this the right time? Am I making the right decision?
With prayer, some time away, and talking it through with my wife, friends, and family, I accepted the job.
And that is how I landed my dream marketing job at 23.
So now let’s talk a little about the habits that were the key to my career evolution.
These are the three habits that I attribute to being where I am today.
And I also wanted to acknowledge that it’s equally due to the immense amount of luck and privilege I’ve experienced.
Being a white male in the United States already affords me much more opportunity than the majority of the world. And in no way do I want to communicate that I’m “self-made” or can personally take credit for everything.
Contrary to what’s normally done, I chose to push myself to learn more after high school, and far more after college.
The interesting thing about learning is that over time you build an appetite for it. The more you learn, the more you want to learn more.
You become eager to read more. Listen to more podcasts. Quench the thirst inside you for something new and thought-provoking.
Books, podcasts, blog posts, and online courses are cheat codes.
Imagine being able to distill years upon years of knowledge and experiences into just a few hundred pages of words. Imagine listening in on conversations between experts, celebrities, and entrepreneurs. Imagine reading the stories, experiences, and lessons learned of people who have gone before you and done exactly what you want to go out and do. Imagine having experts craft thoughtful workshops and detailed tutorials for you to learn a new skill or theory.
This is the power of learning on the internet today. And I’m a direct byproduct of it.
But maybe even more impactful has been learning to be uncomfortable.
While a bit cliche at this point, I still believe “comfort is the enemy of progress” to be true.
A regular cadence of reading newsletters from the likes of Seth Godin and Hiten Shah, catching up on the best new curated content in Zest, listening to marketing podcasts like Everyone Hates Marketers and SaaS Breakthrough, and reading modern-day classics like This Is Marketing and Obviously Awesome pushes me to learn more every day. I’d also like to give honorable mentions to Million Dollar Marketer and Customers From Content, the two best courses I’ve taken. And I’m always looking for new resources.
While this wasn’t always the most popular belief with certain people, I strongly believe that having the humility to admit when I don’t know something or am wrong about something is beneficial for everyone.
Someone once told me, “NEVER admit that you don’t know something. Even if you have to lie or pretend that you know something you don’t, it’s more important to be seen as someone who knows what they’re talking about.”
While I believe it was said with the best intentions, I look back on this now and cringe at how terrible this advice is.
I owe so many valuable moments and lessons to
Humility keeps you in a place of always being willing and eager to learn. As soon as you can’t admit that you’re wrong, you can’t learn.
I never claim to have all the answers and very much expect to be wrong in some areas. And it’s humility that keeps me curious to always learn something new.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “networking?”
Icky? Gross? Despicable?
Yeah, me too.
Fortunately, I’m not talking about making conversation with randos in dimly-lit rooms.
I’m also not talking about business cards and LinkedIn connections.
No, I’m talking about making real connections. Friends.
They say you’re the average of the five closest people around you. I think that’s conservative.
Having people you can learn from, get advice from, and lean on to help you with something is invaluable.
And Quality > Quantity. Having three people you can count on to message you back beats 100 people you’ve only interacted with briefly.
Believe it or not, Twitter has become a huge asset for me personally. Twitter is the new golf. Whenever someone tells me to learn to golf because “that’s where business is done,” I tell them to learn to tweet.
A couple of years ago I realized that Twitter was worth investing in. When I was in high school, Twitter was where you went to talk trash about your teachers and reply to celebrities’ tweets. Today, Twitter is where you go to make friends.
Twitter is where the real business happens. The unique opportunity is that you can follow anyone, engage with what they say, and even message them directly on something super relevant.
What Gia and Claire have built with Forget The Funnel has been so valuable to me. Not only through the workshops, but also through their own networks. FTF has more than 50+ workshops by top-tier marketers and founders. You’d be crazy not to take advantage of what they’ve put out for free.
In the last few months alone, I’ve been able to personally talk to several other smart marketers I never would have been able to without the network built through Twitter, other marketers, and just helping people out online.
Grabbing a “virtual coffee” over video chat with someone to get to know them, learn what they do, and ask for help is one of the best things you can do. You can connect with whoever you want, no matter where they are, as long as you genuinely care about them.
I hope this was even remotely helpful or inspiring to some of you.
Starting a career in marketing is no easy task, but there’s more opportunity than ever before.
Thank you for reading my story.