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The Sponge & The Trailblazer: Making the Most of Your First Job in Search

About two months ago I wrote my first article for Search Engine Journal about getting your first job in SEO. Well now the dust has settled and I feel it is important to share what I have learned thus far during my young career in search marketing. This article will be broken down in halves one being the sponge, and the other the trailblazer. It is important to realize that when you settle in to your first job in search that you will not be guided on the entire journey. There are times where guidance is provided, and there are times where you have to make the most of your freedom to produce on your own.

The First Half: Being the Sponge

Stepping in to a search agency for the first time can be a slightly daunting experience. You are surrounded by professionals who know more than you and who you assume have unwritten laws on how to behave and get work done in this unfamiliar setting. That is why the best thing you can do is break down this barrier by getting involved and asking questions.

If the culture at your workplace is in any way similar to what I have experienced thus far at Anvil Media, Inc. people are going to be more than willing to share their wealth of knowledge. It is important to realize that you are new and that there is information you need to know. By asking questions you are not pestering anybody, you are simply filling your brain with the information you need to move forward. The more questions you ask, the more collaborative the communication will become.

Not all time is spent using your vocal chords to drum up a conversation however. As all of us know most of the time we spend at work is dedicated to our glowing computer screens. The good news is that even while you are locked in to the land of digital you can observe what is going on around you. You will be surprised at how quickly you can pick up on productive work habits and just exactly how the people around you are acting. One of the greatest experiences for me thus far has simply been listening in on client meetings and watching my fellows employees interact with each other and outsiders alike. You are not only learning when you are asking questions as being acutely observatory can be a very effective tool as well.

Finally, and I am going to say this as plainly as I can, be willing to collaborate and take on anything. I am not going to lie; there have been some moments where my head has been pounding only because I was taking in so much new information at the time. At the time I was thinking “Why the hell am I trying to do so much at once this is killing me!” The feeling subsided over time and eventually I realized it was within those moments that I was making the most progress. If you have the strength to put away any awareness of power and status you can accomplish anything working with anybody.

The Second Half: Being The Trailblazer

As much fun as it is to be a beautiful sponge, it is being a trailblazer that can really help define you as you blossom in to a knowledgeable professional and grow in to your role either in-house or at an agency. When I speak of being a trailblazer I speak of the times where you are free to make decisions for yourself and create your own path. As I mentioned earlier there will not be guidance in every aspect of your new job. My first piece of advice is that you absolutely must not be afraid to fail.

At the beginning I often made decisions based on not wanting to do something wrong or deal with the repercussions of making a mistake. That strategy was about as poor as it gets as I vastly underestimated the support group I had around me to help me adjust to the decisions that I made. Long story short there is no reason to not try something new or try to go above and beyond on your own. Every mistake has a fix and more often than not your ideas and risks will be noticed in a more positive manner than anticipated.

Another task you will need to become accustomed to is properly managing your free time. The initial reaction by many would be to take your extra five minutes to check out Facebook updates or step outside to make a phone call. The moment when I first started noticing myself becoming a true contributor to the team is when I used my free time to catch up on industry news, communicate with industry peers, and reach out to industry blogs and networks. All of a sudden I was being briefed on new ideas and coming up with material to share with the team by simply redirecting my attention during down time.

The final point I am going to make involves ideas. I don’t know a sane person who isn’t constantly coming up with ideas in their head especially when it comes to the ever-changing world of search. Part of being a trailblazer is having the courage to share and sell your ideas. There is a reason that you were hired and it is because you were well thought of and envisioned as a contributor. It is never too early to share the madness that is taking place in your head, and think about how cool it is going to be when you start to see your ideas being put in to motion.

The Final Word

Being a sponge and a trailblazer can be a lot of work, but is also something that should come naturally if you are truly inspired by search and the industry we live in. There is a lot to learn during your first few months on the job, but having an awareness of how to manage the learning process has been of a great help to myself. Thanks to my colleagues and peers my transition in to the world of search has been an adventure in itself, an adventure which I am more than willing to share.

 The Sponge & The Trailblazer: Making the Most of Your First Job in Search

Jeff Bedford

Analytics & Optimization Specialist at The New Group
Jeff Bedford is an Optimization & Analytics Specialist at The New Group, an integrated digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Indiana University, Jeff has extensive industry experience and has worked on digital campaigns for enterprise clients around the world.
 The Sponge & The Trailblazer: Making the Most of Your First Job in Search

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7 thoughts on “The Sponge & The Trailblazer: Making the Most of Your First Job in Search

  1. That’s a great perspective, and a transition that I think every successful person will mark, regardless of their field of work. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Much appreciated Keith thank you for the kind words. It is definitely people like you who take the time to make comments that make sharing these perspectives all worth it. Cheers!

  2. You’re right in saying that the time you spend with your personal development is a far greater investment than “entertaining” yourself. Notice what the leaders are talking about. Leaders don’t say, “I saw on Facebook today, this… bla bla bla”

    1. In fact Mr. Bacon, this kind of strategy is how I initially met you through LinkedIn. Instead of catching up on the latest funny cat vids I was scoping out social networks for people who I felt could feed me knowledge in my field of interest. I would say you did a pretty good job of that and I have a ton of thanks to give.

  3. Wonderful post. I have just started my career in a search agency and was confused that am I doing right to become a contributor? (Trailblazer). By reading this, I am feeling that I am on right path!

    1. Arif-

      I am glad to hear it man thanks for the kind words. Remember that this article is by no means a guide either. Part of the trailblazer thing is self-development and there is no doubt in my mind that you are on the right path my friend. Cheers!