So What Is It That You Do? Career Confusion and My Explanation

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Career Day was always a complicated day when I was growing up. Not because I didn’t have a career in mind, I was going to be the first actress-flight attendant. It was confusing because I never knew how to define my Dad’s job. He was in the Air Force but I didn’t really know what he did in the Air Force. He didn’t really talk about his work, probably because he couldn’t and also because he thought we’d find it boring. I was always intrigued. In the days before laptops and VPNs, when my Dad had to catch up on work he’d take my Brother and Sister and I to his office. We’d play with copiers and whiteboards. He’d always buy us a giant chocolate chip cookie as a reward for sticking it out. Truthfully, seeing where he worked was reward enough. However, there would be years when we couldn’t visit his office. But because I went to school with other Air Force Brats we could all relate on those Career Days. The generic “My Parent’s in the Military” was a sufficient answer.

This Career Day confusion has followed me into my adult life. Every Spring I receive a request for parent volunteers to share their career with the class. I always offer but it’s hard to compete with the well understood roles of police officers, pilots, doctors, and teachers. I’ve also found it difficult to explain what exactly I do. I can give my 30-second elevator pitch and I’ve summarized it on LinkedIn but the follow-up I always hear is “So what does an average day look like for you?”

It’s a very fair question so I decided to sit down and document an average day. images

Social Media Activity
When I’m in the office I’m certain my co-workers think I’m that person always playing around on social. I’ve created industry twitter lists and I set aside an hour a day to read through each of my industry streams, just like I would a daily paper. I build it into my calendar and my to-do list.

I allocate another hour for reading through posts in industry LinkedIn groups as well as reading recent social activity from specific industry companies like Merck, Caterpillar, T.Rowe Price, etc. If I notice a content piece that stands out I’ll click through and read further. I also like to explore comments their audience posts to their social posts and blogs.

I have had days where this hour exercise can explode into a daylong activity, but it’s always worthwhile. Content I find interesting and relevant I share on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and sometimes Facebook. I always add my POV to the post. I also focus attention to sharing my own content. I plan my social posting for the week and have it set to publish across channels for the entire week.

Self Education

I commit to read one book each week, non-marketing focused. Some books take longer than a week. I break-up the book over 7 days and then build the required time into my calendar and add it as a task to my to-do list. I try to identify one topic or idea I can build off of. Most of the time that works, other times I walk away with nothing other than another finished book.

Here’s a link to my favorite books. Out of these I’d highly recommend:
1. Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean; Karen Berman and Joe Knight
2. HBR Guide to Finance Basics for Managers; Harvard Business Review
3. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness: Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
4. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Management; Harvard Business Review
5. Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds; Carmine Gallo
6. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work; Chip Heath and Dan Heath
7. The Challenger Sale; Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
8. I’m currently reading How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery; Kevin Ashton and I think it’s a fantastic book.

Best Practice Development
When I find topics that peak my interest I add them to a spreadsheet for a potential blog post, and to a word doc where I collect ideas for my presentations.

When I identify topics that interest me I then look for stories that support my defined best practices or introduce new ones. I look through customer stories but I find the best stories are the ones I stumble upon when I search on youtube, SlideShare, etc. I’m a story sleuth.

I speak with customers and companies within my designated industries as much as possible. I shoot for one customer engagement a day. That is always my greatest source of inspiration. Sometimes they mention a specific challenge or project they’re working on, and sometimes they disagree with a position I’ve taken and that allows me to build further on the idea.

Content Development
Generating the content is also a discipline. I assign as a to-do item and on my calendar “writing time”. I give myself 2 hours each day to focus on content development across the industries I cover. I also allocate 2 hours over the weekend for my personal blog but I haven’t been as a diligent with that channel. Sometimes it takes longer, sometimes less. Sometimes (a lot of time) my schedule forces me to push when I execute, but I commit to getting it done by the end of the week. I know the moment I skip a week I’ll slip up often.

Project Echo
I also focus efforts on Project Echo. My Boss has each of us define a series of 90-day projects to help us focus on both short-term and long-term objectives. Project Echo was the first passive communications satellite experiment, launched by NASA in 1960 and 1964. In addition to the passive communications experiments, it was used to investigate the dynamics of large spacecraft and for global geometric geodesy. Much like NASA’s Project Echo, my Project Echo is used to track, understand, communicate, and reflect back valuable information to both the customer and the organization I work for. These 90-day projects have included compliance content initiatives, Financial Value content, green-lighting project approval workbooks, events, workshops, and storytelling initiatives.

While my job is still difficult to explain to my kids, I can now explain it to my peers. And with the post, perhaps my kids will look back and think “Oh, so that’s what she did!”


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

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