As a career evolver, Natalie Ziemba was a high school English teacher for ten years and then left it all behind for a new path in marketing in 2013. Since then, she has leveraged her BA in English and MA in Teaching, growing in marketing roles both in and out of the educational ecosystem. Natalie thinks of herself as a “connector,” and she enjoys conversations on LinkedIn with other current and former teachers.
From Teacher To Senior Marketing Manager
Hi, Natalie. Thank you so much for being here today.
Hi Daphne thank you for having me.
Natalie, you are one of those many wonderful former teachers that I randomly stumble on, on LinkedIn. You have a very extensive history in the marketing world, but I wanted to hear first a little bit about your experience in education and your past work as a teacher.
Natalie’s Path to Teaching
Great. Well, I started teaching really because I had amazing professors in college. I did not enter college planning to study education or even thinking that teaching was going to be a career option for me. As I started taking more English classes, I would hear more and more, “You might be really suited to be a teacher.” I thought, actually, I think I could do this.
So I made the decision my junior year of college that I was definitely going to go into a graduate program upon graduation and get a master’s degree and go into teaching. So that’s what I did. I was one of those people that left my undergrad – I got my degree in English with a concentration in literature and then entered my graduate program at a different school. I was away at school for my undergrad and decided I’m ready. After four years I’m ready to move home.
I lived at home while I went to graduate school and I also worked full time, and I got a little bit of exposure while I was in graduate school, working as a special education assistant during the day. So I was inside a classroom. I sort of saw behind the scenes, how administration worked, how to do lesson planning and for a minute little spurt, I thought maybe I’ll go into special education.
But then I realized, you know what? My heart is really in the English classroom. I really want to do what I set my heart out. After two years, graduated with my masters and boom got my first teaching job. So I was 24 entering a classroom to teach mostly upperclassmen. So I taught all 10 years of my teaching career I taught in private parochial Catholic religious high schools in the city of Chicago. Absolutely loved it.
Falling Out of Love with Teaching
And in my last year of teaching, fell out of love with it. And those who are listening that are in teaching or have left the profession completely understand what I’m saying, the moment you realize I don’t love it anymore as a teacher it’s unlike any other career. I don’t think you could not love it and still try to do it if that makes sense.
That was when I decided in 2013, there were some other contributing factors as well, things going on with my father’s health. I thought this is a sign, things are all converging and I think it’s meant for me to really step away from the profession. Instead of taking an extended leave of absence or anything like that, I was very clear with what I wanted to do.
Like any, I think English teacher does, where do you start job searching? Brands, companies that you recognize, publishing companies, textbook companies, distributors of curriculum and materials and things like that. So that’s what I did. I really dug deep into researching brands, companies that I recognized and just seeing where I might fit in.
Working Outside of Teaching
So I didn’t stumble into marketing right away. The first job I got out of teaching, I was really in a curriculum and an alignment type of department. And it was wonderful. It suited me very, very well, except I was almost too ambitious and there wasn’t going to be a lot of growth within that department. My manager understood that and I think she saw in me, you’re just a go-getter, you want other things that your colleagues that you work with, your peers, they don’t want those same things. You’re meant for much more than what this department can give you, but we can’t lose you. So let’s try to find another role at the same company where your skills and your talent and your ambition will really synchronize together.
Making a Move to Marketing
That’s how I ended up in the marketing department at that first company and, oh my gosh, did I fall in love. I thought, wow, well, this is now the new career. This is where I meant to be. For me, it was really about connecting with people, using my teacher talents, which a lot ofâ€¦ And I’ve heard this referenced many times. We are extremely organized if nothing else.
In marketing, especially when you’re building out campaigns and looking at a marketing calendar, you have to be very organized. It was almost like going back to writing a lesson plan or backwards designing. Here’s the objective, here’s the goal. Here’s the end result I want. And now how do I backwards design and what assets and what do I need to launch and what needs to tie together in this marketing campaign to produce that end result.
Evolving in Your Career
I stayed at that company for just over five years, had a couple of career changes, pretty much still within marketing capacity, but at different organizations. And now I work in really strategic channel partnership management, affiliate marketing management with a cloud infrastructure company. So I’m in the technology sector. So very different, an extremely different type of industry. But I am just thrilled.
I’m beyond excited to start that journey. But for me, I’m always evolving. I call myself a perennial student. I always want to be learning and I always want to be excited and have that thrill in whatever career I decide to pursue. And I think I’ve really found my niche and I feel like I have found my footing after eight years of not being in the classroom, utilizing those teacher skills.
I go back to that a lot, keeping a calendar, keeping organized, presentation skills, I’m tapped really frequently to do presentations or help with things like editing or some of the copywriting, things like that come along with being in marketing.
Natalie’s Initial Transition into Curriculum & Content
Yeah. So let’s go back to the very first job. It sounds like you went straight to an education company and you were doing almost like a curriculum writing position. So that one may have been an easier pivot for you and also this was, you said eight years ago or so, so-
Maybe not as competitive as some of these types of positions are, but how do you remember yourself actually even finding this curriculumâ€¦ Was it a curriculum writing role, the very first one?
Yeah. So it wasn’t curriculum writing. It was actually finding and pairing content that the company I worked for, we had the content and we had a catalog of really millions of pieces of content. How do you take a teacher’s or a school’s curriculum, or even an individual teacher’s syllabus and help narrow down and focus very specific pieces of content to meet their benchmarks and their objectives. That was reallyâ€¦ I mean, could that not be the coolest job ever especially for a former English teacher?
Because the colleagues I was working with, I was high school, the other colleagues that I had in that same department were really middle school, elementary education, but we would get these very specific type of requests. And for me, I was thinking, well, if I was teaching this lesson, what type of materials would I want to use and how would I then present this to the teacher that’s going to be the end user of these products?
I would tell a story and put a little almost like an annotation together. Or sometimes I would compile notes because what I was really doing was not presenting to that end user, I was passing it to our sales team and then they would have to sell it.
Connecting Curriculum with Marketing & Sales
So it was an engagement between the sales team and that’s really, I think how I ended up for falling very much in love with marketing. Because in the right type of industry at the right type of company, marketing and sales should work very much hand in hand. And when you’re lucky enough to find the synchronicity between the two departments, things are flawless. And so when you can find even sometimes not necessarily an entire team, but individual people in a sales department, if you are working in an ancillary team like a curriculum development or marketing, find those one or two people that will be your advocate and your ambassador and you kind of form your own little team.
I always had favorite sales people that I would collaborate with very frequently and they would say, “Oh Natalie, I’ve got this very special project. This customer is a teacher, they teach ninth and 10th grade. They’re doing a unit on poetry. They don’t know where to start.” No problem I’ll take care of it.
So I would put together, I would take the curriculum or the syllabus and I would put together the resource list for them in hopes that the salesperson could sell that, that pitch package and the school would approve the budget and say, “Yep, go ahead. Here’s an invoice, you can go ahead and buy all those materials.” That was really the end goal.
A wonderful, wonderful, wonderful transitional role to come out of as a teacher. But I learned in just about a year in being that department, I could do so much more, give me bigger projects or give me other things to do so I could really sink my teeth in and shine how I know how to shine.
Pivoting into a Role in Marketing
I can put a presentation together, do the pitch deck. Let me build a deck out and present to some of the sales teams. I ended up doing that almost rogue, on my own, and it ended up being wonderful. And they said, “Well, maybe you should go into training. Would you want to train sales on how to do this?” And I thought, oh, I like doing it for fun once in a while and it’s interesting, but making that my full-time job, I just don’t know if that would meet my needs as far as my career development. And then that’s where the pivot into the marketing department came.
Yeah so listening to some of the things that you’re saying, it sounds like the way that this company is structured is you were a little piece, a little extension to the actual sales process where many SDRs or BDRs actually find themselves doing that role themselves. They’re the ones who are in charge of looking at the product that they have at hand and being able to actually find and source what are the best fits for their clients or customers and then speaking to those. You were actually kind of that middleman.
I could see where having that middleman position would be really fun and exciting to understand the entire process and a great stepping stone. But yeah, there isn’t the financial incentives that you would get with a sales position. If they sell the product, they get a commission. But most likely in your position, you may have felt a little bit of growth in that area, but also it was a really unique opportunity to understand the marketing, the sales, everything inside of this company. When they started to pitch marketing to you, had you been there long enough to really feel like that was the right fit for you, or were you still struggling to identify that as a next step?
Making a Leap into a New Career
Daphne, I was terrified because in my brain I’m thinking teaching is all I’ve known. It was my career for 10 years. I went to graduate school. I have a master’s degree in teaching. That’s my whole life. And now I’m really taking a step, not just outside the classroom and still tied to education. I’m making a huge leap into a career that I don’t know anything about. The way it was presented to me however, was one, we’re willing to take a chance on you. Two, we have mentors and people on this team who are so excited to have you they’ll be slow and patient while you onboard and begin to understand because you’re building the ship as you’re also sailing it you’re learning how to do it and how to craft messaging and how to do a pitch and how to work with copywriters. How do I want to build a landing page, and what’s the purpose of it?
You’re also learning the data and the metrics behind all of that and how to prove something was successful and we got clicks and this is the attribution. How do you know any type of marketing is ever successful? It’s not like you just put a billboard out and hope somebody sees it. This is education. And you have to craft your messaging, your wording very delicately around the end user is either a student, a parent, a teacher, an aide or assistant in a classroom. Or the big ones are the ones that hold the purse strings, your administrative team, your superintendents, people at a district level. Every message is so nuanced when you’re dealing with teachers and that’s why they needed me. I was like a secret weapon.
So you just said something that I feel like I have to talk about because from those teacher’s perspectives, when they start to look at education companies, a lot of times they get really hung up on why are these blogs that do not give a poop about us, these are not written for us. Nobody’s sending us emails or writing us support. Really great education companies are creating support systems for the teachers. They are creating the resources for the teachers, but many of the marketing departments do focus a lot of their efforts towards superintendents, principals and the IT directors because ultimately the teachers are not the ones who end up making these decisions. And I heard you say something like that as well. I know I was going to ask these types of questions a little bit in the future, but I’d love to get into it now. Working at an education company and working in different companies, what are the differences between B2B and B2C marketing strategies that you have seen utilized in a variety of different companies since you have experience across multiple industries?
Sure. I would say for B2C, for me I always thought about persona. And persona is used a lot in marketing. And depending on what industry or really what company you are at, personas can take on a very important meaning and the way you craft your marketing is around what that persona, who that persona is, what you anticipate that persona doing with your product, whether they’re using itâ€¦
Sometimes they’re not the purchaser, it’s not their decision to make. So you’re crafting messaging and campaigns and all of your marketing around these different personas. And like I said, some industries put a lot of weight into that.
For B2C that’s not necessarily the case at all. You are looking at budgets and spends, and you are thinking much more about the money aspect of it, the financials, what they’re going to actually sign an invoice and where that money’s going to go and the flow of that money.
Almost like a circuit making connections with the funds flow this way. This is how much they have to spend. This is how much we have to spend on a campaign and so on and so forth. You’re not thinking about the person behind the product or the usage of that product. There’s no face or a name. I mean, when you start thinking about personas in the industries I’ve been in and at the companies I’ve been in, we’ve actually gone so deep as to like pictures of the person, a name, what they do, what is their salary? What do they do for fun? Are they married or not? Do they have children? What are their interests? You really build out who these people are, age bracket.
Clarifying Marketing Terms
So not to interrupt you. I think there may have been a slight tweak that B2C is what you mean when you’re talking about the company’s business.
So for some reason I always thought B2C was business to consumer and B2B was business to business.
Yes. Yeah. And that’s true. Yeah, yeah. Am I explaining it the wrong way? I’m sorry.
I think we got it switched up. Oh, okay. So B2C, the big bucks are in B2B-
But B2C is when we are thinking whether or not that person likes Pepsi over Coca-Cola or if-
That person has children at home that are going to be taking some time off of their plate, who is the person that we’re selling to? Where B2B is going to be, how do we prove the return on investment for the company? What are big company making decisions?
Marketing Differently to Consumers & Businesses
Correct. That’s 100% accurate. B2B is when I talk about like the circuit and the money and how it travels and the revenue and your return, your ROI, your return on the investment B2C, B to consumer, B to customer is building out those personas and really thinking about who is the person, that drives a lot of how you put together a marketing campaign, the money that you spend on marketing looks it’s very different. The assets and the collateral that you create for B2C is so much more personal and intimate. And it’s emotional. For me at least I get much more invested in my B2C type of campaigns because B2B it’s just somebody signing an invoice and saying, “Yes, I’m willing to pay this because I got budget approval.” You don’t necessarily ever know to whom that product is going or who will be the end user of that product.
It’s less personal. And I think for me, that’s a nice segue into affiliate marketing, which is where I ended up now and what I’ve been doing for the past two, two and a half years in marketing, because there’s a person, there are people, there’s personal relationships. There’s more conversation that you can have, even though I work in an industry that’s very, very B2B. There are still people behind that. And that’s what really gets interesting. And we can get into affiliate and partnership marketing, if you want now, or we can wait, but it’s a good kind of segue in explaining why I love what I do because it’s a lot about having conversations with people.
The Connection Between Marketing and Sales
Yeah. Before we move on into even deeper dives into marketing in general, I think something that the audience really struggles with, sales in general. I know is such a struggle for teachers to see themselves in any sort of sales position and marketing is not as salesy, but it does have components of needing to be confident with your sales pitch.
How did you find yourself falling in love with marketing and sales, but still staying true to yourself as a teacher? As someone who likes to serve others and is not as financially motivated as maybe some people may assume sales positions or marketing positions are.
Yes, there’s a lot to unpack there. I’ll start off by saying this. I have been asked on dozens of occasions at this point, why aren’t you in sales? And I typically give a very straight answer, that is not how I’m motivated. I am not intrinsically motivated by I ringing a bell and saying I met my quota. That doesn’t get my gears going. It doesn’t get my juices flowing at all.
Looking at what Motivates You
I am motivated by helping people, seeing people smile, seeing people happy, working collaboratively with people on a pendulum, or if you think of a spectrum. On introvert to extrovert, I’m way over on the extroverted side. And sales is a lot. If you do it the right way, it is very much relationships and engagement, conversations. And that all sounds great but at the end of the day, I would argue it’s probably 90% of sales people will say, “I’m motivated by money, I’m motivated by I’m going to get my nice bonus or I’m going to get those commissions.”
Or not just money, but numbers in general. They’re the type of people who have those way off challenges with themselves, or if they started to gauge their metrics in any sort of place they may be motivated by, I got 10 to percent better on my reading reports this year, I got 15% better than the year before. It’s those types of motivated by numbers, not necessarily your bank numbers, but that doesn’t hurt for anyone.
Absolutely. That is the thing that keeps them moving forward is like, okay, I had this many last month, so I need to beat it by this percentage. And it’s those numbers you’re a 100% correct on that. I don’t care about that type of stuff. And so that’s kind of like why I never said I want to go into sales, but I like being sales adjacent.
I like being on that team that’s helping them. That’s cool that they get to ring the bell and that they get to celebrate and they can have big wins. But I like the satisfaction of knowing I helped get you that win. I helped engage with their customer. I hooked and reeled in that customer for you. You can take all the credit, that’s cool. I know behind the scenes I did the work to help you.
The majority of those type of people will come back and write me a thank you note, or send me an email and to say, “Thank you so much, next time we’re at a meeting together in person, I’ll buy you a drink.” Or something because they realize that there is effort behind the scenes.
Getting into sales, for me it’s because I’m personally not motivated that way. And like I said, I like being on the sidelines and helping and I’ll step in and do the presentation and then let them take the credit for it. I’m fine with that. I don’t think that teachers should be intimidated if it might be a career possibility. We are good at certain things that you just cannot teach people who’ve never been in the profession of teaching to do.
Strengths Teachers Have
We are naturally good in front of an audience. We are used to having an audience change sometimes every 45 minutes or every 90 minutes you have a new audience in your theater or your classroom. So you’re used to having to plan for, okay, I know my audience is changing and this is the way I have to change presentation styles, or just the presentation in general. Or I go from a sophomore class and the bell rings and now the seniors are in the room and it’s a whole totally different subject and we’re reading something different. I have to change the way that I present to those seniors. That’s the way I approached teaching at least it was very performative. I always felt like I was somehow on stage. Boy, does that translate well to anything in sales, because you have to change the customer. The customer, that was your students.
Every time you do a sales pitch, you’re pitching it to a different type of audience in changing your objectives. Go back to doing a lesson plan. And I know that may sound old fashioned, but I still think of it in terms like that, doing a calendar, doing your lesson plans, how do you plan out your day, keeping a book or a digital book. Having to do all of that planning and that work, you fill a pipeline and you work with your CRM and you do the exact same thing in sales is the best way I can explain it.
In translation, teachers come ready-made to do it. We take instruction very well. We have lots of opinions, but we also love to like play in the same sandbox with people. I think we’re naturally collaborative. We enjoy working with people. We love to have conversation.
You can give us a challenge and we will somehow strategically figure out how to meet that challenge or be successful. We celebrate tiny victories. We celebrate little wins. That’s really important in the sales world, chipping away at that big deal. Well, you have to progress. What are the benchmarks to getting there?
Advice for Teachers Leaving the Profession
I don’t think it should be prohibitive if someone is thinking about uh oh career pivot out of teaching, I’m not ready to make a move into marketing, but boy, I would love to get into a different industry. Maybe customer service, customer support. I love to give people tips, I get frequently asked are there tips on transitioning out of the classroom? Where should I look? And I say, don’t ever close the door on seemingly—these are job titles that I would never apply for, I don’t even know what this means.
A lot of what’s in a title is nothing. You have to really read the job descriptions to understand. And when you start reading, it’s like, yeah, I can do this job. I can talk to customers. I can help them troubleshoot. You did that as a teacher, you were troubleshooting all the time so yeah, you can do it. It’s just about how do you sell those type of skills on a LinkedIn or on a resume, how you position yourself well, and I know you are an expert in talking about how to do that and giving examples of what that looks like in real life in practice.
Working with Teachers in Business
Yeah. I heard a couple things and this is one thing I never have really talked about on the podcast, but I heard you talking about all the ways that teachers are amazing. And two things that came to mind to me. I don’t know if this is the right way to phrase it, but unfazed.
We go throughout our work day as a teacher, and there are so many, buck wild distractions that after I left the classroom, I would be in professional development trainings and maybe something strange would happen and I would be unfazed and get through this awesome conference session. And my coworkers would say, “How did you do that? Did you see that thing going on in the background? I was so distracted.” We’re geared for this. You can’t shake us. And that comes through with marketing, professional development training, with sales positions, that we are ready to pivot on a moment’s notice because we’ve been thrown so many weird teacher moments throughout our professional journey.
But another thing that came to mind is when I was thinking about all the skills that you were talking about, that teachers have in your own personal experience and my experience with working with multiple marketing directors and ultimately going with the one who has the teaching background is teachers are great in these positions because they’re so empathetic. So when you are drafting a copy, a sales pitch, starting to think about it, you are writing it because you love your customer. You are writing it because you are listening to their needs and you’re trying to help them find solutions.
But the people from a marketing background that don’t have that sometimes do come from a more, we’re willing to bend the truth, or we’re willing to say things that aren’t in the customer’s best interest in order to make a sale. And ultimately, most companies do not want that. If it makes them $500,000 today, but ends up being a PR nightmare tomorrow, that is every company’s worst nightmare. And so they look for those people who are great listeners, who are great communicators and who are able to think outside the box of actually finding solutions, which I think a teacher naturally is.
Marketing & Authenticity
So much good stuff there. Okay. So first I will say to speak to the last part first, authenticity matters and in marketing, especially if you’re marketing to educators, which in my current role, I don’t do, but previously it was all about authenticity. I could never, ever approve or put my signature on anything in marketing, whether it was a big multi month campaign or launching something like a big catalog or any marketing collateral, anything down to a flyer or a tweet that was not authentic, that I didn’t think had the best interest of a teacher at its core.
That is fundamental to teaching and absolutely fundamental to marketing period. Whether you are doing B2C, B2B, whatever it is, it better be authentic. Consumers are savvy. I don’t care what the product is. I don’t care who is seeing it, whose eyeballs are on it or who’s hearing it. It has to be true and authentic.
This is just in our day to day life, we can pick up on the advertising, any marketing, anything thrown at us, that’s like, well, I don’t want to do that because it’s meaningless to me, it doesn’t mean something. You got to bring it. And teachers are excellent at that because we’re great empathizers, certainly.
Resiliency, Innovation, Preparedness
To go back to another point, I would use the—I wrote a couple things down. We’re good at this, too. We take lots of notes and then we want to come back to it. Resiliency, innovation, preparedness, I think of my days as a teacher and I would plan onâ€¦ We had 45 minute periods at the schools where I taught. And I would usually plan for an hour, an hour and 15 minutes to think if this goes fast, I have to have other things I can’t just say, “Oh, okay, yeah, start working on your homework.”
I want to fill that 45 minutes of teaching time. I want it to be meaningful to those students and I don’t want to cut corners. So we tend to over prepare for everything. Anything could happen and you have to be ready, as a teacher you’ve got to be ready for anything. And we are so good at that. So when you give me a project now in marketing, I’m going to check every box and I’m going to go above and beyond. I’m going to be like that extra – I’m going to be extra. I’m going to do a little bit more because what if one little thing doesn’t work. I want to have a backup plan. I want to be over prepared.
Tools to Learn for Roles in Marketing
I want to go into a couple quick tips. I feel like I could talk to you for hours on this, because you have so much experience when it comes to marketing, you’ve gone to a couple different companies. You’ve had some really impressive job titles. What tools, whether productivity tools like Asana or Trello, what type of tools have you seen used just for even marketing project management, really quick things that teachers may be able to actually a brush up on and learn if they’re looking for roles in this universe.
Great. I would say, look at platforms and tools like Marketo, I know that can be very overwhelming and by no means does anybody have to be an expert in it. But if you’re look looking at going into marketing, they’re going to ask about marketing automation tools. And one of the big ones right now is Marketo because it helps to deploy, but also do analysis on the back end. So we’re talking about I deploy an Instagram post, how many clicks, how many impressions, how many form fills came from that? You want to see data and metrics on the back end to understand how effective your marketing was.
So you can do free tutorials. There’s lots of people who talk about that tool. So that would be one. You don’t have to invest in the actual piece of software to learn it, but I would say have at least a rudimentary understanding of what Marketo can do and how powerful of a tool it is for marketers.
I would say brush up a little bit on analytics. So Google Analytics would be something really smart to again, have a rudimentary understanding of. So again, we launched a big campaign and we have all theseâ€¦ We call them parameters. These are the little additional things added onto links. So when you click them, it cookies you, it creates a little tiny digital footprint of whomever clicked on that link. Well, marketers use all those little pieces and bits of information to understand how effective was that piece of marketing. How many clicks to that land ending page did I get. Again, where is it ranking in Google? And just understanding how powerful of a tool and analysis on the backend for marketing.
Marketing is by nature very creative and creatives can get lost in a lot of ether and we get lost in a lot of the theoretical things, but then we get lost in the creative and the art and what is it going to look like and how the design of it and the look and feel. And then we tend to forget the backend and the data analysis pieces of things. So Marketo for deployment and a little bit of the analysis, Google Analytics. Again, lots of free tutorials blogs that you can read just for a basic rudimentary understanding of on the back end, what Google Analytics can help you do.
Hootsuite, and that’s very powerful. H-O-O-T Hootsuite is powerful for understanding deployment and then design and deployment for social platforms. So if you want to do the same look and feel across all of your social platforms, Hootsuite helps you to manage all of that.
And then something I would say very important to learn is something involving SEO. So search engine optimization because our whole world is digital right now. And what you need to understand is things like keyword ranking, and what Google Analytics shows you on one side, how do you get to that is how you work with SEO.
So optimizing a webpage, optimizing your blog, how do you get ranked on Google? Well, it’s all SEO. And so understanding maybe like Ahrefs or I call it SEMrush or S-E-Mrush, Moz. Any of those tools you can watch very cool YouTube videos of people playing around behind the scenes, on those types of dashboards. How to do a keyword analysis, how to do an analysis of a URL. And you plug that in and it’ll kind of show you behind the scenes of what is the website? How powerful is it, how much authority does that website have? Very powerful tools for marketers, because then we can pull different levers and push different pedals to understand how do we get our page ranked or what can we do on the page with different wording or phrases to optimize the power of a site. Or even just an individual blog on the site.
Following Marketing Influencers and Agencies
Those are some tools that I would definitely recommend. And then just there’s a lot of marketing influencers and it’s important to know who to follow and who not to. So there’s some really good agencies, branding agencies, especially like on, LinkedIn, they push out a lot of content and they’re very good. And I would say the tried and true ones would be ones that we widely recognize.
Understanding a Teacher’s Role in Marketing
It’s important to kind of follow them and understand, begin to understand the lingo and how people talk about marketing, but by no means would you ever be interviewed and anybody would expect you to be an expert. They’re hiring you because you have a different type of skillset that somebody out of the box cannot possibly come with teacher experience.
That was a very wise piece of advice that I was given when I first joined the marketing team. And I was so nervous and I was sitting in—I think she was the vice president of marketing at the time. And I was like trembling and I said, “I don’t know if I can do this job.” And she reached across the desk and she said, “Natalie, I and the team here can teach you the marketing stuff. I can’t teach a person with a marketing background, the teacher stuff. That’s why I need you on the marketing team.” And I was just like, “Whew, this is awesome.” So if you can find people like that to guide you to work with, to manage, to mentor you, that’s really, really critical because they’re your advocate and your ambassador to help you a little bit.
Another thing is just look for the free tools. There’s so much free and you have to be a little bit discerning to understand some of its junk, some of its garbage, but who are some of the, like I said earlier, some of the bigger brands and the names in the marketing world that you can touch and do your research and see are they pushing out small training videos? LinkedIn Learning is amazing. So if you want to learn again, just rudimentary early career type of marketing acumen, and just the lingo, LinkedIn Learning is also a really good place. I advise people to look there really frequently.
You do not need to be an expert!
So you gave 1000 bullet points of the most amazing resources. And what I will say is going to be very easy when we’re actually making the transcript. Ashley, my marketing director, who’s in charge of all the podcast transcripts. She uses half, if not three fourths of every tool that you mentioned. And she probably is excited that she knows how to spell them all and she’s typing them all in right now, hi Ashley.
But I want to go back to that conversation that we had for a second and I want to just make some clarifying statements because the audience is probably, that was a lot of content and now I’m overwhelmed. And so my first pieces of advice to follow up with that is you are giving so much great advice, especially for those who want to leverage their experience and get into higher paying and mid-level roles.
You do not need to have a thorough understanding to break into marketing. You could potentially get an entry level role as a content writer, maybe a social media manager, a copywriter or curriculum writer on the marketing team who will then start to teach you of these other programs. If you’re not trying to go into Natalie’s exact position as a marketing manager, a higher up, higher paying salary. But for anyone who is hearing all of these technical roles, people who are in the Teacher Career Coach course already have heard me say this exact—or not technical roles but technical tools, people who are in the course have already heard me say this, but I always thought when I was starting a business, that I was going to love writing my own blocks. It seems so fun and Natalie, you are a former English teacher.
Exploring Roles & Getting Your Hands Dirty
And then I quickly realized for some reason I loved search engine optimization. I am a data driven educator. I like the numbers. I’ve always been that type of person. And so SEO, if you hear her say all these buzzwords and you start to feel overwhelmed, you might not know how much you love working with these types of strategies until you get your hands dirty. I never thought I would’ve cared about UTM tracking or SEO or any of the stuff she’s talking about. Same with Ashley, but Natalie, it sounds like you are more focused on these analytics than you are the words as a former English teacher. Have you found that to be the case?
Yeah. And I think it’s exactly what you touched on. I didn’t think I was going to, but as soon as Iâ€¦ The dashboards and the tools that I was referring to, many of them are very intuitive. So as soon as you plug something in, it leaves little breadcrumbs for you. And it’s so interesting to do the research. Before you know it hours have gone by, and you’re down this rabbit hole of research, because all you’re doing is researching how to improve something, how to optimize something. So these tools where you’re plugging in just words, or just keyword phrases, or you’re putting URLs into these, and it’s giving you big, chunky pieces of information back, you’re like, “Oh, that’s what this means. And this is how I can leverage it.” I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it, but it was. . . When I begin to work, I get very deep into things. Like I said, hours will go by and I’m like, “Wow, I didn’t even get up to use the restroom or grab a snack because I’m so deeply involved in what I’m doing.”
Growing in a Career in Marketing
A lot of that is the keyword, the SEO, the optimization, because there’s a lot of analytical thinking behind it. And again, as teachers, we come ready made out of the box with that type of thinking. So it’s one thing to sit and write a blog or edit. And it’s like, I don’t want to do that anymore. I did that. I cannot tell you how many papers I edited as an English teacher. I’m sort of done with that now.
I want to write the outline that gives like the structure to the blog, and then pass that to a freelance writer or pass it to somebody else on the team that has that technical expertise to write about cloud infrastructure and bare metal and storage components. I don’t have that technical expertise, but that was also not why I was hired in my current role. So I like to do the outline because doing that type of writing. It’s all the research that goes into producing an outline, handing it off and knowing that outline or I call it a content brief is so complete that that writer is going to produce a kick ass piece of content because I gave them everything. I front loaded them with so much information and inevitably they always come back to me and like, I love working with you because you’re so thorough. It’s like-
And that’s the teacher—100%. What advice would you start to give any teachers who are on the path to marketing who want to start to reinvent themselves or rebrand themselves as a marketing expert, just getting started? What are some of the quick tips that they can start doing?
Advice for Teachers who want to go into Marketing
First thing I tell people always, it’s my number one piece of advice. Go look at job descriptions. So click around on things on Indeed. Just type in marketing or marketing associate, marketing manager. Don’t pick an industry, leave it really broad and just start clicking some of the results that you get. Same thing on LinkedIn. When you go into the jobs side of LinkedIn search marketing associate, marketing assistant, marketing coordinator, and read the actual job descriptions and start noting what are the words that you’re noticing a lot? What are they asking of these candidates? What is the role really going to do? Then reverse engineer your resume for that. If marketing seems like a path that you want to go down, do that research first. I always say, start with job descriptions, don’t type in VP of marketing.
Because then you’re going to get that list from earlier. Just go back six minutes or so, and write down all that and become an expert at it. Hurry.
Yeah, exactly. Think of marketing, assistant, marketing coordinator, those are really, really good titles, especially for moreâ€¦ I don’t want to of call us entry level because we’re not. We’re entry to that role or to that industry, but we’re not entry level.
We are extremely intelligent people who come with varied degrees of education and many of us come with master’s degrees and it might not be in that exact area, but we’ve gone to school. You don’t have to train us on everything. We’re quick studies. We learn very, very quickly. So that’s why I think looking at the wording and job descriptions is very good. Even if it’s just like maybe 10 of them, you’ll start noticing lots of overlap and you’ll be begin to understand what do they really need me to do on this team? How am I an individual contributor to the success of this team? So start with job roles.
Another piece of advice I touched on it would be, oh, the dreaded, I have to redo my resume and it seems like such a daunting task and it does take a level of expertise. So I do recommend if you can find somebody that will help you do it, find somebody that understands the ATS system or understands how to distill information down. I’m not good at being brief. And so for me, having to edit my resume was very difficult. I turned it over to a professional to help me with that. And there are a lot that are very expert in helping people leave the world of teaching and pivot into different industries and different types of roles. That’s what they’re good at. Let them do it for you because otherwise it seems so overwhelming. Then you’re just like in inertia, you don’t know how to start so then you never do. Don’t let that be the handicap. Don’t let that be the boulder that weighs you down, hand it off to somebody and let them do it.
Making Professional Connections
And then third, connect with thought leaders with people discussing this, search your hashtags in places like Twitter, in places like LinkedIn. Find professional communities and you don’t even have to connect with people on LinkedIn. Remember, you can go to the little dots and just say follow. You can follow people, you don’t need to keep reaching out and saying, “I want to connect with you. I want to connect with you.” Just follow them. So that way you see their feed, you see what they’re commenting on and then you can make a better, more educated pitch to them to say, “I would really like to connect with you and here’s why.”
But look at people are commenting on. Ed tech is really big right now. There are thought leaders who are experts at curating lists of job openings. And you probably know to whom I’m referring on LinkedIn, and this is what they do. Leverage their knowledge. But again, you don’t need to connect with them. You can just follow them and then you’ll see their posts.
So find that professional network of people and see what they’re blogging about. See what they’re writing about. How are they commenting? What types of comments, they’re leaving, things that are worth reading. They’re not just commenting to comment. And I think don’t fall in into the trap of you have to be relevant on social media to get noticed. No, you’ll get noticed because what you’re posting is informative, it’s thoughtful. It doesn’t have to be provoking. It just has to be relevant. So comment and engage with people, but don’t necessarily message them frequently or say, “I want to connect with you.” Just follow them.
Using LinkedIn Professionally
So I don’t want to go on too long of a tangent here because we are late into this episode, but I feel like you brought up such a great point, depending on when this episode is airing. I may have had a past episode already all about best strategies on using LinkedIn. But one thing that I would like to make sure that I shout from the mountain tops from anyone listening right now is you will see people on LinkedIn who are airing their grievances about education in general. And this podcast does have a lot of candid conversations. My Instagram, my social media does have a lot of candid conversations about the real impact of the state of education and how it’s causing burnout and all of these issues.
However, do not use LinkedIn to air your grievances because there are people who are on there who are creating their audience based off of teachers transitioning from a marketing perspective, they are writing these comments but you commenting on it or using LinkedIn as your platform, especially if you are trying to market yourself as a content writer, a copywriter for an education company, that is not where you are going to want to do that.
You want to, especially if you’re marketing yourself to potentially work at education companies, you want to be an educator that is able to professionally write all of your content about education in a way that does not poo poo on the industry itself. And there are so many people that I see misspeaking on LinkedIn, not really knowing that the platform is used as basically your digital resume.
I would just put an exclamation point on the end of that, 100% absolutely so important. That is not the place to air your grievances. It is certainly not a place to—it’s not good for negativity. And think of it always like this, anybody on that platform could one day be a client of yours.
What Natalie Learned About Herself throughout this Process
Yeah. If the LinkedIn episode’s already up, please go back and re listen to that LinkedIn episode. But Natalie, thank you so much. This has been such a wonderful episode. I feel like we’ve gone over so many really important concepts when it comes to marketing. And I know that you have a really busy schedule and taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak to our audience is not easy. So I have the most gratitude for you for doing this. I want to end with one last question for you. From when you left teaching to where you are today, what did you learn about yourself during the process?
I am really good at rebranding myself. I think it wasn’t something I understood when I decided, okay, I’m going to leave my teaching career behind. It’s all I’ve known for 10 years, now what do I do? And the future me is now looking at the past me and saying, “Girl, you knew what you were doing. You just didn’t have a label for it.” And that is rebranding yourself and reinventing who I am and being very, very clear in that. And it’s like the coolest thing ever. I think teacher Natalie, she’d be super proud of the Natalie of today. So yeah, reinvention and a rebrand.
Well, you are an impressive powerhouse and I just thank you for coming on and sharing all of your wisdom with this audience. Thank you.
You are so welcome. It was my pleasure.
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Taking the First Steps to a New Career
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