Starting out in a career, most of us have that responsible friend at work. You know, the one who does all her homework before big meetings, who leaves team happy hours before they get weird, and, more importantly, the person the boss trusts to get the job done.
My responsible work friend was Kelley Butler. We worked together as associate editors at Employee Benefit News, a trade magazine covering, you guessed it, employee benefits. Butler rose through the ranks to become editor-in-chief of EBN before she left for the world of journalism to become a content marketer, specifically for HR technology companies. She applied the same drive to marketing as she did to her decade in journalism.
"Content marketers are kind of a dime a dozen, but not everyone can do great content marketing and know what HIPAA is at the same time," says Kelley, who is now the director of content at Businessolver, a benefits administration technology provider. She specialized in a lucrative niche to leverage her expertise and earning power. (Data from the 2020 Managing Editor Career Survey shows that B2B content marketers' median salary is $14,000 higher than the median of their B2C peers.)
To succeed, Kelley used a secret weapon: a content marketing mentor. Here's why one can help you leap-frog in your career and how to find your own mentor.
A Content Marketing Mentor Sharpens Your Goals
Kelley lucked into finding her mentor. It was her boss at her first editorial job, Marlene Hendrickson, editor-in-chief of Techniques, a trade magazine for technical education. Marlene took Kelley under her wing and taught her how to set goals at each professional milestone.
When Kelley became editor-in-chief of EBN in 2006, she reached out to Marlene who advised her to develop a deep understanding of the publication's budget. "She was like, 'You need to get your hands on where the money is,'" Kelley says. "That's advice you can only get from somebody who's been there."
The guidance didn't stop at careers. Marlene was a resource for Kelley during every significant transition. "In my career and even after I became a mom, I was like 'OK, now I'm not just an editor in charge of a team and a publication, I'm in charge of a family. How do I do that?' And she was like, 'Let's workshop that.'"
Making the transition from journalist to content marketer was particularly difficult. Kelley missed her bylined articles. "It gives you a sense of self, a sense of purpose and a sense of accomplishment that you're probably not gonna get in marketing. And it took me a long time to find that." Kelley discovered new purpose and fulfillment in her content marketing role by getting deeper into her specialty and becoming a mentor herself.
Why a Content Marketing Mentor Is Better Than a Network
If you have to choose between finding a mentor or building a network, Kelley advises people to search for a content marketing mentor.
"Having a mentor is more important than having a network," Kelley says. "A mentor is someone who understands you and where you're trying to go and your unique goals and passion, and somebody who cares about helping you get there. Your network is interested in keeping you in their network to the extent that they can use you in the future. But if you have a great mentor, you can tap into their network."
How to Find a Content Marketing Mentor Who Is Right for You
Kelley was lucky she found her mentor at her first job. If you're not as fortunate, don't worry. It's never too late to find a content marketing mentor or have multiple mentors help you in your career.
The key is to make an effort to connect. For instance, Kelley's husband, a web developer, admired another developer's code, started following him on social media, attended conferences with him, and finally reached out to ask him for a quick chat. "Think about who you admire and figure out a way to meet," Kelley says.
At Managing Editor, we want to connect our community with their professional role models and people who find value in mentoring new marketers. It's why Mary Ellen gives a "Fangirl Friday" shoutout in her newsletter and why we bring people whose work we respect to Managing Editor Live. (I hope Kelley joins us this year!)
We are developing a program that will launch later this year to help people find a content marketing mentor. If you're interested in joining the beta test, please email me.
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