“Job” is not a bad word

Sometimes I feel like “job” has become a bad word. We are afraid of saying it, as if by saying it we are going against the new common sense. As if we are parting away from the “tribe” that everybody now wants to be a part of. You know that tribe, right? The “I don’t want to have to work for them for the rest of my life” tribe. We are afraid of admitting that we do – in fact – have a job. To have a job has become a bad thing.

There is a movement going on that is based on the premisse that people should no longer have jobs. Everybody should work for themselves, be their own bosses and choose what they want to do and when they want to do it. This movement states that jobs constrain us and limit us of achieving all the glories that we were meant to achieve. Author James Altucher calls it the “Choose Yourself” era.

For some, entrepreneurship is the new job and the startup is the new workplace. Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur. Everybody now has an “idea” they are sure will make them millionaires. The fact is, most people never actually execute their ideas. A shitty idea with perfect execution may earn you ten thousand dollars. MAYBE. But the world’s best idea with NO execution will make you zero dollars. FACT.

There are also the excuses people give about why they haven’t acted on their idea: no money, no angel investor (I don’t even know what that is), no venture capital (don’t know what that is either), no time, no team, no technical knowledge. Or maybe the world hasn’t conspired to make their idea become a real product, service or company. Eventually, the idea will die, reality will check in and they will realize that maybe they shouldn’t have quit their job just yet.

So maybe entrepreneurship isn’t the answer. How about offering one-on-one services, like a freelancer or a liberal professional? Even the world’s best business consultant may find that it’s difficult to enter the market or even find new markets. Not everybody is an expert in spotting trends, finding their ideal customer or validating ideas. Ramit Sethi argues that he can teach anyone how to be rich. Through his products and services, he teaches how to become an awesome consultant or freelancer. He even helps people to find their dream jobs. I have no idea. It may work for some people, but it certainly doesn’t work for everybody. 

There are millions of possibilities for making money and satisfying career. They are all great, but all of them don’t work for all of us. Or maybe they even do, but at a different moment in a our lives. Sometimes we have to go through the “job” phase before we can move on to doing our own thing. But, we tend to want to quit our jobs the minute we feel dissatisfied, or feel that our potential is not being tapped into, or when we believe we earn too little or even when we believe that we’re better than our current rank.

Like everything else, sometimes work sucks. We feel pressured, we feel insecure, we feel unmotivated. It happens to everybody and it doesn’t mean we should quit our jobs on the spot (although I’m guilty of having done that, twice). Jobs are important.

I believe that some people are meant to have jobs for their entire lives. Some love it. Some don’t love it, but are fine with it. Some people look at their jobs as being secondary in their lives. That “thing” that they have to do 9 hours a day before they can go do the important things. They’re fine with that. Most people I know fall into that category and they’re happy, as far as I can tell.

All jobs are necessary and we need people for them. Look at the most basic of jobs. What if all the street-sweepers and garbage collectors in the world decided to quit and open their own businesses? These are fundamental jobs and they are important and the people who work at them are superheroes. What if there were no doctors, nurses or attendants at hospitals? What if there were no waiters at restaurants? What if hotels had no staff? What if there were no pilots or flight attendants on planes? If everybody was an entrepreneur of a freelancer, who would drive public buses or teach at schools and universities or help us at stores and supermarkets? Who would we call when – God help us – our internet crashed? Who would create, produce, market and sell every single product that we own – from cookies to the iPad?

Jobs are necessary. They serve a purpose. Many countries in the world are going through deep financial crises; including Brazil, with a 13% unemployment rate. So, to even have a job nowadays is a matter of pride and a reason for feeling grateful. It doesn’t matter whether you love it or not. We all have mouths that need to be feed, roofs to cover our heads and pillows to sleep on.

Job is not a bad word. Not for everyone. Not all the time. And for some of us, not forever.

Some people are meant to be employees, some are not. We have to figure out in which category we belong to. And take our time.

Until then, we should all just keep our jobs.

Note 1: We should all take a moment and think about government-related jobs. We should definitely cut all of those.

Note 2: I put the links up for angel investor and venture capital, but didn’t really go through the trouble of reading the wiki pages, so I still don’t know what they are.

How I failed to teach my team how to learn – and got fired because of it

I worked at a company for one and a half years as a team coordinator. I had 11 collaborators, from interns to senior analysts. Despite the names of our ranks, we were all new to our craft. We had come together from different backgrounds into this newly formed team to help the company thrive in a time of economic disaster throughout the country.

I had no idea what to do.

How do you teach your team when you are a novice yourself?

My first action was to assembled the team in my office and let them know that we were on the same boat. We were all apprentices. We had to learn together and we had to learn fast. We had to deliver.

Learning to create reports on Excel and memorizing formulas was pretty easy and we all learned fast. But, analyzing all the information and turning in the reports with due analyses was a bit harder. We had to learn what to tell the sales team so they could meet and ultimately over-deliver on their goals. We had to make the company grow.

And learning technicalities is also easy. We excelled in that as well. We were a good team.

But, there was more that we had to learn. We had to learn to work together, to respect each other’s differences, to help bring up to speed those who were a little behind. We had to learn our weaknesses and strengths and work on them. We all had to learn to be leaders.

Quite a task.

What to do?

I had to start somewhere, so I asked my team to do two things. First, only read and respond to e-mails twice a day and for no longer than two hours. This would keep them from wasting too much time on unimportant things and it would keep annoying, needy people away. It would also improve productivity. If something was urgent, people would call or come looking for us at our office.

Nothing was ever urgent, so now we bought some time.

Second, I asked them to take one hour a day to read, watch, listen, and learn. Whether it was magazines, newspapers, TED videos, online courses, anything! They should spend one hour each day learning something new. Then, they should share with everybody else something interesting that they found, so that the whole team could benefit from each one’s individual learning.

I didn’t want us to learn only about our technical jobs, but also about business, entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership, culture, human behaviors. I wanted all of us to become better humans and better problem solvers. I wanted us to learn to have millions of ideas every day, execute them well, and learn how to deal with all kinds of people at all kinds of situations. I wanted us to start growing immediately.

I thought this was the greatest idea I had ever had.

…and then things took a turn for the worse.

Boy, was I wrong.

It turns out that the culture instilled in employees inside an industry/sales business was that of “busyness”. We didn’t have to be busy 24/7, but we had to appear that we were. If we weren’t busy with something, we weren’t looking in the right places.

I always thought busyness was overrated and harmful. I believed that real productivity was to meet your deadlines (and over-deliver with quality) within your daily working hours, and grow professionally in the process. .

But, culture is a difficult thing to change. It took me three months to convince my team to get up from their chairs and leave at 4:48 p.m. (the end of their shift), because they were used to working extra hours every single day. When I looked at them during the day, it always seemed as if they were working on the most important project there ever was. But, I knew that this didn’t happen that often. Not everything that landed on our plates were extremely important or urgent. But, they thought that they had to work hard all the time, every day; even if there wasn’t much hard work to do. But, working hard isn’t just about making 10 Excel reports per hour. Learning is also work.

Nurturing the intellect is key to thriving in our careers.

After I set the task of learning everyday, I found out that they felt embarrassed to be seen with videos and articles on their computers. They were afraid that people would pass by them, look at their screen and infer that they were wasting company money and time with leisure-related activities.

No matter how much I told them not to worry and that I would take responsibility if ever we were confronted about this, they wouldn’t do it. They felt their careers would be damaged – even though I was their boss. Plus, they always had something important an urgent to do.

I persisted for 2 months, and then something happened.

During lunchtime, I ate at my desk so I could read. At the time, I was reading Tim Ferriss’s The Four-Hour Work Week, which was terribly translated to “Work for only four hours a week” (Trabalhe 4 horas por semana). This book is where I learned about the dangers of e-mail compulsive disorder and decided to change my approach to online letter exchange, as well as many other ideas to help improve my productivity. The “living a rich life” part of the book I’m saving for the not-so-distant future.

One day, a friend came to me and said, “Listen, I have to talk to you. Some guys from your team have been gossiping about you. They talked about that book you’re reading and said that you’re trying to dump all the work on them so you can work for only 4 hours a week. They think the whole ‘learn something every day’ thing is an excuse for you to work even less. Now, I know none of this is true and that you’re trying to create different ways to improve your team. But that’s not how you’re being perceived.”

Well, that certainly wasn’t what I expected.

If I ever felt like a failure in my lifetime, it was in that moment. The moment I realized that sometimes even our most respectable intentions can be misinterpreted. not everybody is susceptible to changes, to improvement. Some people conform to the norms and they’re very happy with it. It gives them security and peace of mind.

It wasn’t that they were afraid to learn something new and change the way they worked. They were afraid of how they would be perceived by their colleagues by doing things differently. They were afraid that their careers could be harmed if it turned out that I was wrong.

Conventionality was safe.

Innovation was risky.

I decided to change my approach to my team. I adapted to their standards and lead them in a way that they could follow and grow in their own terms. I also learned very much from them. I learned that following rules was guaranteed to keep you safe. That depending on the company you work at, keeping your opinions to yourself preserved you. That challenging status quo could get you fired.

I refused to be ordinary. And so I was fired.

(My team wasn’t, thankfully)

I wasn’t fired because I was incompetent. I was fired because I didn’t fit in at the company. We had different ideas for the future and for our employees. They needed someone who could sell; I was someone who could teach.

I started searching for another job two months before I was fired. When they finally kicked me out, I wasn’t surprised; I was delighted. We definitely weren’t a match.

I hope that my former team will continue to develop themselves and learn to grow and learn always and often. I hope they will understand the value of self-improvement and problem-solving. I hope they will benefit from it and grow because of it. If not, I hope they will be happy with the lives that they chose. We are all different, anyways. Happiness and success means different things to all of us.

Meanwhile, I’m getting in trouble at my new job with my weird, unconventional ideas.

I’ll take the risk.

I prefer to grow and stumble along the way, than to stay put and remain ordinary. (Remember, I am not a tree)

Who said change was easy?

If you’re not making great content, you’re not doing great marketing

This happened in 2011, the year I founded my former online marketing business, EuComunico. I decided that I needed to be creative if I wanted to start something new with no clients and no portfolio. I had the knowledge, but didn’t have anything to show for it. So, I decided to send an e-mail to no one else other than the guy I considered to be the BEST of the best: David Meerman Scott.

To my surprise, not only did he answer my e-mail readily, but he also agreed on lending me 15 minutes of his time for a Skype interview. Below is the original post that I published back in 2011 on my company’s now-extinguished website.

Without further ado, my first professional interview:

2961469474354.original

At the beginning of this month I had the opportunity to speak through Skype with David Meerman Scott, marketing strategist, keynote speaker and author of 7 books – including the bestseller “The New Rules of Marketing and PR“. David’s blog – WebInkNow – is considered one of the best marketing blogs in the world, according to AdAge Power 150. David has presented speeches to companies like Cisco, HP,Microsoft, Ford Motor Company, U.S. Air Force e Dow Jones, among so many others.

And for this reason, I didn’t believe when he agreed to give me 15 minutes of his time to talk about Content Marketing. It was just enough time.

At the end of our conversation, David asked, with the politeness that’s characteristic of Americans that, in case I wrote or published something about him, that I used his full name – David Meerman Scott. Here you can see why: https://youtu.be/W0HgzS0QEY8

LARISSA FERNANDES – You are a great supporter of content as an effective way to engage clients, correct?

DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT – Yes, I’m a really big fan of content marketing, because it allows anybody: individual people or companies or non-profit organizations or governments, anybody, to reach the people that they want to reach through the search engines and through social networks when they create valuable content.

LF – When, in your opinion, did this phenomenon around content begin? I understand that the notion of content has been around for decades, but when did companies and agencies realize that content was so important in the age of the internet?

DMS – You’re right that content marketing has been around for a very long time. If you think about the Michelin Guide, that’s a print publication. That’s a form of content marketing, because it is a guide for restaurants and hotels created by a tire company. Very good example of content marketing.

In terms of the web, for the first 10 years of the internet, and I’m talking from 1995 – when the public web first exploded – into around 2005, people weren’t thinking too much about content. They were thinking about creating things like banner ads, newsletters. But content itself wasn’t very big.

I identified content marketing – although I didn’t use that term back then – as a big thing back in 2004. I wrote a book that came out in 2005 which is called “Cashing In With Content“. It’s a dated book now, it’s not appropriate so much now because so much has changed. But I was one of the first people to talk about content marketing way back in 2005. So that’s what, about 7 years ago? And at that time, people were very very skeptical, because there weren’t that many people connected to the internet yet. And it didn’t seem like something that companies should invest in.

Its only been in the last one or two years that content marketing has really taken of, and the main reason for that is because people now understand that term, “content marketing”. I’ve been talking about content marketing since 2005, but everything I was telling people to do since 2005, and I have written 7 books since then and given about 500 speeches, is that it’s all about content marketing. It’s about creating great content for your website, it’s about creating YouTube videos. Now that we’ve got social media it’s about Twitter feeds and getting a Facebook page and all of that.

There’s been people like me who have been talking about it that have helped. Some companies that naturally gravitated to it that have helped a lot. And its only been in the last year that it’s taken off as a name “content marketing”, that people in the marketplace recognize it. But they’ve been doing it for longer than they actually believe.

LF – Do you think that the fact that content marketing has had a boom in the past year has something to do with social media becoming actual means of communication between clients and companies?

DMS – I think they’re related. And the main reason why I think they’re related is because if you want to use social media as a form of marketing, one of the things that you have to have is valuable content to share using social media. So if all you’re doing is participating on Facebook and Twitter but you don’t have anything interesting that you’re creating, it’s very hard to build a following, it’s very hard to get people to engage with you.

But if you’re creating interesting videos, if you’re creating blog posts, and you’re creating photographs, charts or other types of information, and then you’re using social networks like Facebook or Twitter or other networks to share that content, then that becomes particularly valuable. And therefore I think that the rise of social networks and the rise of content marketing are kind of interrelated.

LF – On that topic, many new and usually small companies are using social media and content to get their businesses out there and to attract new clients. For people who don’t have a lot of knowledge or experience in this specific area, what traps or strategies should they avoid so they don’t scare away consumers or so that they don’t look phony?

DMS – The biggest thing, the most important thing, is that you should not create content about your company’s products and services. The reason I say that is because you actually need to think about who are the people that you’re trying to reach. Who are the people that you want to contact. And then you need to understand what problems those people have that you can help to solve. And you need to understand how they think. Then you need to create the content with them in mind.

So it’s very much like journalism. I actually call it brand journalism because when you’re creating content marketing you’re actually thinking like a journalist and creating content like a journalist. And it needs to be valuable for the readers. But most marketing people are very bad at that. What marketing people are skilled at is creating content about their products and about their services. But again, that’s not what people are looking for and that’s not going to be successful – if you’re only creating content about your products and services.

LF – There are many tools and platforms that help professionals organize and schedule content for social networks, blogs and websites, such as Hootsuite. Something that I have noticed here in Brazil is that professionals tend to schedule most of the content. Sometimes a week in advance, two weeks in advance, a month. Do you think this is a proper way to work? And do people notice when there are many programmed posts and tweets? Can they pick it up, that the content wasn’t created at that specific moment?

DMS – I think people do pick it up. If you send a scheduled tweet you have to be willing to react if somebody comments back to you. I think it’s OK sometimes to use a scheduled piece of content. I sometimes do a scheduled blog post, if I want to release a blog post at a particular time. I might do it myself. But it’s a good idea to make sure that if you do that, that you’re prepared if somebody comments that you can comment back, if they tweet back to you that you tweet back to them.

However, I think what’s really important is that every day, every hour, every minute there is something happening in social networks that you can comment on. So if your only strategy is to think two weeks ahead of time, you’re not living in the moment, you’re not living in “right now”. It’s right now when things are happening. So I think that companies who are only focused on long-term planning are much less successful than the companies that create content and use social networks to create information that’s going to be valuable right now.

LF – In that perspective, what kind of professionals do you think should be doing social media and content. Should the companies do it themselves? Should they hire someone specifically for that job? Should they hire a web company, an agency? It’s so new that people don’t know yet how to organize that part of their strategy.

DMS – I think that the most valuable person you can hire for your company is a journalist. I think that companies should all have journalists on staff. I actually think having a journalist is more important than having a marketer. So what I recommend to companies is that they hire either a former newspaper reporter or a former magazine reporter or even a former broadcaster or somebody who does television.That should be the person who creates the content. I’m not saying that should be the person who is active in social media. Maybe you could have somebody else active in social media. But a journalist is the one who should be creating your blog posts. A journalist is the one who should be creating your research reports.

Again, like I mentioned earlier, the most important thing in content marketing is you need to create content that is valuable for your audience. You need to be a storyteller. And a journalist is a professional storyteller. So I think companies should have journalists on staff. Either full time, if you’re a larger organization, or you if you’re a really big organization you can have many journalists. If you’re a smaller company, you can have a part-time journalist that you pay on an hourly basis or once a week. But that’s the right person to create content.

LF – Something that I notice here in Brazil is that people tend to focus on social media as the solution. In the past year and a half we have had social media courses, specialization courses and MBAs in Social Media. We have social media professionals and social media agencies. It seems like the use of social media is more important than the content that is created. Brazilian companies hire what we call coolhunters or trendhunters more often than journalists, writers and copywriters. Have you observed this in other countries? Is it because both things: content and social media, are so new?

DMS – Yes. I think it happens because it’s so new. And I think that companies that really dig into it realize that hiring people who aren’t skilled at creating content is not going to work effectively. By the way, you mentioned copywriters. Copywriters are the worst people to be creating content. Because they are people who are good at talking about products and services. And products and services are not the right thing you should be talking about when you’re creating content marketing. So the right people to hire are journalists.

You do need to have somebody to help create your social media strategy and execute with social media. But like I said earlier, there’s a combination of creating great original content and then sharing it through social media and that’s incredibly effective. Much more effective than just social media by itself without the content creation.

LF – In a perfect world all companies will try to communicate with their clients the best way possible through the internet. How do you think companies and public figures can stand out, when you’re competitors are already doing a great job at communicating with their clients?

DMS – I don’t think every company is going to do this. Just like every company doesn’t do television advertisement, every company doesn’t do other forms of marketing. I think that for a very long period of time going forward, everybody who creates great content will be rewarded because there are so many different marketplaces out there.

Anyone of us is in a niche market. We create some particular product, and we may have some competitors, but  when people are looking for our type of product the goal should be to just be the best content marketers to create the best information in our particular marketplace. You don’t have to create the best information in Brazil, you just need to create the best information about automobile tires – if you’re in that business – and that’s a lot easier than trying to compete with everybody. I think there’s room for great content, just like there’s room for many newspapers and television stations. I think there’s room for many companies to create great content.