How I Ramp(ed)
I’ve worked as a content marketer at a few startups. That means I’ve been through a few different onboarding processes. Each time I think I’ve gotten a little better at it, so I’d like to share what I’ve learned in hopes that it can help other content professionals entering new roles.
Embrace Imposter Syndrome
As a journalist-turned-marketer, I’ve felt like an imposter most of my career. And I’d argue it’s been one of my greatest assets.
By definition, imposters have to try hard to fit in. They’re always on high alert, and can never let their guard down. If they do, they might be caught!
It’s normal for us to feel like imposters when entering a new role—especially if it’s a promotion. I’ve seen people react in one of two ways: They’re either crushed by the weight of expectation, or embrace the challenge and work twice as hard to prove they belong.
Embracing imposter syndrome helps you come to the desk every day ready to earn your keep. If you do this long enough, you’ll no longer feel like an imposter.
And once that happens, it’s time to go find a new role where you feel like an imposter once more. That’s how you learn.
Ask “Dumb” Questions
Ask questions. And if you don’t have a smart question, ask a dumb question. I once asked the Head of Sales how much our product cost when the information was listed on the homepage of our website.
Was that a dumb question? Yes. Should I have consulted the website first? Probably.
But if you’re afraid to ask questions to your colleagues—even obvious ones—then you’ll never uncover the interesting tidbits that can lend themselves to great content.
Remember: if the question occurs to you, it probably occurs to someone else too. In many cases, they could use a piece of content to help them answer it—and you have access to the experts (your colleagues) who can provide that answer.
My content calendar is stuffed with ideas that were the result of asking simple questions.
Don’t Be Intimidated By What You Don’t Understand
On my second day at a previous job, I was asked to write 2k words around the keyword “POS.” I had no idea what a “POS” was (at least in the context my manager was asking). I felt like a complete imposter—being asked to do something I had no business doing.
Rather than be intimidated by my lack of understanding, I asked dumb questions and learned (“POS” means “point of sale” !). To date, I’ve written about everything from business lending and bankruptcy to private equity and cryptocurrency. I had no prior knowledge of any of those subjects before having written about them—and I’d argue that made the content even better because I was able to apply my outsider perspective to create something that would be useful to people like me.
I think this “clean slate” approach is why you see companies hiring engineers and salespeople without industry-specific experience: they’d rather teach them how to do their job from scratch than have them unlearn bad habits. It works the same way in content marketing. Looking at the industry through “newborn” eyes helps you uncover topics ripe for explanation that might not occur to more experienced members of the organization.
TL:DR Embrace your ignorance—but don’t revel in it. Apply it to learn new things, then write about them.
They Hired You For a Reason
If all else fails, remember the people who hired you (probably) know what they’re doing. They saw something in you—even if you don’t see it in yourself. When I feel like an imposter, am afraid to ask a simple question, or am overwhelmed by what I don’t understand, I try to remember that a group of people spent time and resources to get me here. They’re not about to quit on me because I don’t yet know how much our product costs.
You will make mistakes, you will feel like a fool, and there may be moments where you feel overwhelmed. It’s called “ramping up” because the expectation is it will take awhile to learn how to do your job.
Spend that time well, and you’ll set yourself up for future success.