I have read this article/interview (‘Career Opportunities’) with Jason Miller on the April 2017 issue of the British Airways ‘Business Life’ Magazine, while I was flying to London from Zurich for a 3-days conference in the British Capital.
This article has resonated so much with me that I had initially decided to write my own summary of the copy.
After attempting a few times to write my own version, though, I started seeing why nothing that I was writing came out as powerful or as vibrant… simply put, it’s Jason’s own voice in the article and his real-life own account of his life/career transformation journey as a digital marketer that made the piece so empowering.
Not having been able to find the article online, I have therefore decided to provide below here the full transcript of that article, to the benefits of the readers who will not be lucky enough to read it in the paper magazine.
Disclaimer of the Author: the entirety (from “Start” to “End”) of the article below belongs to British Airways Business Life Magazine and they are the sole owner of this content.
(Start of the article)
Jason Miller was a thirty-something working in the music industry when he decided he needed a career change.
But what to do?
As his all time idols (The Clash) would have put it “he didn’t wanna make tea at the BBC”… so he set out to renew himself as a 21st-century digital marketer.
This is his story…
I was 36 and my career in marketing was sinking. I was working in the music business: a dying industry that had decided it wanted to fight digital technology. And it was losing.
A side-effect of that sad state of affairs was that I was pretty much the least tech-savvy person you could have met – not by choice, but by a sheer lack of opportunity.
I recognized that I needed to get out of an industry that I always dreamt to be part of.
That was a wrench.
Even more dauntingly, I needed to start again, to reinvent myself.
And the way I saw it, the odds were not in my favor. Marketing was speeding up as a profession – and the pace of technological change was intimidating.
How could I start over when I didn’t know anything about the technical skills that all the hip marketers were talking about?
I felt like yesterday’s man – like my career was on the shelf before it had had a chance to get started.
But I was wrong. Wonderfully, exhilaratingly, life-affirmingly wrong.
I was wrong about the way digital was changing marketing – and just as wrong in believing that your past has to define your professional future.
Or rather, I hadn’t realized that if your past is going to change your future, you can make sure it does so on your terms.
How I started to turn things around
My first response to my mid-career crisis was to enroll in an online accelerated digital marketing certificate programme from UC Berkley – accelerated, so that I could be selective and purposeful, skipping all of the tangential stuff, and focusing in on the digital marketing skills he desperately needed.
But that was just the starting point.
I discovered that digital was changing marketing and professional life in other ways I hadn’t imagined – and those changes were creating opportunities rather than taking them away.
More than anything, I saw how the changing nature of work meant that my new career would be defined by who I was, not by guessing at who other people wanted me to be.
The minute I started dressing and behaving in a way that was true to myself, I was amazed at how many opportunities were unlocked.
Marketing in the digital age genuinely embraces creativity, diversity, and authenticity – and the digital age makes it far easier to connect to opportunities that align with your own, very personal brand.
That’s the insight that changed my life.
So, how did I learn how to put it to practice?
Building a personal brand
Your personal brand is essentially how the world sees you. It’s your reputation, who you are and what you value all wrapped up in the unique perspective that you bring to the world. And it’s not optional.
If you exist online in any way, shape or form, then you have a personal brand – whether you’ve decided to create a brand for yourself or not.
You have to take control of how the world sees you.
I haven’t used a resume for the last 6 years. I would really struggle to write one today.
On the very rare occasion that someone asks to see one, I simply direct them to my LinkedIn profile. The great advantage of that profile is that it doesn’t just tell people what I’m about – it demonstrates what I’m about.
The work that I’m most proud of is there for them to explore, as are the recommendations and the endorsements from people I value most.
The more active you are in managing your personal brand, the more control you have over your life. The things that make you unique in the world and in your industry are only going to be noticed if you put them forward and celebrate the every day.
An actively managed personal brand means you’re not waiting for things to happen to you – you’re inviting those things to happen to you.
Finding your voice
Just as the digital world gives you a personal brand, it also gives you a voice. That voice can be awkward, inconsistent and untrustworthy and sound the same as anyone else – or it can be distinct, fresh, exciting and something that’s true to you.
It doesn’t sound like these people – because otherwise, it couldn’t sound like me.
However, it reflects three personal brands that I’ve always identified with and three parts of myself that I want to put front and center. I try to take edginess from Axl, dry humor from Seinfeld and authority from Hawking (ambitious, I know – but with your voice, you can and should aim for these things).
This is where being true to yourself comes in. I’ve never fronted Guns ‘N Roses, but I’ve been a heavy metal and hard rock fan all my life. I spend my spare time as a concert photographer just so I can get closer to the action and live and breathe the attitude. But you know what? I’m also a bit of a geek. I love the technical stuff, the scientific detail, the fascinating facts.
And like lots of geeks – and lots of metalheads – I was a massive Seinfeld fan.
My new road brought me to B2B marketing – somewhere I never expected to find myself.
It was a pretty boring field – a tidal wave of white papers designed like instruction manuals or the type of pamphlets you’d see on the counter at a dentist’s office.
Everyone was doing exactly the same thing – and so I decided to adopt what I call the George Costanza approach to marketing and career management (from the classic Seinfeld episode, ‘The Summer of George’ “Do the exact opposite of everything the industry does. My Axl-Jerry-Steve turned out to be ideal for this – suggesting, provocatively but intelligently, that the way things had been done in the past wasn’t the way they needed to be done in the future.
It quickly got me creating content and sharing opinions that were full of new ideas, fresh thinking – and a different perspective. It was fun, too.
The web is your virtual Ph.D. in any topic you can imagine
The rising tide of digital skills that had so intimidated me when I was at my career nadir proved to be the last of my worries. In fact, it was a huge opportunity. As marketers, we’ve become so obsessed with the disruptive threat of the internet that we forget it is, fundamentally, the most incredible knowledge tool ever invented. These days, when I want to experiment with a new content format or technology, I just go online and start looking. The same applies to staying in touch with the issues that I care about in digital marketing. I built a list of the smartest marketers and the blog that they write for and added them up to an app called Feedly. I check this every morning to kick-start my thinking and give me great content to share with my social networks.
Relationships are everything
Every opportunity that has come my way since I left the music business has been the result of either of meeting people at conferences or networking events – or having the courage to reach out to people who inspire me on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. One of the first I reached out to was Ann Handley of Marketing Profs, who’d co-written ‘Content Rules’, the most empowering book about content and social I’d ever come across. Ann turned out to be as empowering and generous as her book. She gave me my first guest blogging opportunity, set me on my way, and fired a passion for content and social that still drives me today.
If I hadn’t taken that decision to build a brand that reflected who I am, I don’t think most of my opportunities would have happened at all. Maria Pergolino of Marketo, who gave me the big break in this second half of my career, hire me based on the brand that I was building online.
I learned more from her and Marketo in two years than I had in 12 years at my last music industry gig.
Never be the smartest person in the room
The more you realize the importance of relationships, the more you start to realize that your success is not all about you. You may be at the center of your own professional story – but the characters around you have a huge influence on that story.
Make sure they are the smartest people that you know – and try as hard as you can to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are- it’s the best way to keep learning, keep evolving and keep your life and career interesting.
It’s never too late to reinvent yourself
Seven years after leaving the music business I now travel around the world speaking at conferences about digital marketing and how to leverage LinkedIn. In addition, I now teach the very same digital marketing course at UC Berkeley that I took online to help transform my career. Even better, I still have the connection to the music world through my photography, the rock blog I write, and the friendships and professional contacts my love of music brings about. Now music’s no longer a source of frustration to me, I find myself loving it all the more.
If you’d asked me seven years ago if I wanted to be a B2B marketer, I would have said that you were out of your mind. That’s partly because I didn’t understand what this career could involve – but also because I hadn’t understood the extent to which the digital age enables career reinvention. It’s never too late to decide you need to do something else – but first, you need to remind yourself who you really are.
(End of the article)
There are so many things that resonated with me and my own life at the moment I read the article, and I feel so filled with the emotions as I write this that I will have to put things in order.
THIS is my own reading of Jason Miller’s account:
- YOU are one unique human being and NOBODY, NOTHING will be able to replace YOU
- Learning new skills is not only possible, but it’s never been easier than today thanks to the Internet
- Taking the first step towards change, and keeping the pace, every day, will get YOU to your destination
- The DIGITAL WORLD opens up unprecedented opportunities, for those who are willing to discover them and put them to use
- Being YOUR-TRUE-SELF has never been cooler and sought after!
- You are what you make of your life
- You must surround yourself with GREAT AND SMART PEOPLE who can help you elevate your skills
- You must get a focused EDUCATION (in digital marketing, if that’s your thing)
All these are precepts I truly believe in. These ‘words of wisdom’ have opened my eyes to the rest of my life.
The digital world is a wonderful place to be, and we all need guidance and support to learn these new skills, apply them and build the best possible brand for ourselves.
Because your digital brand is a direct digital reflection of your physical and mental self.
Jason Miller was 36 when he decided to change his life and started his journey doing what defined the rest of his own personal path to success: he got himself an education.
And not just ANY education, but a specialistic one from professional and reputed Institution.
You really are as lucky as you’ll ever get: you have NOW a great opportunity to learn experts digital skills, to become a professional digital marketer, to surround yourself with people that are much smarter than you are (no offense!) and who will help you get where you need to be.
If you are in any way considering to finally make a turn in your life, become a digital marketing professional and to learn skills that will ultimately disclose to you the opportunities of the digital world, to reinvent yourself and transform your life and your career in unprecedented ways, there’s never been a better place than here and now.
To your success.