Author’s note: Best part of this post? I’ve now left teaching and returned to marketing. Different company, better boss, and a view of content marketing that seems to focus on only the few things that I truly enjoyed about marketing. Will it make a difference this time? We’ll see. But, no, I don’t take any of the sentiment stated below back.
When I tell people I left marketing to become a teacher, the most frequent response I get is “why”?
Okay, that’s wishful thinking. I usually get a “Good for you,” or “That will be so rewarding.” At first, I just assumed all of these people thought I couldn’t make a living because I was so bad at marketing. Then I realized that this was just their way of politely saying they didn’t really care.
I get it. I probably wouldn’t care either. But since you actually clicked the link and got to this site, I’m hoping you do (or maybe you’re just here for the trainwreck you think I’ll turn everything into?), so I’ll tell you why.
I left marketing cuz I was a shitty marketer. K, maybe not shitty, but I wasn’t anything more than “Good” or “Average,” regardless of what my paychecks said. Maybe I was decent, but deep down, my heart just wasn’t in it. I was only there for the writing.
I loved publishing, planning magazines and newspapers, and even small-time newsletters, which is what I did before the market dried up in 2009 or 2010 and someone decided I’d be perfect for marketing, which was how I miserably made my career for a decade before becoming a writer. Once most magazines went under, I was left with marketing. More specifically, I was left with “content marketing,” which wasn’t for me.
In marketing, I reallly only liked the meaty assignments, the ones that weren’t really marketing at all but were intended to help a customer or client learn and go deeper with a product or subject. These became marketing campaigns only when a company was desperate. “Where can we move the needle?” I was sure this was what they asked as they dusted off their virtual Rolodex and landed on my number. Except those assignments rarely came through. No great marketer ever hung their hats on making more from the same customers they already had. That wasn’t hot or sexy.
Real marketers — people who were good at their jobs (and there are some amazing marketers out there) — wanted me to do stuff that would directly result in customer growth and revenue. A ton of it. That didn’t really jibe with my interests. So between hating marketing (which may have also been precipitated by me working for a boss who was a lyin’-ass, micromanaging a-hole, and then jointing a super-small startup agency that never really went anywhere in its one-year existence before going under) and not finding anything emotionally satisfying in my work, I left.
Honestly there are people who love writing content and are probably great at it or at least patient enough to check their give a damn at the door, but I wasn’t one of them. I was too emotionally involved to write one more blog post where I pretended to be an old white guy or another infographic that showed the immeasurable value of a cheaply made widget that no one really needed anyway. I left.
I still do a little marketing as a side hustle (which is why I use terms like “side hustle,” no doubt), but unless I really know (and adore) the client, most projects I’m willing to take on need to be focused on educating a customer or prospect. I don’t write SEO copy — I hate it and I charge too much for most businesses to even consider asking. I jumped at a GDPR info piece a few years ago, however, because it gave me a chance to learn something I was unfamiliar with. That’s how I see marketing now: what do I get out of it beyond a check (which is always appreciated but not always enough to stay motivated)? If the payoff is good, I’m in.
Incidentally, I start year two of my teaching career next week. Year one was a shit show. Who knows what this one will be. Sometimes the classroom makes me long for marketing, where I knew what I was doing. But not really.