It’s not every day that I get to write a letter to my 22-year-old self. Ten years ago, I had little understanding of how much my content job would change my life. I started out writing blog posts for coupon, personal finance, travel, and fashion websites. I learned how to grasp concepts in-depth, and I figured out how to distill information into coherent narratives. I was writing eight to nine articles a day, working hard to sustain a level of quality and integrity.
Ten years later, my career has grown. I’m a known and sought-after educator and technologist. I run a storytelling company with a brilliant co-founder and I work with a team of people who I admire. My company’s clients are dream clients, and we’re solving real-world challenges. Collectively, our work has generated at least half a billion dollars in new sales. With content, we’ve:
- Helped Fortune 100 shipping and logistics companies build partnerships with startups
- Helped a solar panel manufacturer make its market entry into the United States
- Worked with internal think tanks at Fortune 50 companies to share economic data with the world
Storytelling has the potential to change lives. If you’ve entered the field of content writing—on a marketing team, for instance—you have infinite potential to grow in your career. There’s strong demand for content writers who can own different niches. This is a role that helps with industry education, user experience design, and sales. Content operations is a core function of a business. Every time you write you’re also researching, learning, and getting better at your job. There are certain skills that can help you level up. Here are the ones that helped me turn my content role into the career of my dreams.
3 Areas to Develop Your Content Operations Skills
These skills are fundamental, timeless, basic, and straight up fun to learn.
(If you’re a manager of content operations hires, you may want to share this list with your team.)
1. Be a Marketer in Everything You Do
Think of marketing as a multi-headed octopus. If you’re not familiar with the significance of the octopus—this is a creature with a distributed brain. The ability to design campaigns is an art. Can you analytically see how content fits into those campaigns? Even better.
Content operations requires a significant understanding of not just writing but also an understanding of sales, marketing, content strategy and operations, and more. Check out the latest results from The Content Operations and Strategy Hiring Handbook:
In addition to being able to understand the broader content operation, you need to be able to tie what you’re creating to overall marketing objectives. Here are some resources that can help you learn the mechanics of how marketing works:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing
- MarketingProfs Training and Resources
- Hootsuite Education
- HubSpot Academy
- The Marketeer
The best thing about marketing skills? They gear you up to be a leader. Marketers understand how to get their audience on board with their messaging. That filters down to not just creating an on-message, captivating campaign but also rallying their team and entire company to understand internal processes, new ideas, and more.
Marketers are thought leaders by nature—so learn to start leading others with innovation and creativity.
2. Understand How Businesses Succeed—and Fail
Every business operates within the context of a greater orbit. Every business has customers and value in different industries. Company outcomes are also tied to profit-motives. A content team’s most important function is the ability to build relationships at scale. Your ability to assess a landscape and determine what story to tell is crucial. Once you learn business fundamentals you can start doing deep-dive analyses of specific industries. These include travel, advertising, telecommunications, financial services, and so many more.
If you can learn about industries in depth, and understand the stories of how to solve companies’ problems, you’ll increase your value as a content marketer. When you increase your value as a content marketer you also boost your salary.
Here are some resources that can help you learn about important, practical, and valuable business concepts:
As you learn about the things that interest you, you can learn about more topics in depth. For instance, I’m interested in social applications of new technologies. I’m also interested in how networks work and how data flows between entities and systems. It’s a unique niche that I learned through years of research and writing.
3. Learn to Analyze Data to Make Better Decisions
According to The Economist, the value of data has surpassed the value of oil. No matter what job you have, your training and knowledge of analytics can make your career more meaningful, valuable, and lucrative. You can easily transition between roles. You can also find creative ways to connect dots between brand storytelling and revenue outcomes. After my first year as a content specialist, I decided to go back to grad school to hone my data training. But now, you can gain these core skills through free online programs from universities.
Here are several that can help you grow in your career long-term, whether your goal is to continue with content or move into another role. Every team needs a sophisticated data analysis.
Being a storyteller for a company’s content operation allows you to write your own destiny and control how you craft your day-to-day. The more you learn how to connect your work to business outcomes, the higher the salary you’ll get. With the rise of automation, you can future-proof your career by becoming a writer. Humans will always be hungry for knowledge. Even artificial intelligence will need a hand from creative, professional writers.
To build an effective content team, you need the right balance of marketing, data analysis, and business skills. By developing these skills for yourself, you’ll position yourself to become a leader.
The ability to continue to learn is your most important asset. Work hard to keep learning. Content can be the pathway to the career of your dreams—especially if your long-term goals are to solve big problems in politics, government, international affairs, technology education, and every sector in-between.