The marketing industry is full of talented people who come from all kinds of educational and professional backgrounds. If you want to get into the industry, but you don’t have a directly relevant college degree or previous work experience, how do you break into marketing to succeed?
Today’s guest is Melissa Berrios from Melissa Berrios Consulting and Virtualmente Libre, where she helps consult six- and seven-figure entrepreneurs on how to grow their brands and audiences. Before being a marketing consultant, Melissa spent 13 years as a project engineer.
“I’ve always been a very creative person growing up and even when I was in engineering school, I was involved in a lot of the arts.”
“Working in engineering is something, it could be really a creative job, which it’s fine. But as you climb the corporate ladder and you climb into more of a management role, more of a corporate role, you lose that creativity aspect of engineering.”
“I was creating a lot of content, so content creation was very strong. I became very strong at it just because blogging required me to edit video, create graphics, and do all that stuff. I became really passionate about it.”
“If you really want to pivot and do something that you are really passionate about, you need to start.”
How to Break Into Marketing From Another Industry and Succeed With Melissa Berrios From Melissa Berrios Consulting
Ben: Hey Melissa, how's it going this afternoon?
Melissa: Hi. Fantastic, I'm so happy to be here.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. It’s getting late in the afternoon on Friday, so we're just winding down with some talk about how to get into marketing from another industry. I think that's a pretty common question that people have. Lots of people get into this profession or this industry from all kinds of different backgrounds. I'm really excited just to have this conversation, and also I understand that you yourself have an interesting story as to how you got into marketing.
To open things up, would you mind telling us about what your career arc looks like? How did you break into the marketing and consulting arm from your past career, which I believe was in project engineering?
Melissa: I am a civil engineer, that's what I went to school for. I spent about approximately 13 years working in the engineering industry. The way I pivoted from engineering into marketing was almost accidental. It wasn't something that I planned for a long time. I was an engineer and I always wanted to be in marketing instead.
I've always been a very creative person growing up. Even when I was in engineering school, I was involved in a lot of arts, extracurricular activities such as art and singing. I play the guitar. I was always a very creative person.
Working in engineering, it could be a really creative job which it's fine. But as you climb the corporate ladder and you climb into more of a management role, more of a corporate role, you lose that creative aspect of engineering. There's a lot of problem-solving but, it's a different angle from it. The way that I fed that creative part of me was I started blogging as a hobby. I love to travel. I love to eat as well.
I got inspired by a friend. She started one of those mommy blogs. She was always online blogging and social media. I was like, what are you doing? She's in the engineering industry as well. I was very curious about it. I just got bit by the bug of the online world. I created my blog. I started promoting it. I started writing. Although I'm an engineer, I'm still an engineer. I don't deal with websites, coding, or any of that.
But as an engineer, I am very good at problem-solving. I'm very good at figuring things out. I quickly figured out how to create a website, how to manage all the back end of what it is that it's necessary to run a blog and market the blog as well.
I went down the rabbit hole in my free time about marketing. It was just for my own blog and how do I market the blog, how do I run an ad for the blog, how do I use social media effectively? I was creating a lot of content. Content creation was very strong. I became very strong at it just because blogging required me to edit videos, create graphics, and do all that stuff. I became really passionate about it
At some point in my engineering career (and this is something I'm very open about) I became depressed. I got through a moment of severe depression. My doctor forced me to leave work for a period of time, stay home, and take care of myself before continuing my career. I took a pause in my career and I was just home. I have two kids. I was home with my little one and I continued blogging as a way to get myself busy still, get myself better. At the same time, when I was home, I was getting better. I decided, maybe I don't want to go back to my corporate job again.
I want to figure something out that I can do while still being home and I can take care of myself and my needs. I just browsed what I can do. All of a sudden, I realized I’m very good at marketing. I'm very good at creating content. I'm very good at all this blogging thing. Maybe I can help other people do it for their blogs, for their online businesses. That's how I started.
I got my first client and it was a friend. She's a business coach and she’s very well known in her industry. She needed an assistant and marketing person, so she hired me. She knew about the blog and she was very familiar with the work that I was doing with it. That was my presentation portfolio for getting my first client.
From there, I just started getting referrals. I started getting other clients. My business started growing. I didn't go back to engineering. It was accidental in a way.
Ben: I think that's an amazing story though. I know that here at CoSchedule, we hear from customers fairly often who are maybe in somewhat similar positions where they come to marketing by accident. I always think it's so fascinating to hear all the different ways that people get into this industry because it's not necessarily something where you have to have a marketing degree or a traditional creative background. I think that your story really proves that.
You started pretty small just by doing your own things with content creation. What types of clients are you working with right now?
Melissa: Mostly, I work with business coaches or online coaches. It can be a business coach, mindset coach, or life coach. The coaching industry is really huge out there online. By accident as well, but I really enjoy it. I niched down into the online coaches.
Ben: Sure, very cool. You helped coach yourself, essentially.
Melissa: It didn't just happen that I just decided I want to be in marketing. I took courses. I didn't go to school for it, but I took many courses. I read books. I went down the rabbit hole of learning how to market for my blog. When I decided I wanted to be in marketing, I also invested in a lot of education for it. It didn't happen just like, I want to be in marketing. I'm just going to try it. I have to invest in education for it as well.
Ben: No matter what you're doing in your career right now, odds are you probably have some skills that might transfer well into the marketing career that you want. If you're a creative problem solver; you're good with words, numbers, or ideally both; or if you're just good at understanding people and empathizing with others, those are all skills that will be particularly helpful.
But whatever your skill set may be and whatever your strengths may be, the key is to identify what you're already good at or what strengths you already possess, then figure out which gaps you need to fill, which things you still might need to learn. Then roll up your sleeves and just get started. Just get to work. It's easier said than done, but lots of folks have done it before. There's no reason why you can't too. Now, back to Melissa.
You mentioned that you took courses and you did a lot of reading. In the course of your own marketing education, were there any books, courses, or particular resources that you found especially helpful that you might recommend others to check out?
Melissa: I've been through so many courses. I speak Spanish and when I started, I started getting Spanish-speaking clients. The first courses that I took (and I think that’s the one that I still go back to, it's in Spanish) it's about social media and online marketing. That one is like my bible. It was super expensive. I had to invest a lot of money in it. But I still go back to it. It still gets updated all the time. I still invested in niched-down courses such as email marketing.
Even on niched-down market and marketing platforms such as how to do Pinterest, how to do apps. I've been, little by little, expanding that education in every single aspect of online marketing, not just social media, but content creation. The email marketing aspect and all of those. It's hard to tell or point to a specific resource. The one I started with was in Spanish.
Ben: Sure. There are tons of resources out there.
Ben: There’s really no shortage if people want to go seeking that out. Google is your friend for at least beginning that search. You mentioned this a bit before about you're very skilled and problem-solving and just generally being able to figure stuff out. From your background as an engineer, you're really able to develop all of those types of skills. Could you maybe expand on that a bit more? How did your experience as a project manager help you find the skills that you have that you could transfer into a role in marketing?
Melissa: Well, as engineers in my engineering job, we were also forced to market our company and help marketing as well. But we did it in a different way. For corporate, it was more business development, getting clients, and going to networking events and handling yourself out there with potential clients. Now, the online world, it’s a little different.
Engineering, especially civil engineering, is a problem-solving job. I think that problem-solving and having that mindset of problem-solving, I can figure anything out. That's what helped me grow so fast and learn so fast all the skills that I have, just because nothing can stop you when you have that kind of mindset. You figure it out. You take a course. You hire a coach. You read a book. You go to Google or YouTube.
It’s having that engineering mindset of I can figure things out. Nothing is really hard. If somebody else is doing it, I can do it. I can figure it out. That's probably the best skill that engineering has given me. Once I hit the management and customer service level when I was in my corporate job, that equips you with a deep foundation of client management and also task management, team management skills, and customer service skills that are really required in marketing.
A lot of what we do is dealing with potential clients, with people on social media, and email. You need to understand people as well and have soft skills in customer service.
Ben: Absolutely. I think there's a lot.
Melissa: A lot of customer service that you need to go through.
Ben: Yeah, and I love that you call attention to that because customers, that’s who marketers are trying to connect with. Even if you work at any company you work with, if you want to learn about your customers, your customer support staff are some of the best people you can talk to. If you can develop that skill yourself, obviously that will serve you well in a marketing capacity as well.
If someone is listening to this episode and maybe they have a blog or they have some sort of creative content or marketing-related side project or something they're doing right now. Maybe they think, you know what, I would rather be doing that full time rather than this other job that they might be doing. What are some things that you learned back when you were getting started that you maybe wished you would have known before you had to learn those things yourself? Maybe some things that you would pass along to someone now who is in that situation.
Melissa: To me, if you really want to pivot and do something that you are really passionate about, you need to start. For me, that was a long process. From when I got my first client to me marketing myself as a marketing specialist and trying to put myself out there to get clients, it was a different game. I think there's a little bit of imposter syndrome that we get when we are trying to pivot from an industry to another because we’re coming from being experts at doing something and being new in an industry and feeling a little scared in a way.
My advice is just to start marketing yourself. Start by getting that first client because that's what's going to open the doors for you in your business in the future. You're going to be able to learn as you go. We can't just pretend and know everything before we start because otherwise, we won't start. It doesn't matter what people think. It doesn't matter what your old boss thinks about you or your old coworker will think about you. Just start marketing yourself.
If you know what you're doing and you have been doing it on your site, you're an expert. You have expertise that you can still use. You can figure out along the way how to perfect those skills. That's my advice to anyone that wants to pivot like that, just start.
Ben: I think that that's fantastic advice. I think that it sounds so simple, but anyone who has ever just gotten started with anything difficult can tell you that sometimes that's the hardest thing that you can do is to just push past whatever it is that is blocking you from doing that thing. Just giving it a shot. Just giving yourself permission to do those things.
The last question I’ll throw your way because I think that this is really important here. If somebody has gotten as far as deciding marketing is something I would really like to do or doing something more creative in general is maybe something that I would really like to do but maybe they have some sort of doubt. Maybe that doubt’s been seeded by a former boss, coworkers, maybe just their own internal sense of being like I've always been this other thing. I just don't feel like I can be something else.
Whatever it might be that is forming that voice of resistance in someone's mind, what would you recommend that they do to maybe try to push past that or maybe not let that prevent them from getting started?
Melissa: I hear you, it's really hard. I've been there and I think we’ve all been there. Like I said, it's about just pushing yourself and just closing your eyes, taking the plunge, and forgetting about what other people are going to think. Forgetting about what your old boss is going to think, your coworker is going to think, what you believe all this time that you are. If you really want to do it, just start by marketing yourself and believing. You have to believe it first, so people can believe it.
There's actually this book by Kelli Roach called, Unstoppable. I really recommend anyone to read it because it really does just some of those points about entrepreneurship in general. It can be lonely and it can be very scary, especially in the beginning. Just know that you're not alone. There are tons of people trying to do the same thing. You just got to do it. You just got to try.
Ben was the Inbound Marketing Director at CoSchedule. His specialties include content strategy, SEO, copywriting, and more. When he's not hard at work helping people do better marketing, he can be found cross-country skiing with his wife and their dog.