The Story of A New Age Apprenticeship: My Experience Training with WebMechanix
As a mid-twenties marketing graduate with no real world marketing experience, who is going to hire you? For me the answer was simple. No one is going to hire you. Especially not in Buffalo, NY.
That fact pushed me into the only job I could get, a pipeline operating engineer. I held the highest accumulation of debt out of any of the other employees and was nowhere near my field of study. Not what I wanted.
After two years of interviews and letdowns, my girlfriend and I came to the realization that we needed to leave the place we call home if we wanted to follow our dreams. This was one of the hardest decisions we ever made. It was also a decision we will never regret.
My girlfriend and I took the leap and quit our jobs. We moved to the Baltimore/D.C. area in hopes for brighter futures. Why choose Baltimore/D.C.? Well, the area is home to a rapidly expanding digital marketing community and I knew I could become a part of it.
My introduction to the digital marketing scene in Baltimore.
My first introduction to the digital marketing world came in the form of a phone interview with Chris Mechanic, who’s the co-founder of WebMechanix. This call was something I will never forget.
I was packed into a Chevrolet Suburban with most of my extended family. We were on our way to Thanksgiving in Baltimore when Chris called me. His relaxed demeanor clashed with his excitement for digital marketing. It was an unusual blend that produced interesting results.
After a twenty minute conversation about my beliefs and if I would be a good fit, I was given an assignment. I was told that if the assignment went well then I would be invited in for a face-to-face interview. Everyone in the Suburban was cheering after I got off the phone. To my disappointment, it was only because they were happy to talk again.
Putting my marketing experience in perspective.
The steps that followed that phone interview helped me excel in the WebMechanix Academy. I was assigned the task of writing the copy for a webpage.When I received the assignment, the concept seemed foreign to me. I felt as though I was in need of direction.
In retrospect, I realize now how critical that assignment was — it was my sink or swim moment. I was thrown into the deep, dark lake of content development and if I didn’t learn how to swim quickly, I would drown.
The digital side of marketing was something I never learned in college. Now it was up to me to learn how to doggy paddle.
Getting started at WebMechanix Academy.
The WebMechanix interview was the first face-to-face interview that I truly enjoyed. That’s weird to say but the upbeat vibe of the employees and their excitement about day-to-day activities was incredibly contagious.
The atmosphere in the office was so unique that I even stuck around to soak up the environment after my own interview. By the time I left, I knew that the WebMechanix Academy was where I wanted to start my digital marketing career. The move to Baltimore was getting off to a good start.
Well, the start was good. At least until the first day of class. I got lost on my way to the office and ended up arriving late. Not what I needed. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a quick glance at my apprentice handbook sent my head spinning. What had I gotten myself into? I didn’t understand half of the topics my handbook mentioned. I thought this was supposed to be internet marketing for beginners!
I decided I would see what the other apprentices knew and where I stood in the class. Most of the information was new to the other apprentices. Looking back on this day makes me laugh. If I only would have known that I had some of the best internet marketing coaches available and how quickly I’d pick things up. Maybe then I wouldn’t have worried so much.
There is one other thing that made a huge impression on me that first day. It’s the first thing I ever wrote in my WebMechanix notebook, “Content Is King”. We were told to write that in huge letters at the very top of our notebooks. Almost 4 months into this industry I know I still don’t understand everything that means, but I’m learning more and more every day.
Building a blog is a labor of love.
One part of my internet marketing education at WebMechanix that had a huge impact was creating my own blog. I cannot think of a lower risk way to gain critical experience than giving someone the keys to their own website. It’s like trying to learn backflips by first trying them in a pool.
It was also critical to me because I’m a hands-on learner. Telling me how to do keyword research doesn’t work well. Giving me a blog post that I do the keyword research for means I will learn, improve and never forget.
One of the best lessons I learned while running the blog was how much damage I could do to a website. I spent hours trying to fix something only to end up breaking it more. This was a recurring battle for the next month and a half. It also further solidified my need for constant digital marketing coaching.
My “Eureka!” moment.
If there was a moment during the apprenticeship program that I felt like, “WOW! I get this stuff,” it was the conversion optimization exercise during week six. We had each been given a client to analyze for conversion optimization opportunities. Our suggestions had to use evidence from Google Analytics. After working diligently on my suggestions, I went over to show my internet marketing coach, Jarrett, what I had come up with.
Jarrett shared my findings with the team working on that client. The team deemed some of my suggestions to be very easy wins that should definitely be implemented. The positive feedback reinforced my belief that I was in the right place. It gave me some real proof that I was going to be successful in this industry.
For me, it’s the little win (and fail) stories with real client work that made this online marketing training program what it is. The team actually took my suggestion and ran a real split test. The result of the split test was a 2 to 1 in favor of my suggestion. That victory felt absolutely amazing.
Getting my first client.
It was the week after my conversion optimization suggestion. I was heading into the kitchen to get my lunch when Chris told me that I would be assisting one of our internet marketing coach’s on a new nonprofit client call.
The idea of working directly with a client was exhilarating. I always wanted to become an account manager and here was my shot. Back in the deep end of the pool, I was determined not to sink.
Later that day, Chris mentioned that I should try the call by myself. Holy crap! I just went from assisting on a call to running the call. What?! It was time to show up or shut up…
Chris personally coached me up on best practices for client calls shortly before the call. When it was showtime, I felt like I handled it well. I might have been a little nervous but there was no way they would have known. In the end, it was a huge boost to my confidence and tremendous learning experience.
Hearing “Let’s talk money.”
I came into the apprenticeship like any other day and continued my normal morning routine. As we were coming back from lunch we all got called into the conference room. I immediately knew what this was about.
Today was the day we find out who got positions and who was going to be helped to find a position somewhere else. My mind was a worried mess. My thoughts immediately went to questioning what the future would bring.
In the end, none of those thoughts mattered because… I GOT THE JOB! After the risk of moving away from home with no job or income, I GOT MY JOB! I have never been so excited and relieved in my life.
Not only had I gotten a job in the field I wanted, I became a member of the best companies I ever interacted with. WebMechanix was able to give me years of knowledge in 3 months and set me up to become a successful inbound marketer. I cannot explain to you the feeling after such a long struggle, to have the opportunity to finally become what you want.
My last task as an apprentice.
It was the last week of the apprenticeship. No more internet marketing for beginners. We were almost WebMechanix Academy graduates. Almost is the key part about that sentence…
We had one last project and we were given a week to complete it. We were to perform a full site recommendation for a dentist.
Once again, our digital marketing coaches had assigned us the perfect project using all the skills we had just learned over the past 3 months. Taking an individual’s site and breaking it down page by page was a big undertaking. We would be analyzing each page of the website and determining how that page could perform better.
As we began the task, we realized how tedious this was going to be. But by the end, it was fulfilling. We weren’t apprentices anymore. We were internet marketers, equipped with all the skills necessary to complete this project. It was a project that the whole apprentice class could be proud of.
Wrapping things up.
My time in the WebMechanix Academy was fantastic. I have never gained so much knowledge in such a short period of time.
For example, the last day we were given a written exam. Luke told us not to study because it wouldn’t help. Before the exam, Luke said something very important to the class. He told us, “While you guys are taking this exam I want to you think about what questions you would have been able to answer at the beginning of this program.” I might have guessed right on one of the questions but there is no way I would have known any of the answers. Now, I knew virtually every one.
It was surprising to see how much knowledge we had gained in the past 3 months. It also showed me how illogical my fears were in the beginning of this process. I wasn’t supposed to know all that information in my handbook. That’s why I came to the WebMechanix Academy, to learn how to become an inbound marketer.
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