Written By Jess Feldman
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Course Report strives to create the most trust-worthy content about coding bootcamps. Read more about Course Report’s Editorial Policy and How We Make Money.
Curious who might be teaching you at a bootcamp? We caught up with General Assembly instructor, Terry Rice who teaches business development and career development workshops in addition to the Digital Marketing Bootcamp. Terry explains why he sees bootcamps as a great choice for career-changers and shares his tips on how to stay mentally healthy while looking for a job in a pandemic. Plus, Terry’s advice for how freelancers can make today’s economy work for them.
How did you get started in marketing and business consulting?
I went to school for marketing, and I have a MBA with a background in marketing as well as consulting. At my first job in New York back in 2006, I had a tiny budget and my VP came to me and said, “There's this new thing called Search Engine Optimization. If you write the right stuff on your website, you'll show up when people Google it.” And that's how I got started! Realizing you can reach people on digital channels simply by having the right content was revolutionary for me. I wanted to amplify that reach so I learned how to do Google ads.
What motivated you to go from consulting and marketing to teaching?
I worked in-house at the corporate level for about 10 years for companies like Adobe, Facebook, and some agencies here in New York before I decided I wanted to do consulting externally. I knew that as a solopreneur, it can be lonely and I would need to have a community. I also knew General Assembly was a place I could go to where I could share what I knew with a larger audience. It would be like a homebase where I'd meet other professionals and continue sharing my knowledge of digital marketing.
There are so many digital skills bootcamps now — what stands out to you about General Assembly?
General Assembly is incredibly well-respected here in New York. Even when I worked at Facebook, I was taking workshops at General Assembly so I already knew what the atmosphere was like. Once I went solo, I was wondering how I could be at General Assembly more and become part of the team. When you’re at General Assembly, the conversations you have, even in the elevator, are amazing! Someone might be talking to me about a new app they’re developing or telling me about their SEO homework. It’s a culture that inspires creativity and collaboration, and all of that made me want to be a part of it.
How would you describe your personal teaching style?
My teaching style is definitely a reflection of what I'm doing right now. I share parts of my day with my students so that they can see what they’re getting into. For example, I’ll share things like an email I got this morning and explain what's going on. I think people appreciate that because, while I do have a curriculum, pairing it with the real outcomes they want to get is motivating. They’re hearing those in-the-trenches stories and I love sharing real examples. I want to share how you get there, but also what it's like when you're in those trenches. A lot of teachers are more clinical, teaching the step-by-step without the experience. When I teach, I'm sharing what I’ve tried and where I’ve succeeded or failed, so my students can learn both the material and the experience.
Have you had to change your teaching style at General Assembly in order to make it fit for remote learning during the pandemic?
Not exactly. I was part of the first wave of instructors to start teaching one-week courses online a few years ago. At General Assembly, we received formal training, and it wasn't a rushed transition. It was a decision made because the demand for online learning was already there. I've been teaching primarily remotely for the last four years. Honestly, the biggest difference in my remote teaching now is having my kids in the background yelling!
The good thing about General Assembly is that they have a dedicated program to teach people how to instruct online because it's different. Even the little problems that might happen with your computer, if you don't look concerned, you know, people feel like you're still in control while you solve those small issues. You have to be even more engaging because it's easy for people to get distracted. General Assembly taught us how to control the amount of energy in the room and continually bring that level up. That's something I enjoy doing.
Which courses and/or bootcamps are you currently teaching?
I'm primarily teaching students how to launch consulting or coaching businesses because that's much closer to what I'm aligned with these days. Previously, I was a consultant for companies like Walmart, Bonobos, and Warby Parker. That was great, but now the way I want my legacy to be defined is how I help other people, not how I helped organizations. So, I'd rather work with up-and-coming solopreneurs and help them make another $50,000 a year than help a large company make another $5 million a year.
My goal is to demystify the process because especially right now, there are a lot of people who have a lot of knowledge to share, but they don't know how to position, package, and price it in order to reach their desired audience and get paid for what they're actually worth. It's challenging work, but it doesn't have to be confusing. I'll walk students through how to position themselves, market themselves, communicate on a sales call, and then how to actually deliver the value that they promised. I teach them the ways they can continue growing their business through referrals and testimonials. I’m teaching my students how to spend more time working in their zone of genius, which is whatever they’re consulting on, and less time doing business development and marketing.
Could you give us an example of a “solopreneur” project that your students are working on?
As part of the class, students come up with their positioning statement, which is more or less how they express themselves to the world. For example, if you’re a nonprofit email marketing expert, your positioning statement might be something like, “I help nonprofits leverage email to increase donations and retention of their community members.” What you do, who you do it for, and the outcome must be clear and concise. My students also develop their marketing machine. They answer guiding questions like:
What kind of pillar content marketing pieces are they going to put out?
How are they going to interact with people on LinkedIn or other social channels?
How will they position themselves as an expert?
We talk about strategies, like how to get on podcast panels, how to speak at and attend panels, and how to talk to a large audience of people that are in your target audience. I teach that when your audience can see you, they’ll then reach out to you asking for your help as opposed to you doing a ton of cold-calling. I help people set up their passive marketing streams.
Since you went to the college for business and you also teach digital marketing classes at New York University, what makes General Assembly's Digital Marketing Bootcamp different from attending a four-year college program?
The main benefit to General Assembly’s Digital Marketing Bootcamp is that you can be extremely focused on what you want to learn. If you go to college, there's predetermined, general, high-level curricula. You can condense the amount of time it takes you to get to the outcome you want by narrowing your focus to a specific topic, like search engine optimization. Or maybe you want to learn everything about digital marketing, but you don't want to take general education courses, like Psychology 101. Going to a bootcamp is an especially good option for adult learners that need to make this change a bit more quickly. It's a great option because you can accelerate your career growth by taking General Assembly’s more hyper-focused workshops or bootcamps.
Since digital marketing and business development are ever-evolving fields, how has the curriculum at General Assembly developed over time or evolved over time?
By design, it had to evolve. That's the benefit of having practitioners to teach the courses because they're using these tools and techniques every day. Industry professionals are going to know when and how the curriculum needs to be updated because they’re updating their own systems. For example, right now we're looking at Tik Tok, but Instagram recently came out with Reels. They’re extremely similar products, and any practitioner would know if we're talking about Instagram, next week we have to talk about Reels. At General Assembly, we’re proactively bringing this new information to students as opposed to responding to those changes only in the next iteration.
Do you find that there's a certain type of student who thrives at General Assembly?
Anyone who’s curious, gritty, and has a vision for why they're there will be more successful. You have to have a vision because it's going to be challenging. If you’re curious to learn more about this discipline and you're gritty, you can push through the more challenging times and come out successful on the other side. At General Assembly, you’ll build teams of people that are there to support you, but you have to put the work in on your end as well.
Share your favorite student success story with us!
One of my students is a pilot and she realized only 6% of pilots are women. She wanted to change that, so she started a consulting business where she teaches flight schools how to attract and retain more women pilots. She learned how to do this after taking my course. By doing audience research, she was able to reach out to 50 female pilots to interview them and she reverse-engineered their success by asking why they kept pushing through. That's how she put her program together. When you do that research, you can grow your network and your target audience specifically. As a result of doing those interviews, she already had four real leads for flight schools because her interviewees recommended them. She was able to grow her network and ultimately her business that way. Her success was amazing!
Whether it's the digital marketing bootcamp or one of your business development courses, what is the end goal for your students? Are there types of roles that your graduates are prepared to fill?
It depends because people come into my courses at all different levels. I've had the VP of Marketing at Time Magazine coming to my class and I've met the CMO of Lyft in my class. The goal is to improve your own skill level from the point you started my class with, so it depends where you're at to know where you can go.
For anyone who is more or less brand new, the benefit is that you’ll build a portfolio because, particularly in the digital marketing course, you will go through several different channels and learn how to leverage platforms. You’ll look at a company and present your strategy. You’ll look at their situation and challenges and present a solution for how they can achieve their goals. You’ll share the channels, tactics, and budget for your solution. For someone brand new to digital marketing, that project could put you far ahead of anyone else who doesn't have that real-world experience yet.
One of your focuses at General Assembly is career development. What are your top tips for career builders, especially in 2020?
Don't rush it because many people, especially in the digital marketing role, think they want to do this as a career but haven’t even tried it yet. Digital marketing is not all about putting cool posts on Instagram! Sometimes it’s late nights crunching numbers in Excel. So be very deliberate about your career development, as opposed to just saying you want to commit to something spontaneously. You might be surprised and find that there's something else you want to do instead.
Also think long term because right now, especially during COVID, there are many people thinking that they have to get the skill to get a specific job. There's almost a desperation to find something. You have to realize this time is going to be a slice of your life. Even if it lasts a year, you shouldn't have one year impact the trajectory of the rest of your life and your career. Think about two, three, four, five years in the future, rather than focusing only on what you can do right now to get a job during COVID.
What advice are you giving your students about job-searching during COVID-19 and staying mentally healthy?
It's important to realize that there are a lot of people looking for jobs right now. If you apply for a job and don't get it, it's not a reflection on you. It shouldn't necessarily impact your self-worth. It's only the situation. You have to practice “epic thoughts,” where you remind yourself of difficult things you've accomplished in the past, like how you graduated from high school, got a promotion, completed a project. You have to front load these thoughts to remind yourself in those moments that you are still valuable. You have to say to yourself, “I will be successful just right now.” Question this challenging time because otherwise the situation can impact your self worth, which is going to be a downward spiral for your career.
The other part is understanding the way you perceive things and the action you take. Maybe you got rejected from this job or they won't reach out, ask yourself, “What's the next most positive thing I can do now?” The obvious answer is to go apply for some more jobs or network on LinkedIn, but you have only a finite amount of energy. The more energy you spend feeling sorry for yourself, the less time you can do something productive. You have to do something proactive, which will lead to this goal that you'd like to achieve instead of getting stuck in your feelings and burning out. Figure out how to regenerate that energy for yourself.
What resources do you recommend for complete beginners who want to kickstart either a digital marketing career or some kind of business development role?
On the digital marketing side, look at the industry leaders like Neil Patel and websites like marketingland.com. See what they're doing, because they'll give you tons of tips. Also spend time trying to apply the things you’re learning and reading about. If you're just taking in all of the resources, even if you're reading and watching the videos, it just stays surface-level. It doesn't sink in deeply where it becomes an actual tool in your toolbox that you can use.
One of my favorite quotes by Jim Rohn is, “Knowledge, univested in labor, is wasted.” If you learn something new, try to find a way to apply it, to see if you actually understand it. Maybe volunteer at a nonprofit to do some kind of digital marketing. I'm also a contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine, so I recommend reading the articles posted there!
Do you consider digital marketing a recession-proof career? What’s your advice for those looking to get into digital marketing now?
I would say digital marketing is definitely recession-proof, but if you're trying to get involved with it, you have to present yourself as someone who's a student of digital marketing. On LinkedIn, are you regularly sharing articles and interacting with people who are leading the charge in digital marketing? If there's an opportunity that you want, always be thinking, What would I have to do to separate myself from that person? and then do it. If you Google the best ways to get a job, you'll get responses, but if you look at what else you can do on top of that, you’ll get the job. Maybe that means reaching out to 30 people who are already working in your industry and saying, “Hey, I'd love to just talk to you for a moment about this.” Or “I noticed you did this. I just want to say, this is amazing!” Are you forming a network or are you just shooting out resumes with the idea that something will stick eventually. The more proactive and strategic you can be the better!
How should a new digital marketer make that first contact on LinkedIn in order to broaden their network?
The best way to reach out to someone on LinkedIn is to either ask a question or make a comment. You can also give them a compliment saying something like, “I see you recently did this. I have a question while you're going through this. Did this occur?” Make it clear that you've done some research on that person. Don't just say like, “Hey, I see you're involved in marketing. I would love to connect.” It doesn't show that you care about them. Instead, it shows that you only care about yourself and your own growth. You're better off spending a couple hours researching 10 people you want to reach out to and doing it thoughtfully. Before you reach out to them, make sure to look at some of their posts, engage with it to show that you actually are following them, and from there you can reach out.
What's your top tip right now for freelancers who are looking to not only survive, but thrive in an unpredictable economy like the one we're seeing right now?
The best way to grow yourself as a freelancer is to align with organizations that already have access to your target audience. Let's imagine that you're a digital marketing consultant and you create a presentation, for example Five Ways Small Businesses Can Leverage Instagram to Grow. You should then reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce and tell them something like, “I’d love to deliver this webinar to your audience. Here are the key takeaways. What do you say?” If they say yes, you now have access to hundreds of people, maybe thousands who are all listening to you for the next half hour! You can then wrap up your presentation by directing those webinar attendees to your website. You've already done everything you need to do to make the official content and actually prove your value. Spend more time trying to align with organizations and less time trying to reach out to individuals.
Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.
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