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It takes time to learn new skills, and that’s okay

Before Audienz, I worked as a journalist and a reporter. I covered everything from lifestyle features to business columns. I reported on state politics and national politics. My job was writing, and when it came time to find a new job, I figured a writer is a writer—so I applied for any and all jobs with that description.

I landed at Audienz where my role was writing B2B marketing materials for tech companies. I’d never done B2B nor tech, but I’d written B2C and on countless other topics, so how hard could it really be?

It didn’t take me long to discover I was wrong. B2B marketing felt like another language. I was encouraged to ask questions, but I didn’t even know where to start. I sat in on meetings, clueless. My inner journalist kicked in, and I decided to research what I didn’t get so I could learn it. I asked for advice on how I could learn faster. Was there a book I could read? Blogs I could google? A podcast? Anything?

After a month or two, I was still stuck, so I asked a coworker about her career path. She worked in the arts before B2B marketing. Surely, she would know of some magical resource that would give me all the info I needed.

“How long have you been here?” she asked. When I told her, she laughed. “If you’re still struggling in six months or even a year, then maybe there is cause for concern. Not after a month.”

It took me a few more months to get ramped up on projects—and those months felt long. But I just kept showing up, listening, and asking questions. (And editing. I did a ton of editing, and reading the content helped me figure out the language I needed to write in.)

Then one day, I got it. I understood the acronyms flying around in calls. I could decipher a request and produce a solid first draft. I could ask intelligent questions beyond, “What is that?” It was really exciting.

Most importantly, I learned that learning this stuff takes time and practice.

Growing up, I played violin, which required a lot of practice. Work skills also take practice. As a journalist, I practiced writing articles and interviewing people.

But I hadn’t written much technical or marketing content. I needed to practice.

Saying I know how to write, and therefore I can write any content is like saying I can play violin so the trumpet will be easy. It’s a different type of writing with different skills—that require practice.

As professionals, we can be hesitant to admit we need practice in particular areas. With our clients, we want to present ourselves as experts, confident in our skills. That’s crucial.

And that’s where a team comes in. Lean on your coworkers who have experience. Set stretch goals and identify areas where you want to grow. You don’t perform at Carnegie Hall your first time playing the violin. Heck, you don’t perform a recital when you first pick up an instrument. You need to practice in a safe place.

I’ve been at Audienz for almost two years now. Recently, I started a new project, and I could not figure it out. I kept rereading the request and then the background material and back to the request. I was feeling really frustrated. My other work was going well, so why couldn’t I figure out this ask?

Then it hit me: it’s new, it’ll take some time to learn.

And that’s okay.

It didn’t take me months to figure it out. Or even weeks. It took an afternoon and a chat with my colleague. But I was reminded of the importance of giving myself space and patience.

I’ve since had conversations with new employees and coworkers looking for advice like I was two years ago. While we often talk through best practices and resources, I’ve started emphasizing that it’ll come with time and practice—and that’s okay.

You’ll become an expert as you practice. Keep showing up, keep asking questions. Then one day you’ll be sitting in a meeting or cruising through a deliverable and realize you’re there.

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