cf #51: are you making my same career mistake?
You are reading contentfolks—a fortnightly blend of sticky notes, big content ideas, and small practical examples. Thank you for being here! ~fio
If you’re anything like me, you like “The biggest mistake I made when doing X”-style articles—not because you enjoy other people’s failures, but because these pieces usually have practical advice about what to do, avoid, or change when you find yourself in a specific situation.
This month, it’s been two years since I left my job as Senior Editor at Hotjar, and to mark the occasion here is the biggest career mistake I made while there: not building a network of peers and mentors from day one.
Right after joining Hotjar in 2017, I spent the first year deeply immersed in the product, the company, and the industry. I built great relationships with coworkers within and outside of the marketing team, finding content allies in every department.
My internal network grew remarkably strong.
My external one stayed small.
Sure, I read a lot of newsletters and articles from content folks whose work I liked and trusted, but rarely followed up with them in person. My partner-in-content at Hotjar (hey Louis 👋) ran a very successful podcast, and I got great ideas from his guests without having to talk to anyone myself. We occasionally collaborated with great consultants and coaches, though almost always as a team.
As the months went on, we kept making progress, the company was supportive of our work, I even got promoted—and because things were going well, it was hard to spot the mistake I’d been making:
I was so focused on serving the team at Hotjar that I hadn’t spent much time exchanging notes and ideas with external people. I knew exactly who to go to whenever I needed Hotjar-related help, but had almost no content peers I could ping on a random Tuesday to ask for support or an unbiased opinion when I was stuck or unsure of what to do.
When you live inside a company bubble, it’s easy to ignore the world outside of it.
If I could go back to early 2017, I’d give myself this piece of advice: set time aside every week to build 1:1 connections with the people in your field. Share knowledge with folks who are junior to you, get tactical help (and moral support) from peers at the same-ish seniority level, and ask for advice from mentors who are way ahead of you.
There are a ton of relationship-building and networking resources out there (this is one I often recommend), though in the end it was two simple things that made all the difference:
Asking someone you already know for introductions → Louis had a ton of contacts, so he generously put me in touch with the people he thought I should talk to. Later, I started asking these new content peers to put me in touch with others they knew and thought I should talk to—and haven’t stopped since.
Joining a content community → I joined the Slack group at Superpath and started sharing resources and opinions; I also read a lot of the advice that more senior folks were posting, asking follow-up questions and making plans for how to put their ideas into practice. Every once in a while, public threads move to private conversations and even into 1:1 calls; now, I know exactly who to ping on a random Tuesday when I need content advice!
When you get consumed with keeping the content machine running, you might forget the bigger picture of where you, as a practitioner, are going.
I hope this newsletter was a useful reminder, and that you will be inspired to build a 1:1 connection with someone in your field today 😉
I felt this DEEP in my bones. Thanks for writing it and for the resources!
Good point, it is very easy (specially in big corps) to be super focused on the inside of the company.
Having a strong network is key!
Thanks for sharing