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Breaking and entering (into the SEM workforce)

Published: October 21, 2011

Author: Gordon Khoo

When our blog editor asked me to write a post, I immediately thought, “Me?” And I’m sure when the rest of PPC Associates catches wind of this, they’ll too think, “Him?”
Why the surprise?  Because I’m the intern. (Luckily, when PPC Associates considered me for the position, they didn’t think, “You?”)
As a new “adult” (AKA college grad) with zero direct experience in SEM, it was difficult to find a job and get on my way to losing those quotation marks. Apparently, most employers have a new dictionary in which “entry level” is defined as having 2-5 years prior experience; couple my lack of experience with the dismal amount of jobs available, and it made for a bleak outlook.
So I asked some of my friends for help, and help they did. Several resume makeovers and conversations later, a friend of mine arranged an interview with PPC Associates CEO and founder David Rodnitzky, and here I am.
Because I had no experience, I couldn’t jump right in and tackle SEM tasks. So they had me start where the stereotypical intern starts: making coffee. Lucky for them, though, they got the one intern in the world who didn’t know how to brew a cup of joe. Luckier for them, I’m a fast learner (they only had to show me how to make coffee once). But in all seriousness, my background is actually in volunteer work, so serving others through amenities is something I’m not only good at but also enjoy. I think most interns would look at making coffee and cutting up fruit (I do that, too) as useless functions, but I’m a firm believer in the idea that the best employee benefit is a happy employee. If I can help create a culture where people think “Work! instead of “Woooork,” then sign me up (they did).
Reinforcing the intern cliché even further, I take a lot of notes during meetings. Scribing is not a position many fight for, but for the intern it is an amazing opportunity – it’s a chance to learn through diffusion.  For my first few meetings, everyone might as well have been speaking Latin, but that constant exposure to the jargon and listening to how our Account Managers use it helps tremendously in learning the industry. And of course, I can’t learn the industry if I’m not in the industry, so I also like to out wear my welcome: I was tasked with 30 hours a week, but I skirt around 40 to get the most out of the diffusion process, even though I’m not paid for those extra hours.
To any prospective interns out there, being proactive helps, too. As an avid rock climber and firearms enthusiast, I was excited to find that we work with The Clymb and MidwayUSA. And so I reached out to the AMs of these clients and offered my background knowledge (if they needed it), and my world opened up immediately. A production assistant graciously took out some time to show me the inner workings of The Clymb account, my first foray into SEM. Though I had been studying AdWords independently, seeing it firsthand was an invaluable experience, and who knows how long it would’ve been until I saw the inside of an account without me making the first move. The AM of MidwayUSA also offered me a chance to make Facebook ads for him. A few days later, I was given the opportunity to draft client reports for the Production team. And so there I was, a fresh intern making direct contributions and gaining experience in AdWords, Facebook, and the entire SEM industry in no time.
But this is just the start—from what I can tell, successful SEM requires, first and foremost, a farmer’s mentality. That is to say, everything requires patient cultivation. I’ve seen conversions increase as cost decreased, AMs on calls with what could be mistaken for as friends, and Facebook pages explode over a million fans—none of which happens overnight or in a vacuum. It all takes great dedication and even greater passion.  Treat your farm well and you’ll have much to harvest.
If you’re like me and can’t bring direct experience to the table, attitude and perspective come in a close second. I would say the most important mindset to have is learning how to think, not what to think; don’t always wait for direction but instead offer help where ever you can, even if it’s outside of your job description. So if you want to get into SEM but have no experience, bring an inquisitive mind and a hunger that can’t be satisfied with pizza sandwiches (with my intern salary, I appreciate our free lunch on Thursdays).
PPC Associates has been really great, and I’m making the most out of every day – so much so that they promoted me to Chief Executive Intern. Probably the first in the world.
Gordon Khoo, (Chief Executive) Intern

25 E Washington Street
Suite 420

Chicago, IL 60602(650) 539-4124


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