Not ever story plays out the way you imagined. About eight years ago I took a job in a bank. But before getting into that, my story starts here…
"Crisis on Wall Street as Lehman Totters, Merrill is sold, and AIG seeks to raise cash."
Yup, I’m one of those. And by “those” I mean one of those Millennials they write articles about today, about how our career trajectory and lifelong income potential was permanently stunted by the financial crisis. That the generation before me, and after me, are likely going to be much better off in the long run. So with that, my career started out like you'd expect.
Guy graduates college. Starts first job. Attends grad school at night. Crisis hits. Gets laid off. Moves in with parents. Takes low paying jobs. Freelances for barely enough money to put gas in the car. Ponders career change. Tutors college kids at night. Eventually teaches night courses. Wants to become a teacher. Doesn’t want to become teacher. Ponders career change, again. Who am I?
Finally, something happened—I was introduced to the world of marketing thanks to small marketing agency that took a chance on me. I learned about copywriting, managing creative campaigns, speaking with clients, collaborating with creatives, and so on. My plans shifted, and I felt a career in marketing and advertising was where I needed to be.
So how then did I end up a bank? An industry I had a preconceived negative impression of thanks to the early days of my career? A mix of convenience and opportunity really is what led me to walking into an office of one of the largest banks in the world. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect. I had worked in an agency where I dealt with multiple clients, each with their own brand standards, and now I was walking into an in-house marketing team focused on one brand -- Wells Fargo.
But I learned a hell-of-a-lot while I was there. I learned the ins-and-outs of what it takes to keep brand messaging and voice consistent. I honed my skills as a writer, thanks to managers and colleagues that drilled into my work and challenged me to think about things more from the customer's perspective and not the brands. I worked with smart, creative people. And I got to work on some big projects. I experienced what it takes to operate in a branding machine of financial services company that prided itself as being "one of the good ones" coming out of the Financial Crisis. And I also witnessed what happens when scandal does come knocking on the door.
After four years at Wells Fargo, I walked into Valley Bank. Although I learned a tremendous amount at Wells Fargo, the scandal that rocked my final year there didn't help dispel the still lingering negative feeling I had for banks. In fact, I almost chose to go back into the agency world just as the opportunity at Valley arrived in my voicemail box.
Valley Bank presented me with new opportunity at a financial services company significantly smaller than the behemoth I had been with for the prior four years. Not all banks are big. And not all banks do bad things. Valley was not the branding machine that Wells Fargo was -- not even close. But there is a different magic happening at Valley, driven by people who don't view themselves as working for a "Big Bank" but rather who work for their customers and communities. This was the magic I didn't get to experience sitting behind my desk Wells, focusing solely on writing copy.
Now I've been at Valley for nearly four years. And I've gotten to witness and experience what banks really can do to help communities prosper. I've been able to meet with leaders from all over the organization, from our retail banking teams, to commercial lenders, to our executive leaders. From the early days, I have felt an immense motivation to help this organization succeed. I got to contribute to the messaging strategy of our new branding within my first year; expanding my role from senior copywriter to content strategist where I could expand my focus and abilities in content creation; I helped launch the new Valley.com; shaped the internal and external messaging strategy of our President & CEO; and incorporated much of what I learned about branding into helping build the new branding of Valley Bank as we see it today.
Now, I'm taking the next step in my career at Valley as a Content Strategy Lead, building a team aimed at creating and delivering a consistent brand message and voice across all channels. From marketing, to UX content, to customer service, it's my mission to translate the passion, optimism, and empathy our bankers share with our customers into the words and content we create and put out into the world.
If you'd like to join me, please reach out.
Thanks for dropping in and reading my latest essay. If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave a comment below. And if you think my story might be worth sharing, I hope you do. For my next essay I'll be sharing more about my Guiding Philosophy to content strategy.