59 | Career Progression Advice with Adam Whittles


Although a career jump is probably the last thing on your mind during this Coronavirus lockdown, it shouldn’t be. You can start building your skills and self for that next step that you’ve always wanted.

In this episode Adam Whittles & I discuss our own career journeys and offer advice as to how we ‘made it’ to where we are today. So, if you fancy getting into SEO or getting that medium-senior SEO job role, then keep reading & listen to the podcast here, on iTunes or Spotify.

About Adam Whittles:

  • Head of SEO at AutoTrader UK
  • @AdamWhittles on Twitter
  • Fell into SEO, starting in a related field doing web design and building websites for fun. He then went on to do this for friends & family, then for small to medium niche businesses.
  • He started making a living making websites, which were one off payments so SEO allowed for monthly income. He helped optimise their sites and other additional services. 
  • Adam moved onto doing SEO for bigger companies. Took a position at Ayima, a digital marketing and SEO agency.
  • He also worked at Apple, a job he got via an old client early on in his career (this will become relevant later on.)

Do Research into Agencies or Company

When looking for a new role, Adam suggests that you do you research. You don’t want to be stuck in a place where you’re not happy. Find out, what is the culture like? Do they offer flexi time, beer fridge Friday’s etc. or so much more? Most importantly, do you agree with their way of working? 

When Starting out; Build your own Site

I’m an avid supporter of learning things yourself. I believe that the reason I’m in the position I am today is due to having my own blog and learning on the go. My site taught me:

  • Technical side if building a website 
  • Domains/site creation
  • Content strategy
  • Helped with experimenting and investigative work, testing theories

Even if it’s a page for your CV, Adam says, either way, it’ll teach you the basics. I also encourage newbies to go on the world wide web and learn from what you’re not allowed to do (aka black hat.) You can find out the right thing to do by what’s ‘naughty’.

I have a previous episode that will help you build a blog: step by step. 

Advice in Career Progression from Mid to Senior

  • Create meaningful connections even early on in your career, they may come back to you with a job in the future (like Adam and the job at Apple) so it can provide an opportunity even if you don’t see it presently.
  • It does help being at the right place at the right time but it’s also about being opportunistic and getting involved in events, webinars, twitter chats etc. 
  • When working with those that may not necessarily be in SEO but broad digital marketing roles, it’s important to understand the business and optimisation within the eco-system. This will help you understand a business from a senior level.
  • The challenge with senior SEO jobs is that there aren’t many positions available compared to mid-level roles. It’s difficult when you’re Head of SEO and beyond, because less jobs but more competition. It’s also difficult to find the suitable role for you. 
  • Have something that makes you stand out. How well rounded is your experience? It doesn’t mean you have to move a lot but helps somewhat regular changes for new experience/diversity.   
  • Push yourself externally also, even experience freelancing will showcase good knowledge.
  • Focus on achievements rather than experience when it comes to those higher roles says Nick Wilsdon. Being able to drive real change within business is the experience you gain within senior roles. 
  • Senior positions are less about knowledge, which isn’t tested as much, and more about your ability to think strategically, your presentation skills and your ability to persuade. Influencing and convincing stakeholders so that they buy into SEO. The persuasion book that I recommend is here.
  • Often you’ll have a team you’ll need to manage too. You need to show that you’re able to manage people in that case. Motivate people and make SEO famous within a business. 

“As SEOs, we all have this thing where we love to solve problems. We’re trying to find what motivates people and get the best out of them. From day 1 to when you feel you’ve made it in SEO, there’s always something you need to learn from, from past managers (good & bad) and learn from those experiences so it shapes how you work and manage your teams and get the most out of them.” – Adam Whittles

Catch him on LinkedIn or adamwhittles.com.

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Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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