This series features the awesome people who keep the heart of Digital Impulse beating strong. Today, we spoke with Caleb Parker, our enthusiastic Content Specialist.
Caleb began his time at Digital Impulse as an entry-level Associate helping with a miscellany of basic marketing tasks. However, it quickly became clear that he wanted to write. Like… really wanted to write. Every time a blogging assignment or a bit of advertising copy made its way onto his to-do list, his eyes would light up. For his bosses, this propensity for creative tasks became hard to ignore.
Not wanting to quell his excitement, we encouraged Caleb to pursue a specialized copywriting path under the mentorship of Conor Snell, Roland Davin, and Chapin Bennett. Given his BA in Literature, this nudge towards the content side of the agency seemed only natural.
So far, the new role has fit him well, and it serves as an example of how young, generalist employees can grow and shape their own futures at DI. We’re happy to have him on board, and we hope you enjoy getting to know him a little better in this blog.
Caleb, what led you to a career in marketing?
I stumbled upon my first paid writing gig towards the end of my sophomore year at Gettysburg College. And when I say “stumbled,” I’m not being bashful or downplaying the situation. It sincerely happened by accident. A happy accident, though, seeing as I didn’t have much of a direction at the time.
I had yet to declare a major, I was socializing more than I ought to have, and when I wasn’t, I was working part-time at a sandwich shop, making about $7.50 an hour.
Then, one afternoon, I saw a post on Twitter from a popular entertainment website inviting “funny college writers” to apply for freelance positions. If accepted, these ebullient young wordsmiths would be paid $30.00 + per article.
To a 19-year-old sandwich artist, this was a highly lucrative business opportunity. A veritable windfall compared to Pennsylvania minimum wage dolled out in four-hour installments.
The next evening, I submitted a portfolio of sample columns. A week later, they offered me the contributor position. The actual email, I kid you not, read, “Nice work. Let’s get you paid.” To this day, that offer letter is the greatest piece of electronic mail to ever grace my inbox.
I promptly quit my job at the sandwich shop and never looked back.
So, how does this brief episode from season 19 of Caleb’s Life relate to my current, nascent career in content marketing? What a good-looking question. The answer is simple: Up until that first writing job, the idea of being paid real American dollars just to be creative hadn’t occurred to me. And once I realized that publishing articles online was a viable career path, it was all I wanted to do.
I immediately declared a major in English, sought out writing internships, and took additional freelance work where I could find it. After graduation, I signed the first content-related employment contract I was offered.
That was over two years ago. Since then, I’ve made steady-ish progress up the cursus honorum of content writing jobs. I may not be strictly a “writer” anymore. But I have achieved my goal of getting paid to be creative. At its core, that’s what I really wanted. And I owe it all to a well-placed Twitter ad, and a few hastily assembled writing samples.
How has your experience at Digital Impulse been so far?
It’s been phenomenal. Trust me, the words “I love my job” feel just as corny to write as I imagine they do to read, but it’s genuinely how I feel. I love my job. There, I said it again. Cringe if you must. Accuse me of self-delusion if that’s your assessment. It matters not. This is my truth, and I wake up in the morning happy.
This is also my first job in what our industry calls an “agency setting.” And, I have to say, it’s the perfect setting for me. At Digital Impulse, I get to create content for a diverse group of clients. I write for healthcare companies, mechanical engineers, classical music conductors, travel blogs, architects, you name it. My mind is in several places at once, and I have yet to hit a creative wall.
At a marketing agency, my ideas and energy (energies?) are channeled towards multiple outlets, meaning no one subject takes up enough mental bandwidth to become tiresome.
I’ve had jobs writing full-time for individual firms before, and while I enjoyed those jobs and was grateful to have them since gainful employment can be an elusive mistress for English majors, that happiness ultimately proved short-lived.
At each new role, I would go in full of creative zeal, publishing dozens of blogs per month about whatever hyper-niche industry or product my employer specialized in until, invariably, I hit a wall and burned out.
A better (or more stubborn) writer may have broken through this barrier, but I found it implacable. Or, at least, I found the content creation framework unsustainable. Especially since I was working mostly alone. How many blogs could one guy possibly write about one company? I was operating in a box. Coming up with new ideas became like moving a boulder in mud.
Then, in February of 2021, by the grace of God and LinkedIn, I landed a job here at Digital Impulse, where I could remain until I naturally expire.
What project, accomplishment, or event at DI are you most proud of?
Launching this blog! From the day that Chapin first suggested the idea of publishing our own content to right now, this has been my favorite project to work on. Whenever I’m not busy with client tasks, I’m thinking about blog topics for our website.
It’s been so much fun. And it truly took our whole team to make it happen. I can write drafts until my fingers cramp up and my retinas become seared like tuna steaks, but without our designers, developers, and project managers, not a word of them would have been published.
Where do you find inspiration?
I force myself to read a lot. I bought one of those tabletop book stands on Amazon so I can read while I eat breakfast in the morning. I think all writers wonder deep down if they’re actually bad at writing, but one cure for this self-doubt that I’ve found is to read like you’re afraid you’ll forget how. See how other people do what you do. Like an athlete watching game tape to stay sharp.
As far as true inspiration goes, I have found ideas for blog topics in books before. Especially ones related to economics or marketing. But inspiration can come from anywhere. Even just going for a walk.
Sometimes consuming content that isn’t related to your industry sparks the best ideas, though. Right now, I’m reading A History of Venice by John Julius Norwich, Danubia by Simon Winder, and A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Emma Southon (highly recommend this one). None of those books have anything to do with my job, and that’s exactly why I’m reading them.
What do you do for fun?
I get outside as much as I can. I recently moved to Coolidge Corner from the South End and love exploring new parts of the city. Whether it’s trying new restaurants, checking out museums, or just wandering around aimlessly until I find a cool building or park that I’ve never seen. Boston never ceases to be entertaining. I try to stay active, too. I haven’t seen the inside of a gym in a while, but I’m in a couple of intramural soccer leagues, and I’m always running along the bike path.
What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in marketing?
My advice to anyone starting a career in any field is to be purpose-driven because the thing about life is… it’s every single day. So if you don’t feel compelled by some deep-rooted cause to get out of bed in the morning, you’re just gonna burn out. Forget money and titles and think about what you want to do, make, or be remembered for.
It sounds idealistic, but there’s a great quote from the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke in which he says (to young writers specifically), “Find out the reason that commands you to write and ask yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”
This is an extreme standard to hold yourself to, clearly. But it’s an important thing to consider. Do you need to do what you’re doing? If the answer is yes, then you’re on the right path.
To put a bow on my unsolicited pontificating, I’d just add that marketing is distinctly different from sales. I believe it’s a much more right-brained field than it gets credit for. Sure, there’s a tech-savvy, business-y side to it. But good marketing ultimately relies on compelling stories and vivid designs. Both of which require talented, creative people. So, if you’re feeling put off or intimidated by a marketing career because it seems overly corporate, don’t be. It’s a perfect industry for artists of all disciplines.
What’s next for Caleb Parker in 2022?
Continue writing, continue learning, and continue growing in and outside of our office.