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Bonus Track: So How Do I Get In?

Here’s a little secret about content strategy: very few people got here on purpose. We mostly wandered in from one related field or another, found ourselves unable to stop fiddling with bad content, and decided to stick around and try to make things better. For people who want to begin doing content strategy work, this has good and bad implications. On the good side, it means that there are many paths into the field. On the bad side, it means that there is no single clear path.

Paradoxically, the best way to “get into content strategy” is to begin doing content strategy, whatever your job description currently is. Let’s say you’re interested in working as a content strategist, but you haven’t worked much with web content. If you have experience in any of the sibling fields, your skills will almost certainly be relevant, and you’ll probably want to spend some time boning up on at least two of the other areas. Content strategy is still sufficiently young that very few people working as content strategists now began their careers in the discipline; for most people, the move into CS work will either be lateral, from an equivalent position in a related discipline, or an expansion into CS from a more junior writing, editorial, design, or project coordination role.

No matter where you come from, a few characteristics seem to be requisite. You can’t be ambivalent about the web. You might hate it sometimes, but it has to be in your blood. You have to care about getting things right, while understanding that “right” is something that constantly changes. You have to be reasonably good with people and exceptionally good at high-speed synthesis and pattern recognition. You need to have a solid grasp of the basics of information architecture. You need to care about design and front-end programming, which means you need to know enough about both to be able to care.

Oh, and you can’t be humorless. I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t work if you are.

Mars needs content strategists

If this sounds like your world and you have related skills, the easiest path is usually to begin taking work that’s closer to what you want to do, and demonstrating along the way that you can do it.

If you’re not working in the web industry, start scooting toward the web side of your industry. If you’re fresh out of school and want to work your way toward content strategy, seek web editorial, online marketing, web generalist, and information management experience.

Content strategy is an extremely friendly and talkative discipline. If you start by checking out the conversation that takes place on content blogs, attending conferences and meet-ups, and reading content strategy books and magazine articles, you’ll probably get a pretty good idea of how you might make your way into the field. The truth is, we need you—there’s more work here than we can do alone. Come say hi.