The story started
Upon reaching my fifth month with Pearl Lemon, I can’t believe that it’s only been five months! I feel as if I have learned enough to fill a book.
In this blog, I’d like to share an in-depth account of my first few months at Pearl Lemon and what it has meant for my personal and professional development (with a few stories to share along the way)!
To give some context, I applied to Pearl Lemon in January 2021. I had just graduated from university with a degree in History, six months late.
Why? I got sick during May 2020, when I was supposed to be taking my final exams. This meant I couldn’t graduate on time with the rest of my peers. When I got ill, any thoughts about my future completely halted. I was solely focused on getting better and finishing my degree.
By the end of December, I’d finished my final exams, was due to graduate and was slowly coming out of my phase of illness. Since I’d never taken a break during education, this was the first time in my twenty-one years not having any structure. Nothing to hand in, no work to do, no one to report to. So what next?
Here is a very smug picture of a (blonde) me starting university. I don’t have a graduation photo because of Covid-19 🙁
Many people think History degrees are useless, ‘it’s all in the past,’ they say, but this would only be true if studying history simply meant learning facts about what happened in the past. An academic history degree requires analysis, arguing, reading between the lines, and yes – there are wrong answers.
Overall, these skills have made me a good writer, so finding a job where I could apply writing skills made the most sense. That’s when I came across Pearl Lemon on the website ‘work in startups.’ They were offering a Content Writer position, which sounded like something I could do!
When I applied, I paid attention to the application process and what it could tell me about the company. It was very unconventional. I sent in a CV, cover letter, a video introducing myself and did a WhatsApp interview. This is how I knew this could be a good place for me. I think that the conventional CV/Cover letter to interview way of applying to jobs is so flawed. Almost anyone can sound impressive on their CV and cover letter if they really try. The fact that Pearl Lemon had a different process made me feel that they understood this. They were probably my kind of people.
Following this, I went for my trial week. The Head of Content was very friendly and reassuring. The week was a blessing. I wish everywhere offered this. How could your employer possibly understand if you’d be a good fit in practice without actually seeing your work? Moreover, how could you possibly know if you really want to work there without trying it out for a bit?
My trial week was a little bit of a shambles behind the scenes, I realised last minute I had done one of my tasks completely wrong, but since you’re given a lot of time to do your tasks on the trial week, I was able to re-do it without anyone seeing my mistake and still hand in on time. Overall, my tasks were done to a good enough standard, and I was invited for my first month. Success!
In the end, I worked across three departments:
If it wasn’t already obvious, I started as the main content writer for Plant Sumo, one of the brands under the Pearl Lemon umbrella. Since Plant Sumo is a food business, and I used to be a chef (once upon a summer, haha), I felt that it was very suited to me. I really enjoyed writing about food, and I had a decent amount of knowledge that meant I didn’t need to research every single thing I was writing about, which sped me up a lot.
My Author Bio
By around March, Deepak asked the whole team if anyone wanted to try out PR. I’d already spoken to our current Head of PR and was inspired by her story. She had gone from being an early years teacher to a PR Wizz at Pearl Lemon and encouraged us to say ‘yes’ to anything that Deepak offered as a learning experience. I knew that writing wasn’t going to be a career in itself for me, so I said yes!
Before I knew it, I was in a meeting with two others learning how to pitch to journalists, and Deepak was asking us to pitch live. I was QUAKING, I had no PR experience, I was relatively new, and I actually hadn’t spoken to Deepak that much, so I was slightly intimidated at that time. It didn’t go well. I misspelt Deepaks name in my first pitch, I had no angle, and I didn’t answer the question the journalist was asking very well. Fail! Nevertheless, I kept trying, and Deepak kept faith in that we could improve at PR. It ended up going really well (more on that later!).
By May 2021, I had written a training document and had all of these ideas about how I thought it should be designed. I sell commissioned paintings in my spare time and have a good eye for design, so I felt it would be a shame if I couldn’t contribute any of those skills to Pearl Lemon. So I just asked if I could do some design work.
I took the time to design something and show Deepak my skills. Now I have the responsibility of doing social media design for Plant Sumo! Another feather under my hat.
These Are All Of The Tools I’ve Learned How To Use
So I did my degree in History, which meant reading academic papers or historical documents and then crafting an argument about them. With three years of experience, that was easy enough. Content writing wasn’t that dissimilar. So the transition wasn’t that hard. The only difference was that it was SEO content. Basically, I had to ensure what I was writing would fit an SEO brief.
I got quicker and quicker over the months. There is no special secret to this other than learning how to research effectively. It took me three hours in total to write a good guest post (500 blogs) during my trial week, now it takes me an hour.
If you ask me, there are three primary skills when it comes to pitching to journalists. First, finding the right query to respond to. It pays to spend a bit of time going through everything you receive and picking the queries that suit the company you are pitching for the most. For us, journalists that focus on startups and entrepreneurs are particularly good.
Secondly, you need to understand what that journalist is looking for (the query doesn’t reveal all!). A 2-minute srcoll through the website can show you what they are looking for. Do they quote long-form or short sound bites? Do they have an editorial line? All of these aspects should impact your response.
Lastly, you need to have an ‘angle’, something unique that fits what they are looking for. Journalists receive HUNDREDS of response to their queries, and big publications like the Times or The Guardian receive thousands. Standing out with a good angle, stats and examples are key.
My proudest moments have been earning features in NatWest and Raconteur!
Our NatWest Feature – I did that!
Designing social media content is relatively easy. For me, it’s a matter of reading the social media plan and doing whatever comes into my head first. If it looks terrible – I rework until it looks good! I want to show you my first social media post vs my last. I have only done it for about six weeks,, but I think I’ve shown a real improvement!
My First Ever Social Media Post – I think the fonts are all over the place, and the size isn’t optimised for Facebook as it should be.
Today’s Social Media Post (10/06/21) This is size optimised for Facebook, much clearer and more attractive!
Personal development is one of the main reasons I joined Pearl Lemon. I started on the spiritual/personal development journey seriously around the end of 2019, and now everything I do must align with myself in that way.
When I was researching Pearl Lemon and Deepak, I read that he had been on his journey that included 250+ hours of CBT, living homelessly and his own personal and spiritual breakthroughs. I knew that this was the kind of company culture that facilitates these needs.
Every week we have a weekly training call in which the whole team comes together and we learn anything from technical skills like writing sales copy to the spiritual struggles of being a solo entrepreneur.
One training call that really stuck with me (and I think everyone) was a call where Deepak opened up about how to start your own business. I think we were all expecting him to talk about the bureaucracy and the legal implications of it all, but he actually opened up about his spiritual struggle and is a big ‘reason why’ he keeps going in the face of failure, which ultimately brought him success.
It was very moving, everyone said so. Despite all being behind a screen on a zoom call, I think we all felt the energy shift and the vulnerability of that call. The biggest takeaway was that you need to have a good enough reason to stay on the lonely and challenging path of entrepreneurship. You must learn to accept the logical contradictions that you will almost definitely fail while believing that you will succeed while trying your hardest. It’s a feeling and a mindset more than something to get your head around intellectually. That’s why it appears to be a logical contradiction on paper. It’s beyond words.
That’s me in the top left! This is the best I could do to get a screenshot where there isn’t anyone with their eyes closed.
Aside from that memorable training call, I’ve become much more confident and learned to listen to my intuition at Pearl Lemon. From being called on at team meetings to present something at the last minute to speaking to clients and even training others – for the first time in my life, I feel like I could speak to a group of people without preparing.
Before Pearl Lemon, I was the QUEEN OF PREPARATION – but this was a neurotic by-product of anxiety disorder rather than the skill I cultivated from a growth perspective. Being thrown into the deep end at Pearl Lemon and learning that I am intelligent enough to see what is in front of me and react in a logical and practical way has done wonders for my confidence. Before Pearl Lemon, I had truly accepted that I would always be a worrier and would always waste my time over-preparing. That’s not the case anymore. I’m overjoyed to be saying this.
Lastly, and this is just an add on. Another learning from our weekly calls that stayed with me was a sales call training, in which we all had to try speaking about a random subject without using filler words like ‘um’ and ‘like’ to project confidence. This is TOUGH, let me tell you. No one, bar, no one managed to do this the first time.
When it got to me, it took me three tries to get through the 3 minutes. I had to talk about knuckles (like on your hand), not an easy subject! This skill could be considered personal and professional development because you can use it with clients to project confidence. Still, in life, you can use it when you need to stand up for yourself or have a difficult conversation. The most effective thing about this technique is that the person or people on the other end of the conversation probably won’t realise what you’re doing, but they will feel the impact – and that makes it all the more effective.
Me Hard At Work In My Local Starbucks
One of the great things about Pearl Lemon is that it is constantly changing with the times. As a start-up, there is no entrenched bureaucracy that slows things down. People work across all kinds of departments depending on the needs of the company and your own professional development goals.
Since starting, I’ve seen the Head of PR move onto her dream job all thanks to her experience at Pearl Lemon. I’ve seen a fellow content writer become Head of Content and thrive in a leadership position. The team has grown massively, and many brands under the Pearl Lemon umbrella, particularly SERPWizz, have achieved business success.
When you truly open your mind to any possibility, anything is possible. This attitude is ubiquitous throughout the company, and it facilitates growth. It’s such a stimulating environment to be immersed within.
If you’ve read this far, I shouldn’t really need to make a case in favour of the professional development you can gain at Pearl Lemon, but I’ll go into it again anyway. I’ve gained skills I would never have imagined. This benefits me strongly because I’ll either stay at Pearl Lemon or I’ll move on.
If I stay, I have the skills to carry out my job in the most effective and productive way possible. If I move on, I have a number of hard skills that all companies and recruiters LOVE. Similarly, I’ve made leaps and bounds in terms of personal development. I feel more confident and capable than ever. But the key thing, is that I don’t expect my personal and professional development to be linear. You have wins and losses, but you grow each time. That truly is all that matters in this world.
If you studied a generic degeree such as History, English, Geography, chances are you need some professional experience to make a good job application. Pearl Lemon understands that everyone has the potential to grow and flourish in an area, no matter their background.
Finally, I didn’t know what I wanted to do long term after university. I still don’t know for sure (I probably never will) but I now have SEO skills, writing skills, social media design skills, client facing skills and MORE. I can’t think of another company that would allow me to just ask if I could start designing stuff and actually let me.
Pearl Lemon is a unique environment. It’s a trial by fire that focuses on honestly and professional development. It’s also totally remote. In this way, it’s not for everyone.
But I would say don’t let that put you off. Just apply. Firstly, you can always just do the trial week to see if it’s for you. If it isn’t – just leave! There is no obligation during that week or even the first month to stay without notice. You don’t have anything to lose by going through with the application and trial.
My time at Pearl Lemon has been incredibly personally and professionally enriching.
Enriching is 100% the word I would use to sum up the whole experience so far. I’ve gained useful technical skills, ‘soft’ professional skills, and made leaps and bounds in my personal development.
If you’ve made it this far down my blog, I think that reflects that you must be pretty interested in the program. With that assumption in mind, here are my final pieces of advice: