How the “best career advice” might actually be the worst.

I’ve received a lot of career advice over the years. Here are some words of wisdom to consider. 

best-career-adviceRecently, I was asked to provide career advice to a group of young, ambitious college students. Wait, what?! Do my wrinkles finally qualify me to stand on my own soapbox and provide wisdom to others?

Well, here is my first piece of marketing job advice: never stop learning. I learn something new every day. However, after 18 years of marketing in the “real world,” I think that I can provide some valuable insight on missteps to avoid and the advice to follow instead.

Command the room.  Listen more, talk less.

I’m a talker. I’ll fully admit it. I’m that person who sits in the front seat of a Lyft ride to get to know the driver. I love to strike up conversations with neighbors, the woman behind the deli counter, your great uncle at a wedding, the person next to me on an airplane (before you cringe, please note that I can read social cues).

Ultimately, I enjoy getting to know people and what makes them tick. Part of our job as marketers is to understand an audience. I personally receive a great amount of joy when participating in this research process. However, I’ve learned that less is more.

One-on-one conversations require thoughtful questions and focused listening—whether that be with a target audience, engaging with a client in a kickoff meeting, or participating in a concept session with a colleague.

Some of the best creative solutions come from careful, active listening, not thinking about what you are going to say next.

All decisions require 110% certainty.  Make a thoughtful decision, then don’t look back.

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”—General George Patton

Following the wonderful advice of my dad, a military vet, and my own personal hero, if you are 80% confident in a decision, act courageously—don’t wait for 110%. This has guided me every day for the past several years. I am surrounded by a team of incredibly talented individuals—nothing leaves our doors that we aren’t proud of. And in the world of marketing, splitting hairs over a shade of blue will not guarantee a campaign’s success.

I always fall back on two questions: will this idea inspire action and will it achieve our goals? At the end of the day, moving forward is better than not moving at all.

If you are too busy, they can wait until later.  Always follow through.

Follow-through is the key to creating trust. Words are meaningless unless you “walk the walk.” Over the years, I’ve been on the receiving end of verbal commitments from managers who did not take action.

I have learned that you can always make time to establish clarity, help others achieve goals, and check-in regularly. This rule applies beyond working with colleagues and clients. Sincerely respond to emails, give 30 minutes of time to any hopeful job candidate or potential vendor, and show up. Period.

An employee should never know more than you.  Hire people better than you.

I will never pretend to know it all (because I don’t). We hired five new employees recently and I am proud to report I don’t have half their talents. Each person brings a unique skill set that not only enhances our services but inspires me daily.

We have worked hard to craft a culture that embraces different perspectives and new ideas. One of the most rewarding aspects of my role as a creative director is to provide opportunities for others to thrive. Marketing is an industry of inflated egos. The most successful teams are comprised of humble, open minds. I am fortunate to be a part of one of those teams.

Advancing your career will require personal sacrifice.  Never forget your priorities.

There IS such a thing as a work-life balance. I am a proud wife and the mother of two active kids. Yes, I struggle at times, like every working parent, to keep the wheels on the bus at home, but I am incredibly grateful to work in an environment that fully supports flexible schedules and respects personal time.

One year ago, we opened up a flex schedule to all of our employees.

Spoiler alert:

We became more efficient, created some of the most successful campaigns in our agency history, and didn’t miss a single deadline. Do you face a bad commute during rush hour? No problem, come in at 7 am and leave at 4 pm. Want to volunteer on Friday afternoons? Please do!

We even have an employee who takes Wednesdays off so that he can focus on a music career. People work that much harder when they know they can enjoy moments with loved ones or pursue other passions. Sure, there are times when we work late to hit a tight deadline or adjust our schedules to accommodate an important meeting. But when you care about what goes on in people’s lives beyond the office, you inspire empathy, dedication, and a supportive culture.

Not to mention the most creative ideas are often sparked outside our office walls, which is why we also have a tradition to take a team vacation every year.


And now a lofty conclusion because it feels like this article needs one…

Whether or not you are pursuing a career in marketing, I hope these words of wisdom help. So let me end with a string of cliché (but truthful) phrases.

As you forge ahead on the path of your career, you will cross a lot of bridges, navigate unknown waters and face a few tough choices.  Follow your gut, follow your heart, and be a good person. And now it’s 3:30 pm…time to turn off this device and help with some 4thgrade math (which I could use a little advice on).