When I was 19, I started an internship with the NBA Detroit Pistons.
Man, I was driven. I knew – beyond a shadow of a doubt that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my career.
I’d work my way up from Media Relations Intern to Assistant, Manager, Director, VP and eventually Executive VP.
I’d be a lifer, like everyone else in the building at the time that had been there for 20-30 years.
After two years of grinding I was hired full time, and my plan took shape, I was Media Relations Assistant for the Pistons – well on my way to my 20-30 year goal. 🙂
Then six months after that, my plan got totally derailed when the WNBA team’s PR Director left and I got shifted over into that position.
I was needed in a completely different capacity. Responsibilities changed. Time commitments changed. Relationships changed internally with co-workers.
Plan blew up. Right in my face.
I’m not unique or alone in this. It happens in CPG, Fashion, Retail and eCommerce when people don’t buy the products you thought they’d buy.
It happens in Healthcare, Consulting, Professional Services and especially Digital Marketing.
Why does it happen? The market is the market and what the market does is totally out of your control.
PUNCHLINE #1: Don’t plan on being what you are now. What you are now is already out of date, you just don’t know it yet. Not that everything that happened to me will happen to you, exactly, but you will have your own versions.
The same way the web and social media started to drastically change the way my organization and department communicated with the media around 2005, there will be constant changes in your career that are completely outside of what’s happening in your “bubble.”
Google “How Ellen Got Started,” “How Oprah Got Started,” “How Gary Vee Got Started” or “How Jeff Bezos Got Started” and you’ll find some really interesting stuff. NONE OF THEM, or really anyone truly successful, ever started out being exactly what they are today.
That’s my way of saying don’t put too much pressure on yourself as you enter this first job.
Don’t make it too much about any one thing. Don’t make it too much about the logo, the culture, the job title, the salary.
These changes are the opportunities that segue me to my next piece of advice.
PUNCHLINE #2: Keep learning new things. You’re about “finish learning” in the next few months, right? You’re about to start a new chapter – post school. I get it. I wanted to stop learning and start doing. I’m all for that, but what’s cool is now I can tell you that was the wrong mindset actually. It all worked out for me, but it wasn’t until about 10 years into my career that I woke up a little more and realized that if I stopped trying to be right all the time, and started listening better, and truly learning new skills based on my listening and understanding of the changing business landscape (aka – figuring out what people really needed and how I could provide it for them) that then and only then could I truly increase my earning potential.
PUNCHLINE #3: OVER-INDEX ON THE WORK, NOT THE MEETINGS. I could have used another word for “meetings” but decided to stay tame here. (And yes, I’m longwinded so I have three punchlines where most people only have one).
So this one, to me, is kind of like going to the gym. I like to work out, so I would say I frequent various “fitness centers.” Let’s just say, without me getting too political or jaded about the business landscape and the complete waste of time that are 99% of all business meetings, that the person who goes into the gym and freaking works out hard for 45-60 minutes straight up headphones on, locked in, circuits, weights, treadmill, all that – sees far better results. They’re toned, they eat well so they can come back and kill it next time.
That person wins.
The people that go to the gym and socialize and stare at themselves or try the latest products sold at the counter – those people lose.
The business analogy will come to you during your career, but to me, it’s avoiding the drama and the gossip and the meetings and the socializing vs. one thing – PUTTING IN THE WORK.
This one will be tougher to navigate than 1 and 2, and it gets personal, so you’ll each have your own version, but it’s equally as important to your business / career mindset. It’s a balance between being a team player and looking out for yourself.
You’re basically a golfer in the Ryder Cup or a boxer in the Olympics. Get it?
There will be meetings you have to go through and workplace politics that get tangled up in all types of interactions and communications, but if you can navigate that and stay focused on how you can work hard, be productive and provide value, I promise you a prosperous and successful, and even more important than that – personal fulfillment and happiness with your career.