I get it. You’re anxious. A bit stressed. One life stage comes crashing to an end and a new, unfamiliar one is about to begin.
You want a job, a paycheck and something that validates the last four years of life and the $200,000 you just forked over to prepare for — or perhaps delay — this very day.
Over the last few weeks I’ve had no shortage of students seeking advice on their portfolios, websites, cover letters and resumes.
Is my work portfolio good enough to get a job? How can I make it better? What should stay in? Should I take this out? Does this cover letter work? Do you know anyone at (fill in the name of virtually any advertising agency in America)? Would you mind looking at my resume? What’s better, any job inside a good agency or the position I really want at a lesser agency?
But there is one question that no one ever asks. A question that is far more important, at least in the long term, than, “How can I make this cover letter better?”
And it’s this.
“How can I be happy in my career?”
Given that I’ve somehow managed to survive for 35 years in a business that I love. Given that I actually looked forward to work every day for 30 of those years. And given that I never felt that I had to answer to anyone but myself I thought I’d share the six tips that I’m convinced lead to happiness as well as success.
Avoid working for (or with) assholes
You’ll recognize them right away. They throw their weight around just so you know who is in charge. They take credit for your ideas and blame you when theirs don’t work. They compete against you instead of working with you. They tend to say, “no because,” instead of “yes and.” They defend the past rather than embrace the future. They take the joy out of both the work and the workplace. Life is too short to spend any of it working for an asshole. Please don’t.
Find clients you believe in
Not everyone gets to work on Apple or Nike or Dove or Chipotle. You may find yourself selling fast food, sugar-laden soft drinks, SUVs or hair dyes. And that’s OK, too, if you believe in those products. But if that’s not the case, find a way to get off that business and onto to one you do believe in. Otherwise — even if you are engaged with the team, and stimulated by the challenge — you’ll never love the work you do or be proud of your accomplishments.
Pursue the work not the money
You want to wake up every morning excited about what you will create not about how much you’ll get paid. It’s the work that will make the day fly by. It’s the work that will keep your brain engaged. It’s the work that will make you want to come back tomorrow. And, no surprise, if you love the work and what you’re creating, you’ll do a better job and end up making more money anyway.
Control your own career
You have two choices. You can let your career happen to you. Or you can take charge. My suggestion? Don’t leave things to chance or to someone you work for. Plan ahead, leverage every experience, seek new challenges, stay impatient.
You may or may not have a 10-year plan or even a five-year plan. But as soon as you have your first position start plotting how to secure the next one. Know what it takes to get there and take the first steps sooner rather than later. Volunteer for additional assignments, develop relationships outside your immediate circle, build your personal brand with online content network, and stay open to any and all opportunities that present themselves.
Share everything you learn
If you really want to be happy, pass it forward and give it back. Few things can give you as much joy as teaching others what you know. So help someone older learn a new technology that keeps him relevant. Show a newbie the ropes. Save others from making whatever mistakes you made as you learn and grow. You’ll feel good about yourself. And set a good example for anyone inclined to be an asshole.
Got other tips for the next generation of makers, creators and doers? Please comment.
“You make a film to learn a little bit about life and to have an adventure of your own. But little do you ever realize what’s actually in store for you.”
That’s but one of many sentiments and insights shared by my good friend and cycling partner Chris Szwedo in the above film, The Making of Eye on the Sixties, about the documentary he recently wrote and directed examining the work and career of photographer Roland Scherman.
This short captures Chris talking about the experience of crafting the full-length film. It’s a 12-minute narrative on photography, filmmaking, storytelling, creativity, fund raising and shoe-string budgets. But perhaps more importantly it’s a story about determination and a passion to create.
Two summers ago, Chris, an independent filmmaker, a lover of photography, and a child of the 60s himself, met the legendary Life photographer Roland Scherman (Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Woodstock, the March on Washington, etc.) after discovering his work in a tiny gallery in Orleans, MA.
As I recall him telling me, the images were remarkable. Arthur Ashe before his US Open wins. Bobby Kennedy on the campaign trail. Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell in a tree house strumming guitar and singing a duet. Bob Dylan, back lit and silhouetted, playing the harmonica.
Chris didn’t know Roland, but instantly understood that there had to be a story behind the man who’d created such iconic images. He decided then and there he’d make a film about the aging photographer. He tracked Roland down, introduced himself, convinced (not easy) the cantankerous photographer to cooperate and then endured, and grew to enjoy, their many road trips back in time – to the Washington Mall, to Woodstock, to Newport. He funded the film with a little bit of help from Kickstarter and good hunk of his own money. Then spend the better part of two years writing, filming, editing and narrating the production. He even composed and performed the music.
Though audiences welcome the film with both praise and enthusiasm when it plays in theaters, Eye on the Sixties may never be a mainstream documentary. It may never get to HBO or win big at the festivals. But that’s not why Chris made it. He made it because he had to make it. Because the story needed telling. Because the subject captured his imagination. Because it’s always more rewarding to make something for yourself than for a paying client.
Hope you enjoy this clip – it’s wonderfully written and reveals the director’s feelings and motivations. And if you get the chance, keep an eye open for the full length film.
Yesterday, in a class at BU, I gave a lecture and led a discussion about “advertising” creative ideas. We explored “big” ideas: Let’s build a smarter planet; Giving wings to people and ideas; Day One. We dissected “campaign” ideas: A long day of childhood calls for America’s favorite pasta sauce. We thought about “advertising” ideas.
While some are clearly the creation of a traditional advertising creative team, the higher up the idea food chain you get, the more you can see the contribution of the strategist, or at the very least the strategic side of the creative team.
Ideas like “Day One” don’t happen without a pretty deep understanding of the user.
With the proliferation of screens, the mainstreaming of social media, the omni-presence of digital technology and the arrival of the Internet of Things, it becomes essential to know a lot more than how a consumer feels about a category, a company or its advertising.
How does she use technology? When does she access content? What role does her community play? How does context affect her willingness to engage? What kind of value and utility does she expect from a brand? What inspires her to share? Can you turn her into an advocate?
Today, the very best creative people have to be able to ask and answer those questions. And the very best strategists have to be able to get to ideas as good as Smarter Planet or Day One.
Years ago, when we worked in a linear fashion – client hands assignment to account guy who passes it to planner who writes brief for the creative team – we didn’t need to be T-shaped or know all that much about each other’s roles. Now, however, we have to be 20 or 30 percent something else. A writer/planner. A designer/coder. A strategist/creative.
Which leads me to the second part of this post — my excitement about Planning-ness having its 2013 conference in Boston next month. There is certainly no shortage of conferences, planning or otherwise. But as we all know, too many of them are designed to have you sit and listen as opposed to think and do. Planningness labels itself an “un-conference” for creative thinkers who want to get their hands dirty, offering a bit more how-to and interactive workshop sessions than the typical conference.
That makes Planningness a good thing for strategists who want to get more creative, or for creatives who want to get a bit more strategic. There may always be a distinction between creative and planning, but look at the very best of new, big, or digital ideas and that distinction gets more and more blurred.
The Planningness Grant
This years Planningness is offering a $10,000 grant for anyone the best research idea or project designed to benefit the planning community and creative thinkers.
How do social ideas spread? Are smaller communities of influence a new trend? Does real time come at the expense of enduring ideas? Do we learn by iterating or by testing?
Come up with a proposal and get it in. You have three days left. But this is a great opportunity to learn something that will make you, your agency and the community of planners better.
Anyway, hope to see you at Planningness. Let me know if you’ll be there.
I’ve been a fan of Springpad since they first launched. Enough so to join its board and also to fill in as interim CMO for six months in 2012. I can’t say I was a very good CMO – not a master of growth hacking, which is what startups really need in their marketing mix – but I did push for one feature. Embeddable notebooks.
Everything that Springpad is about – filtering the web, acting on your “springs,” saving, preserving and presenting content in a form that keeps it persistent rather than lost in the stream – is exemplified when notebooks become embeddable. Now you can post them anywhere, share them on platforms other than Springpad, allow your notebooks to travel across the web.
And if you’re a blogger, publisher, media company – and who isn’t these days – it gets even better. Springpad gives you a means of curating, organizing and sharing content in a more productive way than ever. Letting your readers access it, re-Spring it, copy an entire notebook, or more easily navigate to the original source.
If you are a user already, embeds are possible simply by hitting the share button inside a notebook, then grabbing the embed code. Just like a YouTube video. Give it try. Create, curate, publish, distribute.
It will be a great new feature. Love to hear what you think.
Eventually there will be some very impressive data visualizations of SxSW. How many people, how many sessions, how many beers consumed, how many hangovers. Until then you can check out Mashable’s SxSW by the numbers. Or poke around SxSWs’s press room.
But to be honest, I’m less interested in how much there is to pore through and more in the few things that might actually be useful, transferable, and worth remembering. Which is why I go every year. To find insights and perspectives that might serve a purpose the other 360 days.
Out of consideration for the fact that you are either:
A. Home but still waiting for the alcohol-induced haze to subside
B. Too busy doing actual work back at the office while your more fortunate colleagues are partying under the guise of working down in Austin
C. Still there in which case you’re overwhelmed already
….I share only five. Certainly you can remember five.
You are not a true entrepreneur unless you go all in. You don’t even have genuine conviction unless you go all in. This from Olan Musk, who in his interview with Chris Anderson, shared how he took every cent he had from his PayPal fortune, along with whatever else he collected from Tesla or other initiatives and put every last cent into SpaceX. To the degree that he had to borrow money to pay living expenses. If you had a couple of hundred million would you keep some back? Or go all in. Big balls.
Out of the Internet
This from Google’s Aman Govil during his Art, Copy & Code talk with Ben Malbon. It’s time we stopped making things for the Internet and started making things out of the Internet. This was one of the evident trends and ideas at SxSW this year, apparent in lots of new services and platforms. But it’s an important reminder. The ad industry is still thinking that ads on a mobile phone are the way to go. That would be making things for the Internet. Uber and others, on the other hand, are doing the opposite. Out of the Internet. Get on it.
Crisis in Chinese and Japanese
Al Gore says that the word for crisis in both Chinese and Japanese is composed of two characters. One means danger. The other means opportunity. Think about that. The language forces you to consider the positive with as much emphasis as we typically place on the negative. I’m not sure that English focuses us that way. Crisis tends first to elicit thoughts of danger, harm and concern. We may eventually see opportunity, but maybe we should see the opportunity immediately. For example, to use Uber again, urban cabbies can only see danger. That will lead to their inevitable failure.
Capture the Imagination
Clean tech — wind power, solar power, biomass, hydropower, biofuels — never quite reached its potential because it never captured our imagination, says David Merkoski, former ECD at Frog Design, now founder of Greenstart. The clean web on the other hand — AirBNB, ZipCar, other companies whose models are based on collaborative consumption — will and do. They may not have been created to clean the environment, but because they use fewer resources and waste less energy ultimately they will. More importantly they capture our imagination by inviting us to both create and participate. They get used, they spread, they get used even more. Fail to capture the imagination of users and sharers and little happens. Oh by the way, it’s the same reason that big business in America is despised more than Congress, according to Whole Foods CEO and founder John Mackey. That’s pretty obvious once it’s pointed out.
Behavior Should Impact Design
And you thought it was the other way around. Ha! In a rapid fire talk from Adaptive Path’s Chris Risdon, the behavioral designer, reminded us that every design decision we make, in any medium (digital or analog) influences our user. But too often we start with what we want to achieve and what we think will work or be logical. But given that we live in world that lets us collect endless data on an individual user’s behavior and have multiple ways to tell/create/frame a story or experience, we’ll be a lot better off if our design allows itself to be informed by the user we’re trying to motivate.