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.
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.
We invent hashtags, issue images in hopes of getting re-tweeted, ask tiresome questions of our Facebook fans and we think we’re being social.
We share clever semi-contextual ads on our Twitter stream and because we’re doing it in real time we think we’re being social.
We stick a QR code on an ad or a billboard or a retail display, assuming some poor soul will actually scan it, and we think we’re being social.
But if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that more often than not we’re simply using social media rather than exhibiting social behavior.
True there are plenty of examples of brands doing it right. But as more and more marketers incorporate social media into their efforts, there remains a tendency to fall back on old practices and ways of thinking. Control the message. Focus on reach. Strive to collect fans and followers that we’re not even sure what to do with after we’ve amassed enough to make us feel as if we’ve been successful.
But this week I was reminded what social behavior is really all about — inviting participation, creating community, generating content, and enhancing the experience that a user has with a brand in a way that yields a mutually rewarding experience. All evident in relatively small initiative from the Getty Museum.
As the only museum in the US to exhibit Vermeer’s Lady in Blue as the wonderful painting makes its way around the world, the museum found a perfectly relevant way to invite patrons to think about the painting, explore its meaning and play a part in a collective effort to imagine the opening line in the concealed letter that grips the attention of the woman reading it.
Hundreds of art lovers submitted lines, some serious, some eloquent, some amusing, some set in the 1600′s, some imagining the future.
In doing so, the Getty actually encouraged people to think about the painting, the moment captured, Vermeer’s intentions, the story that might be contained in its 270 square inches. It gave Vermeer fans a reason to pay to attention, participate and engage. And perhaps more importantly it didn’t ask for much in return. No likes. No follows. No pleas to purchase a ticket or visit the exhibit.
It’s more than likely that the masses, the general public, even the majority of the Getty’s 400,000-plus followers on Twitter don’t really care. Or would never take the time to play along. But for those that did, it was a way to feel involved with both the museum and the painting.
And, of course, to see which opening line Anne Martens, the Getty’s resident multi-media writer, chose to start the completed letter.
And finally, some lessons to consider as you think about your next social media initiative.
Know your users and invent something with which they will want to engage
Remember this is for them not for you. Too many social campaigns have already forgotten that you have to bring something useful and entertaining to the party. It starts with seeing things from a user’s perspective. What Vermeer lover wouldn’t want some encouragement and an idea for how to think about the painting?
Stop using social media as an ad medium
The Getty could have Instagrammed and Tweeted images of the painting. Or even made clever little ads and sent those out. But is that really being social? Social implies interaction, conversation and a relationship.
Integrate all of the platforms
The Getty let users join in via its blog, Twitter and Facebook. And the museum cross posted content, along with responses and conversation on all of them. Go where your users are; give them lots of ways to interact with you.
Make this kind of engagement part of your brand behavior
If you constantly generate small initiatives like this you’ll find more ways to connect with customers and your communities in ways that serve their interests and needs. And you’ll take the pressure off of trying to hit homeruns all the time.
Re think your metrics
Finally, stop evaluating initiatives like this based on likes, followers and clicks. Instead, measure interaction, engagement, depth of conversation, word of mouth, and even the press coverage that comes out of it. If you do you’ll see more value in trying to develop a never ending stream of small ideas that keep the dialog going and give your users a reason to keep coming back.
You may be going to SxSW for the panels, talks and keynotes. But the fact is you’ll inevitably pick some bad sessions, wishing you’d chosen something else and wondering how the one you’re suffering through even got in.
If you’re like some people I know (no names mentioned) you’re going only for the parties. And yes, some will be great, but others will be too crowded and will run out food too soon.
If you’re like most, you’re going for both. And to connect with industry friends and contacts.
But one of the best reasons to go to SxSW is to make connections with people you don’t know and may not meet anywhere else. Most of us tend to interact with the same 20 or 30 people every week. Maybe we tweet with another hundred or so.
The connections you can make at SxSW — sitting next to someone at a panel, standing in lines (there are plenty of those), hanging out at a charging station or a pop-up tent serving as a shared workspace — can lead to new sources of inspiration, a chance to meet potential collaborators, connections to people whose expertise may be very different from yours but relevant to your next big project.
So it’s pretty cool to see what the innovative folks at Hyper Island are offering. They’ve just launched Solo/Mates. Perfect for people headed to SxSW by themselves — or who want to connect with some new people — Solo/Mates is planned to be a series of daily meetups for people on their own, a reference source for best tips on what sessions and events are really worth attending, and a simple way to network, all filtered through the digital and collaborative mindset that defines Hyper Island. And given that Tim Leake is behind it, my guess it will actually attract the kind of people you might want to meet.
SxSW can be a zoo. In the midst of it all you try and find the best small gatherings where you can actually talk, learn, connect and perhaps plan. Consider checking out Solo/Mates.
Photo by : Amanda Hirsch
Out of the blue today I got an email from one of Bank of America’s most senior executives asking me this question. “What does it mean to be a chief innovation officer?” Now I can only guess why BofA is asking. Perhaps they think they need one. Or they think their agency needs one. Either way it’s probably a good thing, suggesting the bank is thinking about how to become more innovative, either in its products or its marketing.
I could get on a crazy speculative rant about banks, innovation and lack thereof, but I won’t. I have to admit I’m actually a big fan of the BofA’s smartphone apps, especially the photo based check deposit feature which saves me from ever having to visit a branch or an ATM ever again. When it comes to banking I will always take technology over a human being.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote back, always willing to share what little I know.
In short, a chief innovation officer is responsible for any number of things.
Embrace new technologies
Your primary role is to help the organization understand and leverage the new technologies that are affecting its business. So in advertising that’s everything from digital technology to social media, the Internet of things, mobile utility, the impact of disintermediation, collaborative consumption and, yes, crowdsourcing.
Educate and inform
You should be educating and informing people as to what they can do with all of the new stuff; making it understandable in light of their daily challenges. How do you get creatives and strategists to realize what is actually possible with all the new platforms and technologies? How do you inspire them to create with those technologies?
Change processes and environment
A CIO probably needs to work on changing an organization’s structure, processes and physical space in order to foster new, more collaborative working relationships,and more importantly the collisions that lead to innovative ideas. So anything you can do to tear down the silos that encourage people to define their roles functionally will lead to more innovative thinking.
You’ll want to encourage experimentation. Most people fear change of any kind. But they especially fear technologies they don’t understand. This is especially true of senior people. They’re acutely aware of the fact that it’s hard to justify the big bucks when they know less about something than the kids working for them. But the idea of being a beginner again has them hyperventilating. So another job is to create an environment of experimentation that eliminate fear of the new.
Focus on growth
Ideally all of the above takes into consideration what you are inventing and creating as new products/services/businesses. If you make the assumption that there are only three ways to grow: sell existing products to new customers, sell new products to existing customers, develop new products and services for customers you don’t yet have, then the latter –that upper right quadrant on a BCG grid — is where innovation has to concentrate.
Finally, given that there are so many ways to define the job, it’s important to concentrate the effort on the one or two areas that matter most. In the advertising agency business, that’s been mostly on getting people to pull their heads out of their asses and embrace what’s coming instead of trying vainly to hold onto the past.
I’ve been lucky. Mullen practically made my job unnecessary as the organization itself embraces innovation, new ideas and my favorite mantra, “Live in beta.” It may be a harder chore for Bank of America.
Ben Malbon on CIOs