As we get ready to say goodbye to 2017, I can't help but reflect on everything I've experienced in the past 12 months -- especially from an IMPACT perspective.
Attending CXL, winning the HubSpot Partner of the Year Award, meeting my new team members (who quickly became best friends), being able to continue to work with clients I've known for years, as well as beginning to work with new ones...the list goes on.
And with this reflection of the past comes the curiosity of what's next to come.
What does 2018 have in store for my career?
How can I better myself and ensure I'm moving forward while continuing to learn and keep up with the changing trends? How can I make sure I'm delivering my best work to my clients, and that I'm remaining valuable to them?
I often think about the best career advice I've received in my 26 years.
I was working a summer job at a fasteners manufacturing company at the time, and I was getting ready to interview for a few different jobs.
Seeing how nervous I was, our sales manager took me aside as I planned to enter my next journey and his advice was simple:
I thought it was quite cliche coming from a salesperson, but what he said has made more and more sense, every day working here at IMPACT.
By focusing on my strengths and how I knew I could add value to the agency, I aced my interview (right, Natalie?), and I officially became an IMPACTer.
As time progressed, I realized I had to sell myself in other ways: to my managers, to my co-workers, and especially to my clients.
That was truly the best career advice I ever received.
Here's some more from 23 of marketing and sales' biggest experts:
My grandmother is still a practicing and super successful real estate agent in her eighties, and her advice was to never stop learning and reinventing yourself. She's always taking classes, attending seminars, and trying out new things (she and her best friends even took a belly dancing class once), and she's always served as an inspiration to me personally and a reminder to always be growing and improving as a leader and a person.
"Sometimes you eat the big dog. Sometimes, the big dog eats you."
Different versions of this phrase have existed since Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote something similar in 1870. Most previous phrases, including the one uttered in the Big Lebowski, involve bears, not "big dogs." But, this is Dan Tyre's version, a mentor of mine (and many others) for 10 years now.
I'm a very passionate person when it comes to my vision for how I think things should work, specifically business strategy. And I don't like it when people in authority positions force me to do something not in-line with my vision. Dan was always a good ear in those situations, and he said this phrase to me more than once, when I needed to hear it.
He taught me that sometimes it makes sense to compromise and "let the big dog" have his way. There were a handful of times where I did just that and did it with a smile on my face, even though I was fuming inside. Upon reflection, I'm glad I did. If I hadn't, there's a whole slew of things I would have never accomplished or never had the opportunity to even try.
Nowadays, as CEO in a company that's doing well, I don't have as many people forcing me to compromise my vision. But, I am a lot more open to hearing other people's ideas and perspective and incorporating that into my vision. In fact, I try to empower others to have a vision of their own and work hard to align mine with theirs.
I'd say the best career advice came from my college sales and marketing professor. He said, "if you are at a job and find yourself bored or not feeling challenged, ask for more or different work. If you've asked for more, and you're still bored or unchallenged, it's probably time to leave."
This has definitely helped me make some tough decisions in the past about leaving jobs at which I really would never have grown or improved much beyond what I was doing on my own (with Academy certifications and things).
I know myself, and I do need to be always learning and growing, and I'm never bored if I am passionate about what I'm doing.
Don't wait for someone to promote you to start doing the type of job you want. Find ways to drive additional value by doing things "above your pay grade." Take tasks off your boss' plate. Think of new projects that need to be done. By doing the job before it's officially yours, you become a no-brainer for a future promotion.
Focus on the things you’re so excited to do; They don’t feel like work. The things where even if you’re stressed, it’s a “good stress.” You’ll know it when you feel it. Then take whatever that is, and make it into a career.
Some of the best career advice I've ever received has been this phrase, "live in the solution rather than the problem." Living in the solution is a choice. It means choosing to look at problems in a positive light rather than a negative, as a challenge rather than a hindrance, and as an opportunity to solve something and grow versus avoiding and remaining stagnant.
Really and truly living in the solution unearths a deeper sense of leadership and responsibility and becomes a beacon for others to follow.
This advice was not given to me in person; I read it from a book or a blog post like 10 years ago. But it stuck with me. Having a skill that the market is ready to pay for is an amazing asset to have.
It’s what sets apart the NBA superstars from random ball players. It’s what makes the difference between a software developer making top dollar and someone having to struggle to find an odd freelance gig for a few bucks. If you are among the top 1% in the world at what you do, you will never have to worry about “making it.” It’s the surest path there is.
Devote yourself to become the very best at what you do – and success will follow.
I got this advice when I was about 25 years old (100 years ago!) from a recruiter, and I'll never forget it.
She said: "Young people at the beginning of their careers should focus on one thing over everything else: join the best company you can, regardless of title or compensation. Think of it as boarding a train on the most important journey of your life. Get on the best train out there, without regard to the seat, view, or services included. Get on the train that will do the most to take you where you want to go."
That sentiment still gives me goosebumps when I pass it on to young people today.
Treat your career like your 401K. When you start out at 22, you don’t invest in conservative bonds. You are advised to put your 401K contributions into aggressive funds because you have your entire career ahead of you to experience the ups and downs. The same applies to your career. Early on, take big risks. Join a startup. Start one yourself. Go after a new sector or an up and coming role. Don’t play it safe. You have your entire career ahead of you.
The best advice I've ever received is to enjoy the ride. For every challenge and every obstacle, try to get yourself into the mindset of enjoying the process of solving those challenges, and overcoming those obstacles, with the people you're overcoming them with.
Because throughout your career, the challenges only get greater, and the obstacles only get bigger. If you don't like that, you're going to have a really hard career, but if you could learn to enjoy it, you're going to have a really fulfilling career.
Marketing Technology Consultant at The MarTech Whisperer
I had a number of mentors over the years, but early on I learned the most valuable lesson from my first mentor, the guy who hired me out of graduate school.
"Don't do your job. Invent it."
What he meant was - listen carefully and find out what's needed or what's missing, then focus on that. Set goals based on those needs, and write your own job description around exceeding them. Develop a detailed plan and timeline. Run it by your mentor first, then your boss next (if it's not the same person). Don't be afraid to fail, but also, don't be afraid to celebrate wins.
Agency Business Development Lead at Sprout Social, Inc.
There are 2 things that have really stuck with me as I've grown in my career. The first was with one of my very first managers, where he told me "always come with a solution, never a problem." And no matter what I've always been sure to do just that. It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day and see all of the challenges in front of you. Learning to look at every challenge as an opportunity and every problem as a solution has allowed me to think creatively and have fun doing it. If you don't have a solution to offer, the problem will end up coming off like an complaint. Being a leader, or growing into one, means being thoughtful and pragmatic every step of the way.
The other piece of advice wasn't actually advice but a quote from Socrates which states "I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing." This is my day to day mantra for everything I do. All of our life experiences, schooling, etc. sets us up to be 'wise' as much as we can be. But you don't know what you don't know. And while I can often have very strong opinions, I'll also be the first to remind myself that I don't have all the answers. Always be learning, always be open-minded, and be always humble in what you do! When I lose sight of that, I lose sight of the most important things, so this has been a really important one for me throughout my career.
Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author of Freshspot Marketing
When I was in university, my father told me to 'learn how to speak in public.' Like most people, I was frightened of the stage! But soon after graduation, I joined a Toastmasters Club and learned the basics of presenting in front of a crowd. That ability to present was essential for when I started to speak in front of executives at my own company as well as our clients, and it was the reason I was promoted quickly to be Vice President of Marketing for several public technology companies. And since going independent more than a decade ago, I've delivered many hundreds of paid speeches around the world.
Keynote Speaker, Author, & Founder of The Sales Lion
The best career advice I've ever received would be from one of my earliest heroes, the man who gave me a love for personal development, Jim Rohn.
His famous quote (that has stuck with me ever since) is: "You must learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job."
The times in my life when I've been most innovative at work directly correlate with the time I was spending investing in my own personal development. Self-improvement leads to inspiration in a variety of forms, and for me, it often shows itself through innovation, ideas, and energy in the workplace.
This quote is literally the impetus behind They Ask, You Answer, starting The Sales Lion, and many other personal breakthroughs.
Take ownership. The best way to stand out in your career is to have a reputation for just owning a task/project/initiative. There are always obstacles to whatever you are trying to do. The people who stand out are the ones who own the problem and don't make excuses. They do the work of overcoming the obstacles and taking responsibility for the outcome.
I'm not sure this is exactly "career" advice - it might be a bit more about how to be a better leader, which is fundamentally great career advice!
The advice came from George Conrades, the Chairman of Akamai Technologies, where I was CFO. George is a legendary tech leader having spent 30 years at IBM and then running BBN and Akamai.
He and I were talking shortly after I joined Akamai, and he was asking me how things were going - I kind of "whined" a bit about how many moving parts there were and how some folks were pushing one way and others wanted to go another, etc. He cut me off and said, "Sherman, your job as a leader is to absorb all that uncertainty and pass down clarity to the team! Then he walked out and let me think about it!
I realized what he meant -- as a leader you have to listen to all the sides and delve into the complexity of a situation, but at the end of the day your job is to make that situation as clear as possible so that your team can align around a direction. That means making tough decisions, and it means being able to communicate clearly and precisely. Now, whenever I come across uncertainty, I think about what George told me 10 years ago and I work on "clearing the fog."
Senior Marketing Manager, Content Strategy at HubSpot
One of the best pieces of career advice I've ever received is to solve the problems everyone else is too afraid to tackle. In other words, raise your hand for the projects that don't have clear solutions, but do have the potential to positively impact the business.
Taking on these types of projects will not only challenge you and force you to learn something new, but it will also help you build goodwill and demonstrate to leadership that you're not afraid of a little hard work.
Professional Sales & Marketing Speaker at The Sales Lion
Never feel like you have arrived. Always be educating/growing every single day. If a day passes, and you have not learned something new that day, then that day has been wasted. When you learn something new, immediately execute your learnings. Best recipe for success: educate, execute, educate, execute...
When I was in Managed Services at IBM, our PMO managed a portfolio of 7 billion dollars in customer transactions. When an integration went wrong, things got ugly in a hurry. We were 4 months into a migration for a national trucking carrier when a misscommunication routed a full day's worth of transactions to nowhere. The C-Suite called us in the next day for a post mortem, and tensions were hot.
Before we walked into the meeting, Our SVP - a seasoned veteran at crisis control - said:
"Kill the Elephant. Handle the emotions before the logic. We're not talking to the CEO of X, we're talking to a human being who's hurting right now. Acknowledge the pain, soothe it without patronizing, and get down to details."
When we walked in, he smiled and blurted out "Well this sucks!" Everyone in the room chuckled, and it made a difficult meeting less stressful by a few degrees.
His advice changed my perspective about tension in a tough situation. That advice helped me more times than I care to admit in my career, and continues to serve me well.
Be coachable. Often we focus so much on demonstrating how capable we are and trying to get promoted, that we forget that it's more important to take feedback and know where you can improve. Over the long haul, that's what will get you the furthest.
Co-Founder of Airstory and Creator of Copy Hackers
When I got accepted to law school, one of the lawyers at the firm I was working at congratulated me and told me this: "Never take yourself too seriously."
Over the last 15 years, that one line has helped me take risks and experiment in ways I might not have otherwise. It's why I started Copy Hackers and why setbacks haven't really set me back. When I find myself getting stressed or frustrated - when it feels like nothing's going right - it's almost always because I'm taking myself too seriously. Just gotta pause, chill and move forward the way I want to, not the way I think the world expects me to. After all, the world doesn't really care. And that's pretty liberating.
What's Your Best Career Advice?
It's no question that everyone's career, professional journey, and goals are different. For each person reading this, they may find one of these applicable, or they may find them all relevant in a unique way that's helpful specifically to them.
Comment below to let me know which advice you're going to take to further your career in 2018, and don't forget to share the best career advice you've ever received!
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