In your career, do you ever feel like you are being asked to be someone you’re not? Do you feel like you are trying to portray the image of the Great and Powerful Oz, a Design/UX/Marketing Unicorn that can do it all, when in reality you feel like you’re pulling it off with smoke and mirrors behind a curtain of distraction (subtle shout out to the student section at ASU home basketball games).
I began my career as a graphic/web designer back in the mid-90’s. The work I was doing at a small agency was cutting-edge at the time ranging from 3D animation and photo manipulation to doing design for this thing called the Internet that nobody really understood (well, maybe my friend Jay Baer did). Fast forward five years or so and I needed a new creative challenge. I had a desire to be more involved in client strategy and marketing so I shifted gears and forged ahead on a new yellow brick road of my own.
Along the way I found myself frequently doubting if I had what it took to be really good at something, or even mildly successful. Was I a designer, a marketer, a writer, a researcher? I had worn so many hats I wasn’t sure which one was the right fit and just when I thought I had it figured out there were always new hats to try on (social media, analytics, UX).
Do you ever find yourself asking similar questions? (If you haven’t, can stop reading now and find solace in that fact that you know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life…and know that everyone else thinks you’re lying…and we hate you.) Looking back over the past 20 years have given me an opportunity to find perspective and offer some tips to finding and following the right career path:
The most fun and rewarding jobs I’ve had have always come on the other side of risk. You grow more personally and professionally when you are forced to take chances and try something new. That doesn’t mean you have to start a new job, necessarily. On more than one occasion I’ve stayed at a company and reinvented my job description that ended up being a benefit to my career and my employer. On the other hand, carving out a new path might lead you to a new job…that you might not be sure you can do. Take Richard Branson’s advice on this one, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
2. Feed your brain
When I left college I was prepared for, well, something very different than what I’m doing now. Never stop learning because this industry never stops evolving. When I was 20, I thought I’d be a graphic designer or I’d be working in the film industry making CG movies. In my 30’s I was on my way to becoming a marketing and social media expert. In my 40’s I combined all of my work experiences into something called an Experience Designer, which I didn’t even know was a thing when I was in college.
3. Have a heart
Unless you’re Michael Corleone, the ‘It’s not personal, It’s business’ approach just doesn’t work – actually, it didn’t really work too well for him either. Whether you are dealing with clients or co-workers, treating them with respect and even kindness is critical. Nobody likes working with a jerk or a bully so don’t be one. The short-term results aren’t worth the long-term collateral damage.
4. Make friends along the way
Jobs will come and go but the friendships that you make along the way can benefit you for years to come. Those friends can provide you the opportunity to share career advice down the road, networking opportunities, people to laugh with when looking back at all the stupid mistakes you made earlier in your career and people to celebrate your professional successes with. I’ve had the fortune of maintaining some of those friendships for over 20 years now and in some cases those connections have led me to new career opportunities – my current job being one of them.
Maybe you’ve already learned all of these things on your own, but in case you haven’t hopefully some of this was useful. I know that it would have been useful to me when I was 20-something and thought that I had my career figured out. What are some of the pearls of wisdom that you’ve learned over your career (they don’t have to fit into the Wizard of Oz theme)?