Hindsight is 20/20, sure. But foresight is even better.
To that end, I’ll be blogging each day this week with one dozen pieces of “foresight” that I wish someone had told me when I was in school. A few of these points reference advertising, but most apply to anyone in business. (Most are probably good for us all to keep in mind, especially in this economy.)
The good news is, we’re all students, and it’s never too late to renew your studies. Ready? Let’s go.
The first dozen things I wish someone had told me while I was still in school:
1) There are no right answers. Including these.
2) Simple, brilliant ideas kick ass over fancy execution.
3) Instead of promoting yourself by talking about YOU, try to get involved in what OTHERS are doing and saying and thinking about. Participate in a way that’s smart and engaging. That says more about you than any slick promo ever could.
4) The difference between A- and A+ is all the difference in the world.
5) Most of us are not in the business of “crowd-pleasing.” Don’t try to make everyone happy. Focus on your target, and getting them excited about your message. As a student, that target is your potential employer. As a marketer, that target is your consumer. As a professional, that target is your co-workers, your boss, your clients, your industry leaders, and, your next employer.
6) To reach a potential employer, especially an executive, email is more likely to get a response than writing a letter. Contacting them via LinkedIn or Facebook is even more likely to get a response. An exception: if you already met with someone, send a handwritten note.
7) Often, the more concepts you come up, the better they get. At least, that’s usually the case for me. I write a hundred headlines for every one I end up with. Here is a sample list from my blog about Luke Sullivan: http://www.radicalcareering.com/hogblog/?p=31
8) If you admire someone or want to contact them, get involved in their conversations. Follow them on Twitter and respond to their commentary. Participate on their blog. Request to friend them on Facebook. Sincerely congratulate them on personal successes, such as publishing an article or winning an award.
9) Smart beats clever.
10) When you’re thinking about a certain topic, feed your brain with inspiration– from the mainstream to the highly specific. It will help you get into the mindset and give you data to toy with and expand upon.
11) Anyone can come up with a great idea. The question is, can you do it consistently. Actually getting those ideas produced is important too.
12) Any revolutionary message feels uncomfortable at first. Some people won’t like it. Some people will hate it. Accept that and stay focused.
These points are culled from a list I wrote years ago, originally published in a book named Pick Me: Breaking Into Advertising and Staying There by two fabulous creative directors named Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin. This was years ago, back in the days of traditional media, pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook. Then, yesterday, J.D. Humphreys posted the list on the VCU Brandcenter student blog. I pulled out the original complete version, and I was surprised at how many of the basic still hold true.
It got me thinking… oh, how the world has changed since then. Yet how many of the old principles still fit!
So what do you with someone had told YOU while you were still in school? What piece of advice would have made the difference to know at the start of your career, or even today? Do share.