Man, my first years as a planner have been filled with hard learning. I was taught something by my superiors but still it often felt like assembling my plane when I was already up in the air.
Even today, I discover things I’ve been thinking and doing wrong for a pretty long time. A couple of weeks ago I had to teach a group of young strategists, which made me ponder a bit about the things I wish someone would have told me when I was in their seat.
So hey, here they are. Ten things I wish I knew when starting out.
1. Develop and express your own theories. Create your own points of views and share these with people. Put them out there.
‘I might be wrong but….’ or ‘So I have this theory that…’ are your pointers.
Even if you’re not 100% sure, you can let other people build. Never be un-opinionated and grey, always be black or white. Strategists that don’t share their theories are weak.
2. Master your focus and attention. Being a young planner in this era is hard, there is distraction everywhere.
Our true value comes from deep work, the work you need focus for. Being able to do this, will be a huge differentiator in your career.
3. Get out of the office and into the real world. You won’t Google your way to great strategies.
Get out, talk with people, go undercover, see how people behave, observe and learn. Always remember you and your behaviour is not the norm.
4. Know yourself and the way you work. You are not obliged to copy the way other strategists work. Find your own way of working and communicate this with others.
Be transparent about it. Ask others to tell you how they work best too. You could go as (nerdy and) far as writing your own ‘user manual’.
5. Find people with whom you can share and discuss strategy. Our work is only going to get more complex, so find your allies.
These allies could be colleagues, friends or mentors. A mentor as in ‘someone who can give you tips and help with questions you don’t dare asking your colleagues’.
6. It is okay to not know the answer. Don’t ever feel pressured into ‘constantly needing to know it all’ which is utopia.
Just read this little text when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
7. Ask questions. The power of a strategist often lies in creating new perspectives. Questions are your portal.
Ask ‘so why do we do this?’, ask more than Five Why’s, wonder ‘why does this thing suck?’ and you’ll instantly find yourself in more interesting discussions.
8. Know the basics. Effectiveness, the impact of marketing on business, the minds of humans and so on.
Study the things that won’t change and study them often. Repetition is king.
9. Take control of your career. Make your own career plan and discuss this with your boss. And get them to shut up about how ‘difficult millennials are to manage’. We’re not. We just want to grow.
Don’t let your company turn you into something you are not. Watch out for the boxes they’ll try to put you in.
10. If you don’t feel it anymore, leave. Break-ups can happen. Discuss your feelings and thoughts with your superior.
When it doesn’t work, don’t blame yourself or them, it is simply not how it should be. Assume blindly that the best will fall into place and operate in the present.