What I learned in my first 5 years

by Shannon Meehan, Senior Client Services Executive, Digital Producer at The Economist Group

On May 31st rising graduates from top universities across the country arrived at the second annual Future Now conference in New York City. Joined by fellow panelists Julie Pinero (Thrillist), Kim Patel (Vice), and Joey Truty (AMC and SundanceTV), I had the pleasure of addressing these future industry leaders to speak about what I learned during my first 5 years in the field. Below are a few things I learned along the way.

Never judge a ‘good day’ by everything going right. Plans change and obstacles arise. If a successful day was marked by everything unfolding as planned, we would be perpetually disappointed. As a perfectionist, I initially struggled with the idea of changing course midstream. At first, it felt like I was abandoning a perfectly laid out plan and losing control. With experience, I’ve learned that pivoting is part of the process. Circumstances change, new information is uncovered, and priorities shift. Taking an agile approach and staying flexible is what leads to innovation and successful project deliveries.

Be your own advocate. You are the captain of your ship. If there is a project or responsibility you want to take on — communicate it. Raise your hand and make it known that you are interested. To better your chances of getting a ‘yes’, share a vision for how you see yourself adding value and make the case for what your company stands to gain if you are granted the opportunity. Asking won’t always result in a ‘yes’, but if you don’t ask, a ‘no’ is guaranteed.

When challenges arise, ask for help. Speak up if you’re being asked to execute something that you genuinely are not the person best suited for it. Falling on your sword in these circumstances is not helpful for the success of the project, is not the best use of your time from an organizational perspective, and it could hinder your ability to deliver on priority projects.

Confidence. We are all experts in our own experience. You have a unique perspective and knowledge that is invaluable. Have confidence in what you know and think. If your point of view strays from the pack, that’s okay. It is better to avoid groupthink and voice your opinion when you truly believe the opposite. Speak your truth with confidence and respect. Your character and integrity are everything.

Be gentle with yourself. It is a learning process. Aptly put by French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “You cannot plant an acorn in the morning, and expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of an oak.”