7 Lessons I’ve Learned from 7 Years in Media & Marketing
Sometimes, it comes as a shock to me that I’m 1) turning 30 this year, and 2) that I’ll be approaching 8 years in this industry come December 2022.
I’ve made two big shifts in my career: the jump from editorial/print to digital and secondly, the jump from social media to performance marketing. Looking back, I’m really thankful that these were timely shifts. I can’t imagine not pivoting when it was time to charter through new territories.
While 7 years in this industry is probably nothing compared to others who might have been around for “donkey” years (as the boomers like to call it), I still thought that it would be good to document some of the lessons I’ve learned since my first job — a time when social media was all about “thank you for the add” or “pokes” (iykyk):
#1 — Have a vision for your career
I’m probably quoting this Bible verse out of context but I can see why the author of Proverbs wrote “when there is no vision, the people perish” — Proverbs 29:18. When we lack a vision that drives our focus, we end up working on things that don’t bring us closer to our goals. When we don’t begin with the end in mind, we stumble during challenging times and end up wondering if we have wasted our time. I’m writing this while being mindful that plans change, or sometimes we end up discovering our purpose later in life. Yet, having a vision and mission statement for our career helps us prioritize what’s important, narrow our focus and seek out opportunities that bring us closer to our goal. If not, we will just be another cog in the machine, wondering if all our hardwork is worth it.
#2 — Be agile and adaptable
Marketing is tough. Whether you’re with a brand or in the agency side, marketing and advertising will always be fast-moving and hectic. I’ve found that in order to succeed in this line of work, you’ve gotta think on your feet, have resilience and be proactive. Be on the lookout for new ideas, read lots and lots of trend reports and stay in touch with what’s going on in the world. There will be (many) times when plans change, so learning to be flexible and adaptable is a trait to hone. In this line of work, we can’t always expect that things will go smoothly. There will always be revisions — something I finally accepted.
#3 — Build Relationships
People think that “work friendships” are fake. On the contrary, I think building relationships at work is an excellent way to collaborate and learn from others. Perhaps the common perception that comes with “networking” or building relationships is seeing what others have that will benefit you. Instead, let me challenge you to think of networking as a way to build genuine relationships. Forget about what this person can offer you, and get to know the person. If you’re working with clients/agency folks/media owners, learn to be interested in what they have to offer and remember that they are people too. What I find frustrating in this industry is the selfishness of personal agendas. Be different, go the extra mile and provide good service to others no matter how unkind they are towards you. You’ll definitely stand out and be someone worth remembering.
#4 — Remember your “why”
There are gonna be dark days in this line of work — frustrating people or situations, unrealistic targets to hit, low/zero budget to do literally anything, and the burnout that comes from a fast-paced environment. That’s why #1 is so important because from your vision, comes your “why”. Why are you doing this? What do you want to achieve? If you struggle to find your “why” in marketing, then I’d suggest changing industries. My “why” in this line of work is: I’m pursuing my passion of wanting to make a difference with the skills that I have: problem-solving, creative content, and empowering others (more in this article here). Preach your “why” to yourself when the going gets tough.
#5 — Put in the grunt work
I’m not asking anyone to put in 14 hours a day at work, but what I’m saying is to invest your time in learning, ideating and seeing a project through. Provide high quality output, get it right the first time and dedicate yourself to continuous improvement. When I first dived into media planning and performance marketing, I was making mistakes. I recognized my weak points and worked on myself to ensure that I was improving bit by bit. If you have an “expert mindset”, or high ego, you’re most likely gonna look down on certain tasks, take feedback personally and expect an applause for something so simple. Don’t provide the bare minimum, pursue excellence.
#6 — Develop the habit of problem-solving
Trust me when I say this: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Learn to seek out solutions, ask people for their input when you’re stuck and manage how you react towards a situation. Many times, we end up reacting instead of responding. Build the habit of resourcefulness, seeking out other avenues to approach a situation and look at what needs to be done. It took me a while to pick up the habit of problem-solving, but I’m thankful for good mentors and for the wealth of resource on the internet to hone my problem-solving skills. It comes with experience, gaining knowledge and understanding the work deep enough that sometimes, the solution pops right into your head — exactly why #5 is also super important because you need the lay in the foundation i.e. the ground work.
#7 — Be Humble
I might ruffle some feathers here but I’m just gonna say it. The marketing industry is filled with people who 1) love the sound of their own voice, 2) are proud and egoistic, 3) in love with their own ideas and 4) lacking empathy. Be different by being humble and having a good attitude. Humility is not about putting yourself down or being a doormat, but humility is recognizing that you’re not perfect and to be unconcerned about your own ego that you unreservedly elevate those around you. “People won’t remember what you said or did, but people will remember how you made them feel” — Maya Angelou. If you find yourself in the four points I listed above, then it’s time to reflect and think about why and how those traits have made its way into the way you work. Humility goes a long way in this line of work because it is a rare trait.
Okay, bonus point: look into yourself and see what unique traits you bring to the table. What I found helpful was to ask myself “how can I add value to this situation/campaign?”. People at work used to say that I “cared too much”. I saw that as a weakness at work and many times, I wished I was someone who didn’t care. But now, looking back at the achievements and genuine relationships I’ve made at work, I realized it was because of the simple fact that I cared when no one else did.