Learning from others that are where you want to be is one of the fastest ways to improve.
As somebody who works in marketing, it’s enlightening to hear career advice from people who have had great success at a young age.
Adage recently put out their ’40 under 40′ list of people that work in advertising/marketing, and I’ve copied below their answers to the question:
What is the best career advice you ever got?
(A few of them didn’t answer which is why their are only 37 responses)
- Write well. Written communication is still, if not even more so, in the world of social media and concise communication, the most important skill to have.
- “Man your wall,” from former AFL Commissioner David Baker and inspired by Joshua Chamberlain’s Civil War heroics. Essentially, worry about your job and the rest takes care of itself.
- On my first day in the business, my first boss said to me: “Your job here is to make me look good.” Seemed facetious at the time, but it’s really stuck with me as a notion on how great teams should ideally work. Everyone focuses on their job, and does it really well, and the entire team succeeds as a result. Another boss once said to me: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”, and it’s really useful advice for just about anything – business problems, briefs, creative work, and life in general.
- To jump in and get my hands dirty. You can’t make a difference in a situation if you don’t get involved. Most importantly, to find group of mentors and advisers — a network if you will — who can offer guidance, wisdom and laughter when needed.
- To always be humble and make sure you’re generous in giving credit to others.
- If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it with excellence. Besides that, you should treat everyone well.
- The harder you work the luckier you get. If you are the first one in, the last one out, if you are constantly striving to do better and to learn more, the opportunity is there for the taking. You can make your own luck by working hard and continuing to push and motivate yourself.
- To not to ever go to your boss with problems — bring options for solutions.
- Always have a point of view/opinion.
- To step out on a leap of faith: When I left marketing and PR to join the president’s reelection efforts, I was very uneasy and really leaned toward not accepting the position. My mentors and family assured me that challenging myself to push past my comfort zone was what was going to make me a well-rounded professional and now I’m lucky enough to be able to use my social-media expertise for purposes beyond selling products.
- When I left Unilever [in 2000] to start my agency, my boss there said, ‘If you’re good and you believe in yourself, you don’t need to be afraid. Go for it.’ This move I made from Brazil to the U.S. [in February 2013] is like that. Brazil is my comfort zone. It’s hard to meet new people, in a new market, in a language I’m not 100% fluent. I’m not afraid of change. But I have to work hard.
- One of my agency leaders always advised: “Never take yourself too seriously.”
- Curate your own personal board of directors. Fill it with people who are honest. People who ask provocative questions. Who can provide professional insight. Who are diverse in background and experience. And offer perspective.
- Surround yourself with people you’re constantly learning from. If you’re not learning, you’re dying.
- Make new mistakes.
- Know what you are passionate about, and then find ways to make that the thing you do for a living.
- Build relationships with those around you and find a mentor you can learn from and trust.
- Love what you do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
- Don’t get distracted by what others are doing.
- Surround yourself with the best people. Sounds simple but it takes courage, especially early in your career when you are still trying to establish your personal brand in the organization.
- Stay true to your core values and apply them not just to yourself, but to your employer, your colleagues, and to your clients. You will never go wrong.
- Construct a vision for your future—whether that be your own personal goals or what you want to achieve as a company. Make sure that vision is broad enough to withstand changes in the marketplace but focused enough to keep you grounded when things don’t go exactly as you expect. Then work like hell toward that goal and don’t get distracted by the noise.
- Shut up and listen. (I’m still working on it.)
- “Will it to happen.” A very prominent music manager once told me that he uses that phrase as his mantra. It’s been quite successful for him and since I’ve adopted it, for me as well. Every time I’ve encountered a seemingly near impossible task, I’ve gone back to that line and it’s worked.
- Go with your gut.
- Don’t just find a thing that you love, but a group of people you like and can learn from. You spend more time with your co-workers than your family, sleeping, etc. so you should really like those people and respect them.
- You need to prove yourself to others as much as they need to prove themselves to you. Always lead by example.
- Never take yourself out of the running. That is make sure people know that you are interested in that next opportunity.
- “Start with purpose.” This has been a huge guiding focus for me, because you can get busy building product or running an effective marketing campaign… If you start with the purpose of what you’re trying to do—your mission, what you’re trying to do—it makes every other decision much easier.
- Always put yourself in situations that are outside of your comfort zone. The time when you grow the most is when you are uncomfortable.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things. At Procter & Gamble [where he was a brand manager on Old Spice], I tried to see the business through sales or finance or whoever I was working with to see it through their eyes and get them to think of marketing as a service that helps them do their jobs better.
- I saw Elon Musk’s interview at TED, in which he emphasized the importance of listening to negative feedback. This is especially important as you gain more authority and people are liable to be more deferential to you.
- One is not to be afraid to take risks, especially in the new world of marketing where consumers are bombarded with so much and you need to find ways to break through. …The second, starting out on the Walmart team taught me diversity of experiences early in my career would be extremely beneficial.
- Hire slow, fire fast: Great people coming together to build great companies. I can’t emphasize how important it is to have the right set of people around you and with you to build compelling products and value. Also, use your strength as a technologist to your advantage: Great products are built on a foundation of innovative and cutting-edge technologies. Being an engineer by training with a keen eye for product gives me the ability to shape the strategy and direction of the business.
- Be Passionate. One needs passion, drive and luck to succeed.
- Early in my career, a creative director gave me a simple bit of advice: “Listen. It can be the most powerful thing you can do in this business.”
- Stop caring about titles. Early on in my career, I just couldn’t wait until I got promoted. I learned that doesn’t really matter. Just keep working on things you love and good things will happen. Similarly, “Don’t chase the paper, chase the dream” –given by P. Diddy and our CEO, Tony Hsieh — is pretty good advice.
I was surprised that nobody had mentioned reading. That was Warren Buffett’s tip when asked how to get ready for a career in investing:
One of the students asked what he could do now to prepare for an investing career. Buffett thought for a few seconds and then reached for the stack of reports, trade publications and other papers he had brought with him.
“Read 500 pages like this every day,” said Buffett, or words to that effect. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
Remarkably, Combs began doing just that, keeping track of how many pages and what he read each day. Eventually finding and reading productive material became second nature, a habit. As he began his investing career, he would read even more, hitting 600, 750, even 1,000 pages a day.
Combs discovered that Buffett’s formula worked, giving him more knowledge that helped him with what became his primary job — seeking the truth about potential investments.
Although the 40 under 40 list is for marketing, and Buffett’s advice is about investing, there surely must be overlap. Reading Ogilvy on Advertising, or Tested Advertising Methods, or Al Ries and Jack Trout’s Positioning could help one go far. Also, in such a fast changing industry, paying attention to trade publications must be in their daily routines.
Regardless, this list is a great reference point in your quest to move on up.