Wishing I Knew Then What I Know Now: Advice for Young Professionals

You know when you hear a song and say to yourself, “I gotta get that on iTunes.” That happened to me the other day. There is a song by The Faces called Ooh La La. (Watch video/hear it here). The chorus partially goes “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.” It came out in 1973, as if I didn’t feel old enough.

That song is appropriate because I was recently asked to write some advice for young marketing professionals, specifically a group called Ad 2 Phoenix. Ad 2 was an awesome organization for me back in the day (I met my wife there most importantly) so I thought I would try to share a few things I have learned in my time post-Ad 2. Here are some excerpts of the article. And this doesn’t mean I have mastered any of this, but here goes.

Do: Be open-minded. Think of your mind like a fuel gauge in a car that, no matter how much knowledge you accumulate, is always closer to empty than it is to full. Besides, people like people that are willing to absorb and learn. No one likes young people that already know everything.

Don’t: Be full of yourself. Our world and, unfortunately, our business is sometimes full of mega egos. Go against the stereotype of “marketing types.” Keep a dose of humility.

Do: Be punctual. Part of our business is about shaping the impression a brand has on its audience. Shape the impression of your brand too. Showing up late says you are under-prepared or not interested. I think of the times I have been late to meet with a client and cringe.

Don’t: Be a glad-hander. You know “that guy” or “that girl.” The only thing worse than it being fake is it being annoying. If anything, I think sometimes I make the mistake of coming of as aloof because I usually dispense with pleasantries to clients such as “Hey you are looking great – have you been working out?” or “I really like that shirt.” I have always been kinda rotten at that.

Do: Go to happy hour. Some people like to say they live life with no regrets. Maybe I’m not that cool. I have several. And this certainly isn’t the biggest but, when I look back on my twenties, I do wish I had gone to a few more happy hours or had a few more random Wednesday night beers with friends instead of working late because that freaking PowerPoint presentation was oh so very important.

Don’t: Drink and drive. That’s right – you should enjoy yourself but you shouldn’t let that joy bring pain to some innocent pedestrian or other motorist. You are in a group of young professionals, which means you can afford an Uber. You can get your car the next day. Better yet, if you know you’re going to have a few pops, just take Uber there in the first place.

Do: Enroll in the 401k at work. Thank me in forty years if I’m still around. If you look at the math, it makes total sense.

Don’t: Be all consumed by work. Reading a book, seeing a movie, going to a play or theater, volunteering…all these things believe it or not will actually make you better at your work.

Do: Business travel loyalty programs. I know this sounds silly to include but if you do have to travel for work, go ahead and enroll in the hotel programs and the airline programs. It adds up and if you are able to stick to one airline and one hotel chain, it is a nice perk because as you will soon find out, business travel is not as glamorous as you might have thought so you might as well get something out of it.

Don’t: Forget to say thank you. A well-written thank-you note seems about as popular today as poodle skirts. Keeping in mind my earlier note about glad-handing, be sincere and don’t take three weeks to send it. Don’t email it either. Get a pen, envelope and a stamp.

Do: Wear sunscreen. This advice was already given by Baz Luhrmann (see it here) but it has been a while since he gave it so I’ll share it again. As a guy in my thirties that is having dangerous moles removed, I can tell you it is very wise counsel. You know that person at the pool or the lake wearing the big hat and the long-sleeved shirt? They’re on the right track.
Don’t: Be a lousy tipper. As one of my favorite clients says about tipping, “Chances are they need it more than you.” Give twenty percent and please don’t use your iPhone at the table to do the math. Please don’t use your iPhone (or any other device) during meetings either. Poor form.

I hope these tips can help you; I know Ad 2 helped me. Also, I’m sure I didn’t cover everything so if you have another do or don’t to share, feel free to email me.

Nucleus Marketing Lab is a confederation of marketing thinkers collaborating as a hybrid account planning, research, insights and ideation consultancy. The firm’s fundamentally simple mission is to leave clients smarter, more informed or more enlightened at the end of an engagement than they were at the beginning. Nucleus has worked with clients large and small in industries that include retail, restaurants, electronics, apparel, consumer packaged goods, medical devices, real estate, financial services, tourism, healthcare and more. The Lab was founded by Steve Bast in 2005 after a career in marketing that included time as a Planning Director, Marketing Director and academic.