The first rule: relax.
The second rule: relax.
If this is the first time in your career as a direct marketing executive that you’re outside the stinger-filled hive of an agency or in-house group and, willingly or not, have slipped into the anxiety-spiked delirium of free agency as a consultant, then you definitely have to relax.
Being a marketing executive isn’t easy. Depending on what you read or who you talk to, the tenure of today’s CMO ranges from the length of time it takes to do in an O.K. pair of leather-soled shoes on the streets of New York to the gestation period of a baby elephant. Either way, it’s somewhat like holding a heavyweight belt — you can be sure it won’t be yours forever. So if you find yourself on your own by force or by choice, then I suggest you do just that. Find yourself.
Every day marketing professionals across the country and across the world are shape-shifting and transitioning from executive to consultant and back again, inside and outside the box in a quest for fame, fortune and sanity. So to aid you on your journey — whether it already began or it’s several years down the road — here are a few hopefully helpful tips for business as well as life in general:
As I said, relax. While that’s easier said than done, if you’re any good at what you do — or even if you’re not — it’ll all work out. The single most important takeaway from this article or any other of the sort is that everything in business and life is merely an illusion of control. It doesn’t matter where you work or how long you’ve been there, it could all be over tomorrow. Own your own shop? That’s actually not much different, because it could all go south overnight. But don’t take any of this as negative, because the intent of sharing these words is to empower and protect. If you believe that what I’m saying is true, then a practical little smile is in order. If something is outside your control, than worrying about it gets you nowhere, right?
It’s just money. So you’ve got kids? Who doesn’t? Actually, a lot of people don’t have any more mouths to feed than their own, but the point is that regardless of your financial obligations, there’s plenty of money to be made. You just have to sniff it out. And if the going gets tough, well, buckle down and do as the saying goes. For the most part we choose our lifestyle, and if you need to streamline yours, then do so. Otherwise, get busy getting busy. Don’t be afraid to work for what you want.
Get out there, meet people and learn to network. The trick is to network before you need to network, which isn’t a trick at all. Getting ahead by meeting people is decidedly a low-tech challenge, and these days there are plenty of high-tech tools that facilitate the process. Think Linked-In, Ryze, MySpace, Friendster, etc. Honestly, there are too many to name.
What’s most important, however, is understanding and leveraging these tools before you are forced to by circumstance. And the same goes for forging relationships with recruiters. Don’t neglect recruiters until you need help. Or vendors, either. Make sure you’re always working toward getting everybody lined up well in advance, because even if you plan on starting your own business, not having the right resources ready to go is a critical misstep.
You’ve got to read. Books. Magazines. Something. Anything. Everything is more like it. Want to be successful? Then read a minimum of one book a week for the rest of your life, as well as anything else you can get your hands on. You’ll be shocked at what happens as the weeks turn into months and years. You’ll get smarter! You’ll be better prepared for the next thing that’s outside of your control. And when that time comes, you may even feel like you were ready for it or that you saw it coming.
Executive to consultant. Consultant to executive. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need a Web site or a blog to get ahead (though they are extremely powerful tools for building your own brand). You need e-mail, a phone, integrity and an open mind. You need contacts and to recognize that at the end of the day we’re all in sales. Every day is a great day to enhance your brand, so you have to make a concerted effort to surround yourself with smart, driven people and not waste time on anything that doesn’t improve your skills or boost your confidence. Remember, people and relationships are what will bring you the most comfort, so treat every day as an opportunity to help others. The moral: do favors and don’t expect anything back. Never be ashamed to ask for help, and if what you’re doing now doesn’t enable you to network or grow then your lifestyle must be adapted to pick up the slack. Otherwise, it’s clearly time for something else, because you’re ready to evolve again.