Q: What Advice Would You Like to Go Back & Give Yourself at the Start of Your Career?
Mixing Board Member Mashup
A new Mixing Board feature! Answers from Mixing Board community members on a variety of questions — be they deep, topical, tactical, strategic or career focused. Feel free to drop any questions that you might have in the comments.
For our first question, we asked members: “What advice would you like to go back and give yourself at the start of your career?”
And, we heard: Worry less (a few times), start networking early and often, don’t aim for perfection, seek out people instead of brands, don’t worry about a grand vision for your career, optimize for experience over money and so much more.
Catherine Anderson, SVP of comms at Cityblock Health
I wish I was able to tell my younger self not to worry so much. At times, I remember so much pressure to land internships that would give me enough hands-on experience to stand out in the "dying field" of journalism (or so we were told). In reality, this is important, but it's more important that you build a resume that has a story you can explain -- the why behind a job move or a shift in focus. What did you learn, how did you apply that insight to your next move? What work inspired you to the next project? Who influenced you? How does that shape what's next?
Lindsay McKinley, director of communications at Samsara
Ask for help and advice – it is a sign of strength and not weakness! Early in my career I felt like I had to know the answer to everything. First off, that is obviously not possible. And second, there are so many people you can learn from that want to pay it forward with their knowledge. Whether it’s a product launch or a layoff or an IPO – ask around your network to see who has gone through that situation before and gather data points. From there you can calibrate to what is best for your company and situation. And then pay it forward by coaching others who ask for advice in return. Communities build upon each other and together we can make our comms community stronger.
Christine Choi, partner at M13
Stay curious, focus on landing where you can get a lot of hands-on experience, deprioritize titles/rank, don’t take yourself too seriously, and never date rock stars.
Priscilla Barolo, consultant and former head of comms at Zoom
Networking isn’t just for when you’re job hunting. Find a group of peers (your level or a couple years ahead) to bounce ideas around, brainstorm solutions to problems you’re facing, and compare notes on your day-to-day. It’s like having cheat codes to help you succeed in your current role, not just get the next one.
Kira McCroden, VP of communications at Forerunner
…learn how to become less anxious and self-critical by investing in therapy earlier! But also, I got some really good advice when I was much younger that I often think back to, which is that in the earliest stages of your career, it’s best to optimize for getting paid well in experience vs. the highest salary. Too often, I see the younger generation doing the opposite — and I get it, more money can obviously seem attractive and like the more worthy opportunity. But I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have toughed it out, working super hard early on, to set me up for jobs and roles I actually wanted in the following years — which ultimately enables you to make more in the grand scheme of things!
Keyana Corliss, VP of corp comms at Velocity Global
I've always been pretty impatient, and for so long I was worried I was never going to get to my definition of 'making it.' So, I would tell my younger self not to worry about the 'grand vision' for your career. Think of your career in smaller chunks and make decisions on jobs and roles based on the next two to three years. If you lean into those periods of time without trying to worry about how this is going to get you to your bigger, lofty aspirations, you'll learn and do more than you ever imagined. And then one you'll wake up and realize those small periods added up to a whole lot more than your definition of ‘making it.’. And that you passed those lofty aspirations a while ago.
Erika Ekiel, Startup and venture firm brand and comms advisor
I would remind myself that the best way to be successful is to go deep on the things you do really well and love to do. There are likely to be opportunities to do more things and advance in a different or broader direction, but when you focus more deeply on the things that make you “you,” that’s where you’ll find not only your greatest joy, but also differentiation in your field and success.
Kristen Winzent, co-founder of The Regenerates
Seek out people, not brands. It's more advantageous for your growth and development to work for/with people who will invest in you and lift you up along your career than going to a hot company.
Michael Kaye, director of brand and comms at OKCupid
Networking is the easiest and most impactful thing you can do. And it’s never too early to start building your professional network. Connect with people within the industry on LinkedIn, add a personal note sharing why you’re reaching out, and ask for an in-person or virtual coffee chat, and come prepared with questions to guide the conversation.
Justin Dorff, head of communications at Confluent
Don’t aim for perfection. Perfection is a fool’s errand. You’ll never achieve it, especially in a subjective field like comms where there is rarely a single black and white option.
You have to change your focus from aiming for perfection to a focus on getting a little bit better each day. When you inevitably make a mistake or get something wrong, dig into why and how you came to that decision without judging yourself harshly. And do the same when you knock something out of the park. What did you do that led to that good outcome? Is there anything you could do differently next time for an even better result? If Rome wasn't built in a day, you shouldn’t expect your career to be.
Alexandra Dimiziani, former AirBnb global marketing director, CMO and advisor
Happiness is the result of our many daily, practical decisions. So think, in practical terms, about the kind of days you want to have-- literally, where you want to be, what you want to be doing, and who you want to be doing that with-- and make career decisions that help you achieve that day-to-day life.
Also, remember that crafting our best life comes with trial and error. No decision is ‘wrong’ if it ultimately helps you uncover and engage with what is ‘right’ for you.
Jason Golz, founder of Highline Communications
Huge problems abound and business is a great way to address many of them. You are creative and there are lots of ways to deploy that creativity. For example, try spending time on the operations side of business, too.
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I would add: use your PTO!