If Mad Men (TV) has any relevant bearing on modern marketing careers, it’s that, plain and simple; this is a challenging world to play in. It’s a young person’s sport more than ever and to stay ahead you’ll need to be continually refreshing your knowledge base. It’s easy to continue reciting that old monologue on ‘mind equity’ that you’ve become comfortable with for the last 5 years, that’s only natural, but to open new doors or revitalize what used to be an overwhelming lust for creation you’ll have to put in work to maintain. I’ve been there! I’m not afraid to admit that I too suffered from early success in my career, which lead to complacency. Below are the steps I took to battle back from marketing boredom and have opened new opportunities in abundance.
Develop New Skills
In this modern age of Internet there are a number of ways to enhance your skills portfolio by doing little more than dedicating one hour per day to reading & activities. When you develop a skill it’s akin to buying a new toy. You want to play with it RIGHT AWAY! Add something to your repertoire that makes you dangerous; A triple or quadruple threat in your career. Help things that you find slightly difficult to grasp come much easier, like public speaking, coding, or even humor (as to not take yourself so seriously). Check out these great resources for enriching your skillset:
Coursera: Take classes for free from the best universities, it’s that simple. I love that the classes, in many cases, are abridged or formatted to be more ‘web-ready’. Also, since it’s free you won’t feel bogged down by having to finish homework on aggressive schedules. Just learn at your own pace, and enjoy the topics.
Skillshare: Like Coursera, except that you’ll have the opportunity to learn from industry leaders/celebs like Seth Godin, Gary V, and Young Guru… and in trade you’ll be asked to pony up a reasonable membership fee.
Codecademy: How much easier could learning to code possibly be?! Codecademy is my new hero. They are a group dedicated to teaching the world to code for free and they do it in the awesomest way possible; with short meaningful exercises that build confidence and incremental skills. In just 30 minutes I built a mini solar system animation with a picture of my head orbiting the sun!
National Comedy Theatre: This one is a bit more visceral, but I assure you that learning comedy is the most liberating thing you can do. If you can learn improv comedy and feel comfortable acting silly in front of a room of your peers, you will NAIL your future presentations and also be an even better person to enjoy a beer with.
Find a New Way to Present Old Ideas
Amongst the radical technological developments over the past 10-15 years in the digital space, one thing remains relatively constant… human brains. We are motivated, stimulated, and influenced today just as our ancestors were, but with a bit more selection and speed. Your old pitch doesn’t need to be thrown in the garbage, maybe just gussied up and coated in lacquer. When I looked to re-inspire my work, I found it in relatively usual places, to be honest; I just dedicated a portion of my time to study every week. Here are a few of my favorite web-haunts that give me more of a future outlook rather than indications of the past:
Ted Talks: Everyone has heard of Ted Talks, I’m not revealing a major Internet secret here, but what I’d recommend is to go through and every now and then listen/watch Ted Talks that you ‘find interesting’. Put the thought of work aside, clicks, traffic, branding etc. and just enjoy someone’s new/interesting take. You’ll have takeaways, I promise; if from nothing else, just the nature of the presentation itself.
Trendwatching: It’s impossible for me not to read their blog posts to the end. I’ve not come across a more engaging-beautiful-content rich blog in all of my days. Read it once and you’ll be hooked! Great insight to developing world behavior and just downright intelligent writing that will leave you daydreaming of undiscovered business models.
FastCompany: Compelling! That’s the best way to describe the journalism here. It’s forward thinking, inspiring, hacky (in the good sense of the word), well rounded, and perfectly presented. It’s very easy to get lost in the site and read 3-4 articles in a sitting. Pay special attention to the subsection, Co.exist.
Create or lead web-chatter around topics that you are passionate about
It’s easier than you think to be in the center of the action. There are a number of really active communities (amongst a litany of dead ones) that you can first become active in, and then form your own sub category for. I bounce ideas around or hunt for inspiration from others in the trenches, share and chat about relevant news and even make some important contacts. Here are some of the places I have been calling my digital home:
Facebook Groups : Your attack should be two-fold here. 1) Join (or request to join) new groups that you are interested in and become an active contributor. 2) When you are comfortable with the interactions in your newly found groups, come up with your own group entity and LAUNCH IT. It’ll take you 10 minutes. Keep it active, as the creator that is your responsibility, not that of your members. Is your group bustling? Great, now have an event(s). Take over a restaurant or bar with your new tribe.
Warriorforum : This mostly free forum is a command central for performance marketers, or those seeking work at home opportunity. There is a lot of garbage to weed through here, but at its core there are some really helpful threads and members. I’ve found a number of great resources in the depths of WF.
Subreddits : Reddit can be terrifying at times, but also a great means of forming digital connections and distributing valuable content. Go deep and find subreddits that are active and engaged and relevant to your cause(s). Lurk for awhile, comment on occasion, and then dive in and get comfortable with a post or two. Don’t get frustrated if you get bashed by other users. Stay resilient and establish yourself in the subs.
It’s easy to burn out in high-stress, high impact careers, as is Marketing. When you fate of an organization may rest in your hands, it’s important to stay centered, confident, and energetic. Keep yourself fresh, knowledgeable, and well connected and you will reach new heights in your Marketing life. Enjoy what you do!