7 lessons in 7 months: tips for transforming your career

For the last seven months I’ve had the opportunity to start my own fledgling marketing communications consultancy and this blog. The experience has been both personally and professionally rewarding, and has transformed the way I approach my career and the rapidly changing field of marketing communications. I thought it was about time that I created some take-aways from this experience that other practitioners could both benefit from and add to.

1. Hustle.  Whether you own a successful business or have a pretty steady gig, you can’t afford to get complacent about your career. A good approach is to think about your career like an entrepreneur would approach a business, and never take anything for granted.

2. Make a Plan.  Creating a mission, vision and values statement can help you focus on your unique strengths and distinguish you in the marketplace. Conduct a SWOT and draft a plan that will help align your skills to the demands of the marketplace. Create goals and objectives for your career and a road map for how you’re going to reach them. You can alter your path as necessary, but your mission, vision and values should steer your course.

3. Grow your network. LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs and other social media sites offer powerful opportunities to connect with thought leaders and peers. Professional associations like the International Association of Business Communicators, the American Marketing Association and the Canadian Marketing Association run networking and educational events. The choices are limited only by your time and means.

4. Take risks. What opportunities are available? What are you willing to risk in order to succeed? While you should understand your own risk tolerance before you undertake any new ventures, you should also aim to push yourself out of your comfort zone, as this is where the real professional and personal growth occurs.

5. Invest in yourself. In this economy you need to continually assess what investments you need to make in yourself in order to succeed. What is the time, effort and cost involved? What is realistic in terms of your personal obligations and work/life balance? There are a dizzying array of informal and formal education and networking opportunities out there, so make sure your decisions are strategic and align with your plan.

6. Ask for support. Family, friends, professional networks and mentors can provide a valuable source of objective advice and support. Don’t be afraid to reach-out beyond your network both online and in person.

7. Don’t fear failure.  If we never experience failure, we can’t fully enjoy or appreciate our successes. It’s easier said than done, but it’s important to develop a thick skin and not take things personally. As entrepreneur Michael Dearing explains recently in the New York Times, “I thought I had one shot to be successful. I had no idea that my career — or anybody’s career — is actually a multiround process and that you had many, many at-bats.” (Following Your Bliss, Right Off the Cliff. The New York Times. March 25, 2013)

What key lessons have you learned that you can pass on to others? Take a few moments to share your own experiences here and add to the list.

Zappos: an open communication culture that inspires employee engagement

Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos

Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos
Source: http://www.businessinnovationfactory

I recently read an article by internal communication gurus Roger D’Aprix and Barbara Fagan-Smith called Open Communication Cultures In A Changing World. In a nutshell, the authors look at the positive effect of open communication on bottom line business results. They define an open communication culture as one “in which non-confidential and non-proprietary information is actively and freely shared with both employees and interested stakeholders with the leadership’s blessing and proactive participation.”

This made me think about what companies like Zappos are doing right with regards to internal communication. Established in 1999 and bought by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion, Zappos is a $1 billion online retail business with 1,400 employees. Despite its impressive growth, Zappos maintains an open communication culture that inspires employee engagement. For example, Zappos publishes an annual “Culture Book” that’s “a collage of unedited submissions from employees within the Zappos Family of companies sharing what the Zappos culture means to them…it reflects the true feelings, thoughts and opinions of the employees.” Zappos also encourages employees to get involved on the company’s social networks, and hosts a micro-twitter site for staff. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh actually posts some of his correspondence to employees on Twitter. It can’t get more transparent than that.

Do you think that open communication cultures have a positive influence on bottom line results? Are open communication cultures more effective at handling the various crises and challenges that come their way? How can closed communication cultures become more open?

Advertising Canada’s Economic Action Plan

Photo Credit: John Geddes. Originally published in Maclean’s Magazine, Monday, October 22, 2012

I was in my car yesterday listening to a compelling show on CBC’s The Current called Canada’s Economic Action Plan (EAP): Is this Prosperity or Propaganda? The subject was the amount the government is spending on advertising the EAP.  The program looked at how effective the advertising campaign has been over time and asked who was benefiting.

Intrigued, I did a bit more research and learned that, from 2009 – 2010, $53.2 million in taxpayer dollars was spent on EAP advertising.   The spring 2012 television campaign alone cost the Finance Department $4.9 million. (The Toronto Star, Sunday, February 17, 2013)

In April 2012, the Privy Council Office conducted a post-advertising analysis that surveyed the impact of the campaign on 1,000 Canadians.   Of those surveyed, 33 percent could recall the ads, but only 20 percent, or one in five Canadians remembered any details.  Only seven percent were compelled to take action, such as go to the EAP website. (The Toronto Star, Sunday, February 17, 2013)

According to these stats, it therefore cost $22 to drive one person to the website or take some other action such as fill out a form, write a complaint or follow on Twitter.  In the same survey, the Privy Council analysis also noted a bump of five percent in government approval ratings between those who had not seen the ads and those who had.

The goal of the EAP campaign is to help provide Canadians with tools to improve their personal finances and boost consumer confidence.  Based on the above stats, do you think this is money well-spent towards achieving these goals?  I’d love to hear what you think.