A year ago, I didn’t know what I was doing. My life had undergone a significant shift from anxious, unemployed post-grad to job-titled professional within what seemed like a matter of seconds. As most novice adults, I was enthralled with the idea of creating work that contributed to a small sliver of social good, yet totally freaked out that I was accountable for things other than the upkeep of my fading summer tan.
I was initially hired to take PCR’s embryonic branding strategy to great heights, but admittedly felt that I lacked the expertise and experience to meet others’ expectations. After all, up to that point my marketing duties had consisted of unwarranted, shamelessly self-promotional Twitter updates and crafting sponsored blog posts for a University of Florida media outlet. I remember feeling overwhelmed, not due to external influences, but because of stifling internal pressure that was completely self-imposed. Looking back, PCR gave me all the tools and creative freedom to carve out my own success; it was all a matter of using them. Through year one (and then some) as a marketing strategist, my growth as a professional and individual has improved drastically, due to improved self-assurance, greater sense of autonomy and a few trial-by-error lessons along the way.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
There’s a negative connotation associated with the word “failure” that echos inadequacy and loss. In the traditional workplace, it is frowned upon, if not completely rejected, by authority. The first lesson I was ever taught at PCR is that it is perfectly acceptable to fail, as long as you fail responsibly. This means trying, tinkering and testing to your heart’s content, but doing so in the best interest of your respective client or company. As marketers we are constantly trying to keep pace with an industry that is fueled by technology and governed by change. We simply cannot be intimidated by failure. If we don’t experiment, break things, and find better ways of building them back up, our campaigns will become stagnant and our efforts will be pointless. Failure is not a final product, but an inevitable step on the journey toward success.
For most of my life, I saw the list system as the most effective way to demonstrate progress. I love the tiny release of dopamine that makes me feel rewarded after crossing off each item. However, when I started my job, I began to find my lists growing longer and my checked-off tasks dwindling. Quick, simple to-do items were prioritized over complex ones, which consistently caused me to neglect my most time-consuming work and, consequently, send stress levels through the roof. My preferred method of productivity was failing me. While many of us are creatures of habit, single-mindedness rarely results in success. I began sorting Any.do lists in terms of most important and urgent tasks and now use them in conjunction with client-specific time segments that are blocked off on my calendar. This method has led to greater organization, structure and work performance in my day-to-day responsibilities. Keep exploring new methods until you notice a positive shift in your output.
Education does not and should not end when you turn your tassel. Almost every valuable skill I have acquired within the past year has been contingent upon lessons learned outside of seventeen years of classroom confinement. While school was good for learning some important life skills (writing cursive, how to “just say no” to drugs and long division among them), most of my professional expertise has been developed through hours of independent research and discovery. Want to learn basic code? Watch tutorials. Need to up your landing page conversions? Read as many MOZ posts as you can stomach. Want to write the next great American novel? Do some digging. There’s an unbeatable sense of self-confidence that goes with solving problems on your own. Keep looking, keep learning and take rigorous notes along the way.
One of the most significant life lessons I have learned (and learned to cope with as a struggling perfectionist) is that, you cannot, try as you might, be good at everything. It’s impossible and will undoubtedly result in eternal disappointment that haunts your psyche. Acknowledge your weaknesses, play to your strengths and manifest them in every single thing that you do. If you understand and project your strength, you will not-so-serendipitously find your niche. Your niche is a very powerful thing, especially in business, because if you can use it to benefit your company, you will be indispensable. Plus, life is hard; don’t make it harder by convincing yourself that you suck at everything.