Dear Younger Me - by Global Chief Strategy Officer Suzanne Powers
Right now, you’re probably opening this very lovely letter with a very sturdy letter opener, sitting at your desk at Lord, Dentsu & Partners in Los Angeles. I hope that you are impressed with the thick card stock and glossy McCann Worldgroup logo at the top. Or, confounded, maybe, since you are just starting out in this interesting, yet intense world of advertising after having had two other jobs that brought you to this point. Frankly, I know that the thought of you making a whole career out of this advertising thing is very far from your mind, because you’re just doing the best you can every day. I promise you – you are doing great, and you will do great. This is SO the job for you so thank goodness you called in sick from your other boring job, and sent in that resume to get this crazy planning job.
So, now that I’ve assured you that it’s not only possible, but that it will happen, let me give you some suggestions that will help ease your angst and nervousness both about the choice of advertising and your role within it.
You Will Learn from Everything
First, those other jobs or interests that you have will come in handy. Doing seemingly unrelated things only make you a better strategist and more well-rounded leader. For example, teaching preschool (with 22 3-4 year olds in your class) does give you several gifts that you don’t even realize. You will know how to moderate difficult clients (parents of said preschoolers); inspire creativity from nothing (let’s build a castle out of paper bags!); and manage a seemingly unmanageable group on the fly. Take those past experiences and add to them with every project you get, every experience and interaction you have in life. Understand that the most exciting thing is that you will never stop learning – embrace it and soak in it. Be a perpetual student.
Trust Your Gut. And, as your Gut gets more Experiences, Trust it Even more.
Right now, you think those guys in the big meeting room know exactly what they are doing. You wish you could be a fly on the wall to listen to their plans for the agency, clients- for anything. You think they have all the secrets. Well, here’s a surprise: they don’t. They have experience, yes, but your instincts are pretty good and they will carry you far. Trust your gut. And, as you have more experiences, your gut will get surrounded by even stronger instincts so trust those too and use them.
Bring your Whole Self to Work
You’re about to get a performance review that will change your life. Your boss will tell you that you do a good job, but that you don’t seem to be having any fun. You will be very confused by this information, because you think of work as… well, work. You angst about this for WAY TOO LONG. Don’t over-analyze this new information. Loosen up a bit. You’re actually a super interesting, fun person, but no one knows that about you. Trust me, you will become the instigator, the rebel rouser, and also the one who somehow makes it all work, overtly and covertly. Have the confidence to let those sides of you out earlier and much less energy will be wasted on the angst of separating your work self and your real self. Be your whole self, always.
Play your Own Game, not Someone Else’s
Right now, there’s a whole smarty-pants British strategy thing happening in America. The ‘best’ strategists have come from London to show the Americans (or Canadians in your case) how it’s done. I promise you, they do not know something special. They do not have a secret handbook. They may tell very eloquent stories, but they are struggling with the same things that you are. So, again, learn from them, but play your own game. I promise that your game will end up being the right game for you. The game that wins fans, great co-workers, pitches and clients the world over.
Finally, this whole Internet thing that you are only dabbling with right now, via your Lexis-Nexis subscription and Hoover database, is here to stay.
And, your whole fascination with other cultures, countries, people and brands will never wane. It will only be fueled by the various job(s) and experiences you have, and, yes, you will have several, so go with it. Because, from where I sit, I can tell you you’re going to be just fine.
All my Best,
P.S. When the psychic in Venice Beach tells you that she sees a lot of boys in your life, it doesn't mean you're going to have lots of dates, it means you're going to have twin boys. Yes. Really.