Category Archives: Learnings & Insight

How To Spot The Best and Worst Content Marketing Strategies

Asking a marketer to describe their brand’s content strategy is like asking my wife what she wants for dinner. You’ll hear 50 different answers that really only distill down to a handful of choices:

  • FORMAT – “We use video, images and real-time engagement…”
  • MEDIA – “We create paid, owned and earned experiences…”
  • CHANNEL – “We use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn…”
  • SOURCE – “We have curated, syndicated, and costume content…”
  • INTENT – “We drive traffic to our blog for lead gen and SEO…”

How To Spot The Best and Worst Content Marketing Strategies - Adrian ParkerThe only answer you won’t hear is “I don’t know.”

While these inputs represent vital building blocks for connecting ideas, communities and people, successful content marketing strategies start with 2 core questions:

1. Who are we talking to… and why should they care?

2. What are we saying… and why should they share?

Content is the oxygen of your social media ecosystem. Strategy is the process of converting it into results by regulating what you do, why you do it and how. A content marketing strategy dependent on a specific channel, format or source will soon be on life-support as technology changes and interest wanes.

There is a better way. At Intuit we’ve had the opportunity to test, learn and iterate on several campaigns targeting global business professionals and small business owners. The content marketing strategy we’ve adopted focuses on maximizing the 2 core questions and scaffolding our content plans around consumer-driven motivations.

The best and worst of content marketing strategies come to life in 4 types:

4 Types of Content Marketing Strategies - Adrian Parker

WORST: Vanity Content

With lagging consumer relevancy and even lower trust, many traditional, outbound marketing tactics fall into the vanity category. Companies struggle to hit tomorrow’s revenue forecast and reach today’s audience with yesterday’s playbook.  Until recently the marketing solar system revolved around products and brands, not consumers. Mass scale was rewarded, encouraged and expected. Vanity content strategies are like a bad blind date that expects you to pay for dinner after blabbering about themselves through three painful courses. To be fair, vanity content pieces do have a place and a purpose but a strategy built on this approach is destined to fail. Just say no.

GOOD: Conversational Content

Conversational content powers Twitter timelines, serving as a virtual village where ideas go to spread or die. The steady stream of share-bait presents easy access to news, information, updates and random distractions. Done right, this approach requires dedicated resources who are equipped with the right tools and empowered by leaders. Like a great dinner party, the key to great conversational content is to start the discussion, not own it. Conversations can quickly become viral or convictional based on how audiences respond so leave room for the unplanned.

BETTER: Convictional Content

Content that evokes emotions, strengthens beliefs or confronts assumptions is challenging to produce yet powerful to consume. We often speak of “humanizing” or “personifying” our brand, alluding to the notion that people connect more easily with other people. This approach works extremely well when focused on the people behind your products and a story bigger than your brand. What this content approach lacks in scale it makes up for in transparency and trust. Great content elicits an action, which is the ultimate goal of most brand marketing and media. Instead of asking for the action, convictional content asks for a discussion.

BEST: Viral Content

The word “viral” has been abused more than Charlie’s bitten finger. By definition, the term denotes that new consumption comes from the activities of current consumers. Or said another way, users begat other users. Even within Intuit virality has various degrees. Sales enabling content for QuickBooks Online Accountant Edition (B2B) performs very differently from a TurboTax video campaign (B2C). While every piece of viral content isn’t necessarily marketing, all viral marketing delivers on the core 2 motivators: giving consumers a reason to share and care.

It begs an obvious question: In a world transformed by digital technology, why is viral content so prevalent online yet elusive for marketers? Easy answer: We’re busy creating innovative ways to talk about what we know best – ourselves.

Let’s Talk

In business, strategies answer obvious questions and question obvious answers. Any content plan will evolve over time but should always serve as a true north representation of what and who your brand stands for. Last week at Social Fresh West in San Diego I had the opportunity to discuss how to drive digital results by focusing on relationships. This “Care & Share Model” illustrates how it came together using a recent case study from Intuit. You can check out the full presentation on Slideshare or below.

I look forward to hearing how brands and small businesses alike tackle these challenges. If your content strategy had a Facebook page, would any of your customers like it? Leave a comment below with how you would rank your own content marketing strategy. Feel free to link to examples!

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Filed under Interactive Marketing, Learnings & Insight, Social Media

Why Fat, Foolish, Nervous People Make Better Leaders

Fat Foolish PeopleIt only took me a few decades but I’ve learned the only way to get somewhere new is to ask for directions. If I’m never the new guy at the office I’ll never be the VP of the division. If I’m never the fat guy at the gym I’ll never be the fit guy at the beach. My nervous first date was a requirement for my eventual 30th wedding anniversary. Every MVP was a rookie and every star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was once a “nobody.”

The real lesson is that success is easier to envy than emulate. Acting like you have the answers is much harder in the long run than simply asking for help. I believe being unfamiliar and uncomfortable is the only path to being strong and certain.

In the short-term, it’s simpler to insulate yourself in a cocoon of comfort, convenience and predictability. But that same cocoon becomes a coffin when you starve off the very thing you need to ensure healthy growth – change. So I’m learning to embrace errors and seek surprises. For better or worse, problems pave the way to solutions. Permission to fail is the tool to succeed.

After all, smart  men were once fools who asked for help. Wise men never stop asking.

So be the fat, foolish, new, nervous guy – just don’t stay that way. Watch out for the know-it-alls, they secretly want to be just like you.

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Career Poker: Knowing When To Cash In Your Chips

Perform a quick Google search for advice on exiting or entering a job and you’ll find millions of articles dedicated to helping you make the critical hold ’em or fold ’em decision. Most of this guidance, however,  provides a very reactive, even passive formula to decision making. If you simply wait until you’re dissatisfied with your current role or presented with a better option, you’re paying huge opportunity costs in the form of unnecessary angst, frustration and inefficiency. Proactive career management requires a tops-down look at these decisions.

Admittedly, I’m a horrendous poker player (seriously, don’t even ask me to shuffle cards) but the dynamics of absorbing environmental cues, adapting to uncontrollable circumstances and risk management are a great blueprint for building better career decisions.

Career Poker Knowing When To Cash In Your Chips

1) Know how much you can lose

In poker, folding a hand isn’t losing – it’s quitting before you lose. Amazing winners are awesome quitters who limit their losses on bad hands. A winning game plan starts with a strategy for losing the right way. How much are you willing to bet and what are the indicators that signal you’re losing? Good poker players don’t play more than 50% of the hands they are dealt. Each one has a starting hand requirement that determines when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

2) Play tight and aggressive

There are 169 possible starting hands in Texas Hold ‘Em. Tight and aggressive players limit their play to only the top 10 hands – or about 6% of the hands dealt. Career poker requires each player to predetermine and measure exactly when to bow out. I started my new role at Intuit 13 months ago and within the first 6 months I created 3 requirements that would signal its time for me to fold:

#1 – I’m in the way. My background and skills are insufficient to lead the team and there are better candidates present. Simply being temporarily insufficient isn’t a deal breaker because that doesn’t mean you’re not the best fit for the role. It just means you need to learn and get to a break-even point faster.

#2 – My leadership and management approach are no longer a fit for the requirements to be successful. There’s rarely a need to force a square peg in a round hole.

#3 – I fulfill the initial charter of my role (launch and lead a new Center of Excellence) and can expand my scope for greater impact in another capacity .

3) Count your chips

What’s the market compensation range for someone in your field with similar skills and experience? Don’t know? Find out using Glassdoor or any number of websites that provide a peek inside the salary mechanics of major companies. Winning is not solely based on income but maximizing your earning potential is a significant contributor to future opportunities. If you’re underpaid by 30% or more it may be time to address the value discrepancy or look to roles that provide more equitable compensation models.

4) Higher stakes mean higher risks

What’s the biggest difference between a poker game with $2 stakes versus $20 stakes?  Skill.  As the stakes rise so does the average skill level of the other players. Mastery of a low stakes game does not translate into continued success at higher levels. Smart poker players are intentional about where they play and who they play against. More often than not, your pursuit of higher positions and income is also a pursuit of more responsibility. Do you want your boss’s job? Do you want your boss’s boss’s job? Think about it before raising the stakes on your own game.

5) Pay attention to the other players

Poker is a game of odds and observation, with opportunities to flex both sides of your brain.  While you’re watching the cards don’t forget to keenly pay attention to the other players for tells, bluffs and play styles that influence your success. One supremely beneficial tool in the game of career poker is LinkedIn. It’s a great tool for identifying individuals who have positions you aspire to and then mapping their journey. Do they have MBAs? What’s the average age or tenure in a certain industry? What skills or past experiences are a common thread among certain roles? Another great observational tool on the job is the lost art of asking. Many senior leaders are refreshingly candid about their career history and offer simple advice for moves you should emulate or landmines to evade.

Have you ever seen someone move into a high profile role or promoted to a position ahead of their time? These aren’t accidents. They are the result of patiently and intentionally building up career value (chips) over a period of time and leveraging this value to place well-timed bets when the cards are right. Like anything worthwhile, it’s much easier said than done but the rewards can far outweigh the risks if you’re willing to invest the time to truly build a career, not just a job.

I would love to hear your thoughts. What are your requirements for doubling down on a role or taking a bet in a new position?

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The Top 7 Distinctions Between Weak and Strong Leaders

top 7 distinctions weak strong - adrian parker

Leading people is one of the most critical and challenging skills on this planet.  Aside from parenthood – which has many similarities – there aren’t many competencies that universally possess equal amounts of hope and horror depending on how you wield their power.

Leadership isn’t new.  Each year we spend more than $60 billion on leadership development programs, books, articles and classes to crack the code on how to successfully guide human organizations to a desired goal.  More often than not, they fail.  Why?  Because people don’t like change.  Both managers and direct reports are naturally resistant to change and leadership training is 3 times more effective at teaching knowledge than it is in changing behavior.  Simply put, knowing how to effectively lead and being an effective leader are two very different things.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about learning to lead, I’ve been leading teams for the past several years and I also invest a meaningful amount of resources into honing my own abilities.  Through direct and indirect experiences I’ve compiled this list of the top 7 distinctions between weak and strong leaders.

1. Weak leaders outsource their decisions. Strong leaders outsource their thinking.  Good leaders are like General Managers of sports teams: they put the right guys in the right roles but take ownership of the outcome.  Ineffective leaders, instead, will push partners, agencies and peers to make the tough decisions in an effort to diffuse potential failure or downgrade their accountability.

2. Weak leaders avoid confrontation. Strong leaders are comfortable with uncomfortable conversations.  All results-driven leaders relentlessly guard their time, their focus and their vision.  Just like the uncomfortable “no” is the only way to protect your time, the uncomfortable performance evaluation is the only way to protect your team.  Strong managers aren’t heartless ogres but they are OK with facing issues head on.  As GE business titan Jack Welch said, “The biggest cowards are managers who don’t let people know where they stand.”

3. Weak leaders manage by consensus. Strong leaders aren’t afraid to walk alone.  Lead long enough and you’ll inevitably come across a turn in the road where you find yourself walking alone.  The times when the vision is the fuzziest are the times when a leader longs for support the most.  It’s easy to succumb to the desire to be popular and change course for safer seas.  The only problem is, consensus is like the wind – it won’t tell you which way is True North.  Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, recently shared his experience during Amazon’s early days.  “One thing that I have learned within the first couple of years of starting the company is that inventing and pioneering requires a willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”  Strong leaders are sometimes lone nuts.

 4. Weak leaders seek approval. Strong leaders earn respect.  In the wake of the 9/11 tragedies, Former President George W. Bush achieved a 90% approval rating in 2001, the highest in the history of the poll.  By 2008 it had plummeted to just 25%, one of the lowest ever recorded.  Approval is a great force to have in your sails but a leader’s journey can not depend on approval alone.  Respect, however, is much harder to earn, making it that much more difficult to erode away in the face of misunderstanding.

 5. Weak leaders see feedback as a pain. Strong leaders see feedback as a gift.  A few years ago I had lunch with a senior VP at the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and he shared a phrase I’ve been using ever since – “feedback is a gift.”  He discouraged me from becoming a “yes but.”  These are the leaders who politely dismiss your perspective with the simple introductory phrase “Yes… but (insert excuse here).” “Yes… but I don’t have time to explain to you why we’re changing strategies.”  Yes… but you don’t understand the big picture.”  Weak leaders avoid feedback because it requires true humility to accept criticism in a helpful manner.  Pride hates feedback.

 6. Weak leaders focus on events and emotions. Strong leaders focus on results and relationships.  The urgent will always be the enemy of the important.  The valuable work that propels your team into tomorrow and truly makes an impact is always postponable because today has more than enough distractions.  Weak leaders stay so mired in the day-to-day maintenance of egos, emotions and entitlement that real results become a distant mirage.  Effective executives drive for results by putting relationships and resources into proper perspective and concentrate on the critical few areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results.  As Peter Drucker admonished, “Do first things first and second things not at all.”

 7. Weak leaders assume they’re strong and don’t ever change. Strong leaders acknowledge they’re weak and embrace change.  Growth comes through resistance.  Like a runner training to conquer a steep incline, as we overcome various degrees of difficulty it increases our ability to take on even greater loads in the future.  The truth is this: being weak is a prerequisite for being strong.  Yet the only way to stay strong is to intentionally put yourself in situations where you are required to grow.  It sounds counter-intuitive but it’s the secret to how the good get better, the rich get richer and the strong get stronger.  When you invest in yourself the interest always compounds in your favor.

We’re all weak in some areas but strong leaders know it’s not OK to simply dismiss your shortcomings and it’s never OK to give up.  Strong leaders find a way and weak leaders find an excuse.  The leadership journey is just that, a series of opportunities to better yourself by giving yourself away to people and causes bigger than yourself.

What do you think?  Would love to hear your opinions on the key characteristics that you believe separate weak and strong leaders. 

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What To Do While You’re Waiting To Be Discovered

Waiting to be discovered - Adrian Parker

Most of us are waiting, wanting or wishing for something.  I am.  I’m waiting to meet my firstborn son in a few months.  I’m waiting for what lies ahead in my career.  I’m wishing for a better me.

I’m not alone. Recent research suggests that we’re all wired to wait longer for bigger rewards.  When given a choice between small rewards that are immediate and large rewards that are delayed, we instinctively choose long term success.  It seems waiting is natural but it’s how we wait that makes all the difference.

The 30-something hopeless romantic, the table-waiting pop singer and the self-published blogger are all waiting for a moment when dreams and opportunity intersect.  They’re waiting for a chance to be someone else’s solution.  Waiting for that defining moment when Morpheus offers Neo the red pill and changes life as we know it.  They’re waiting to be discovered.

waldo image

There’s only one problem.  No one’s waiting for you.  The few people doing the discovering aren’t waiting for you to show up.  In fact, they don’t even know you exist.  There is no American Idol for your dream or X-Factor for your future. No one holds open auditions for roles, assignments or challenges that really matter.  Instead they look for people who are already doing what you’re waiting to do.

Why wait for lightning to strike when you can make your own storm?  Your next big break, soul mate or dream job will find you when you start working.  Simply put, there’s a right and a wrong way to wait.  A wait that produces results is productive.  A wait that prolongs worry is unproductive.  As someone who has been on both sides of the coin and learned a little about being the waiter and the waitee, I’ll offer a few tips for things to do while waiting to be discovered.

Work More

Why wait when you can work? Work produces energy and results that just beg for attention.  Get busy in a small way each day.  When I started my own marketing company in 2007 I had big ideas and zero customers.  Once I began to actually plan the work and work the plan, clients rolled in.

Talk Less

I’ve never hired the candidate who wants the job the most.  I hire the one who produces results.  Talk less about how bad you want an opportunity and showcase how good you already are.  When your work speaks for you, people notice.  Increased competition means everyone is looking for the best and they have easy access to technology and information to help them decide if you are or aren’t.  Your reputation should create breadcrumbs that lead opportunities to you.

Refocus

Eliminate this phrase from your human hard drive: “This job is perfect for my career because…” Same goes for relationships, movie roles or whatever else you’re cooking up.  Focus on how you solve their problem rather than how they can be your solution.  What pisses you off?  What gets you super excited?  What pains you constantly? Focus on the problems you intend to solve and the skills you need to prepare for them.

Be Patient

When you can’t be useful, be patient.  During the course of most major endeavors you will inevitably reach your end – the point where you’re not in control.  When the money, time, contacts or desire are running on “E” it’s a great time to park and be still.  This one’s tough.  When my business hit a wall it felt like being stuck in quicksand.  Taking time to quiet my thoughts and engage my creativity was much more productive than flailing around for a quick-fix. (Note: Here’s what to do if you ever get stuck in quicksand)

Seek Help

It’s easier to help someone who is already helping themselves.  Once you’ve invested in pursuing your path don’t be afraid to ask someone for counsel, support or even a helping hand.  Oftentimes you have an arsenal of people ready, willing and able to pitch in if you’ve won their hearts.

The greatest strength is gained by waits.  Though it can be hard, resist the urge to seek short-term solutions for endeavors that are worth the effort.  There’s no shame in waiting for what you truly want as long as you’re doing it in a focused, productive and positive manner.

What are you waiting on? Any tips you would add for your patiently impatient peers?

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Put A Ring On It: Moving Beyond Social Engagement

Social media has significantly changed business but business is also changing the way we do social media.  How do you measure, monetize and optimize social interactions in a business environment?  Look no further than your marriage.  Everything I’ve learned about social media I got from my wife.  Kinda.

This is a quick share of the presentation slides and a video from the WCG Social Commerce event at SXSW 2013.  I was honored to speak to and learn from some of the most brilliant brands and digital minds around.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

ROI can come from the most important places.  Many thanks to my wife Alisha for being a good sport and awesome partner.

Video created by UPG

Slideshare presentation: Put A Ring On It: Moving Beyond Social Engagement

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Filed under Innovation, Interactive Marketing, intuit, Learnings & Insight

Why The World Deserves A Better You

The world needs a better you.

Why? Because I need you and you need me.

My goals and my gifts are the very answer to the question you didn’t know you had. I need your art, your beauty, your voice and your view to bring my dream to fulfillment.

Today’s you isn’t good enough. I need the best you. The you that is long-suffering and patient. The you that’s powered by purpose and a genuine desire to give. The you who has experienced regret and redemption. The you who has loved, loss and led a life worth sharing. Most of all, I need the you who knows it’s not about you at all.

The world needs a better you. It’s not about how much you make, it’s about the difference you make. It’s less about what you want to be called and more about your calling. Your actions outweigh your beliefs. It’s less about you and more about what you do.

Today is a door. Take one step towards being the you the world deserves. If I take that same step we’re already headed in the right direction.

You deserve a better you.

Image

Photo: Brevityness / Creative Commons

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4 Reasons Your Social Strategy Is Incomplete Without Mobile

It finally happened.  Last year social and mobile tied the knot in a private ceremony and now they’re having kids.  With smartphone adoption in the U.S. surging to new heights and social networking surpassing pornography as the #1 online activity, business as usual is obsolete.  Interactive strategies must now solve for social experiences on a mobile device and mobile content consumed socially.  Anything less is simply insufficient.

At Intuit, we’ve taken this task to heart.  Our CEO Brad Smith is bullish about reimagining our products and services to fully realize the fruits of a social, mobile and global world.  For my team, this means our social and mobile marketing strategies live within the same group and we plan activities simultaneously with collaboration from our web and product partners.  It’s not an easy journey but it is a necessary one.  I believe there are 4 reasons to begin building out a true SoMo (social/mobile) approach to business.

4 Reasons Your Social Strategy is Incomplete Without Mobile

1. A social-only strategy is a job half-done
Brand have an obligation to stay social in a mobile world.  As consumer usage shifts from online/desktop toward mobile, everything has changed.  And nothing has changed.  In Intuit’s accounting professional division, 70% of our accounting and tax professionals are on a smartphone, and about 30% of those professionals are using a tablet.  We’ve evolved our approach to serve customers in their channel of choice.  Users can access software, training, social information and content as easily from a mobile device as they can from their desktop. Concurrently, if you see product information on LinkedIn, a blog or a forum, we’ll also provide that info via email or a representative’s phone call.

Our goal is to “leave no desktop behind.”  We’re still going to support our desktop software users who are more comfortable and confident in that environment.  Meanwhile, we continue to build up capability for the future.  It’s no longer enough to have one page, one language or one mobile device.  The most powerful word-of-mouth marketing tool is a great product experience.  A focus on delighting costumers begins and ends with great product, with marketing being the gracious host.

2. Consumer connections are the offspring of social and mobile getting hitched
Social and mobile proliferation creates limitless opportunity for us to connect with real people.  Customers are engaging on their mobile device or via a social channel long before they visit Intuit.com, call a sales representative or interact with a retail worker.  For Intuit’s accounting professionals division, we now have a virtual seat at that table when customers are having the conversations about our brand. Then we can observe, influence and respond in real-time. It’s also a great opportunity to connect with users in ways that weren’t possible two years ago.  For instance, a tax professional can now do their client’s taxes while they’re on their iPad, sitting on the beach.  A CPA can get trained and certified in QuickBooks Online on their iPhone while they’re waiting in an airport.  After completion, they can even share progress across social channels and tell their clients that they are certified with one click of a button to their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.  All made possible by the marriage of SoMo.

3. Technology will only continue to shrink the world, raise the bar and stretch our boundaries
Brands must now be trilingual, with complete mastery of social, mobile and global best practices because customers expect it.  Once you shift to a social, mobile-first mindset, you’re automatically  global because conversations take place anywhere across the world.  No longer is there a barrier.  We recently launched global-ready training that can be viewed on any mobile device across the board, whether it’s Windows, iOS or Android.  We’re exploring global-ready experiences on YouTube page that auto-detect location and adjust language and content settings.  Being device and geography agnostic requires organizational commitments.  For global corporations, it’s inadequate to have one web experience, one language or one mobile device.  Relevancy requires having a portfolio mindset.

4. Brands cannot live by Facebook tabs alone
When I started in social media three-plus years ago, every campaign was centered on a gorgeous Facebook tab with a promotional call to action.  It was a creative extension of your traditional marketing campaign. These days, you need robust photos, video, text and content on the timeline that really create authentic engagement.  It’s no longer enough to build out a core tab function.  Facebook is doing a lot of work to really integrate more of those functions into the mobile dialogue, but for the most part, users are in their newsfeed – wanting to hear from their friends and family.  Not only does it provide a barrier for brands, but also it requires we earn our way into the conversation. Simply put, it’s sink or swim time.

As always, perfection is elusive so the focus should be on progressing your efforts year over year.  Would love to hear your thoughts on how social and mobile intersect to impact how you go-to-market, or not.

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10 Career Commandments to Learn in Your 20s

Modern life is rife with opportunities to make your mark, forge your own path or even fall flat on your face.  As knowledge work becomes the norm, there is no playbook for young professionals who have yet to learn how to manage their careers and personal brands in the information age.  Also, as competition for promotions and positions goes global, managing your professional reputation starts the moment you sign up for a Google+ account.  Now more than ever, careers are planned looking forward but understood looking backward.

How can early career professionals ensure they are following the North Star and building a truly successful foundation?  I’ve cobbled together some hard learned lessons that I often share with younger movers-and-shakers.  Take a read and let me know what you think of these 10 Career Commandments.

10 Commandments 20 Somethings

1. Reputation is everything.  There isn’t a short cut to building integrity but there are innumerable ways to cut your time short by breeding mistrust, dishonesty and conflict.  Stay far away from grey areas even when they seem shiny.  Remember, today’s emotional outbursts can easily be tomorrow’s missed opportunity.  People talk. (See earlier blog post: “3 Steps To Discovering Your Personal Brand“)

2. Fry the big fish first.  Contrary to popular opinion, it’s easier to start at the bottom of a world-class company than to squeeze in mid-career.  Intense competition only gets hotter in the most desirable industries and corporations.  If the Fortune 500 are on your hit list, don’t be afraid to start actively pursuing relevant opportunities via internships or entry-level assignments.

3. Mo’ money, mo’ problems.  After graduating from Florida A&M, I relocated to the NYC area and discovered my marketing coordinator salary didn’t go far in the Big Apple.  I worked hard and got promoted. Then I worked hard because I was promoted.  And so on.  As income increases so do expectations, visibility, rewards and risks.  Building wealth through employment isn’t impossible, just be sure what you’re signing up for.  How much you save is far more important than how much you earn. (Required Reading: Stop Acting Rich)

4. Don’t read your own press.  The biggest career blunders I’ve ever witnessed were the result of too much pride and not enough reality.  One former peer who worked in sports and entertainment marketing was so enamored of the celebrity lifestyle of his clients that he actually began to believe he was one of them.  He flaunted his Rolodex and glitzy relationships to anyone who would listen.  Then one day his wealth of unfulfilled promises became the very weapons of his demise.  Let your work speak louder than you do.  Never gauge your self-worth simply by work performance because failures are inevitable.

5. Bust your butt.  When I was a 20-year-old intern at Footaction USA, the CEO shared a simple, yet powerful piece of advice: “Bust your butt in your 20s.”  Hard work doesn’t guarantee greatness but nothing great was ever accomplished without hard work.

6. If you’re explaining you’re losing.  Unless sincerely requested, your boss’ s boss needs enough information to make decisions and anything more is wasted time.  Your confident communication of the right amount of information goes a long way in instilling trust in your abilities.  Like a former CMO said, “When I ask for the time don’t tell me how to make a watch.”

7. Know your role.  Were you hired for your digital creative chops or experience with Six Sigma process improvement?  Is your team positioned to launch a new product line or turnaround a lagging division?  It’s critical to know both your official and informal job duties from the lens of leadership.  If you want to change paths, let someone know and be sure you’re using your skills to solve an actual business need, not simply a personal passion.  As Greg McKeown noted, “At any one time there is only one piece of real estate we can “own” in another person’s mind.” (Required Reading: The #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make)

8. Work horses vs. show horses.  Busting your butt and working hard are now requirements to keep your job, not to thrive.  The “work horse” efforts of your 20s are the building blocks for more visible, far-reaching “show horse” projects.  Work horses manage projects, events and details.  Show horses may focus more on people, expectations and strategy.  We’re all called to be both at various points in our careers but knowing when is the key.

9. Define success for yourself.  No career nightmare is worse than pursuing someone else’s dream.  A book, conference, blog post or webinar can provide perspective but the job of discovering and pursuing your purpose is all yours.  Decide what you stand for, what’s important and where you’re headed.  Then deliberately work towards it with focus, fervor and flexibility.  (Required Reading: How Will You Measure Your Life?)

10. Opportunity knocks when you’re ready.  Professional and personal doors are rarely opened when we want them.  More often than not, I’m resigned to wait, listen and learn in preparation for what I thought I was ready for.  Thank God.  Sometimes the closed doors are there to protect me from an ill-conceived idea or an unknown, invisible threat.  Other times the closed doors are there for me to showcase exactly how bad I want something.  Knowing one from the other is crucial.

What qualifies me to create 10 career commandments?  I’m a former 20-something know-it-all turned 30-something student of life.  Let me know what you think.

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Why Leaders Should Learn By Walking, Not Watching

It’s easier to learn by watching.

You observe and inquire, research and report.  Gathering information and adding it to your own experiences is how many ideas are sparked.  It’s a mental exercise.

But learning by walking is different.  You have to get in the cage and interact with your customer, target, audience, competitor and even yourself.  It’s a human exercise.

Watching gives you control.  Walking gives you a connection.

Watching change is something you do. Walking changes you.

In 2013 I’m doing a lot more walking.  Watching is so 2012.

Walking on the beach san diego

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