Memo to My Younger Self

 

DATE: May 22, 2019
MEMO TO: Kevin Lamb, Account Associate
FROM: Kevin Lamb, Senior Vice President
RE: Strategic Plan for Your Career Path

 

The big city. You’re on the train to midtown Manhattan for your first day. You’ve arrived.

Sure, it didn’t follow the plan as you thought – it’s not a sports PR agency. It’s actually… healthcare. Pharma to be exact. But that pharmacy tech job back in Central New York ended up being a foot in the door; who’d have thought?

But that’s all you’ve ever needed. You’re thinking: “This is only to get going. I’ll get to that sports agency soon enough. I’ll get to those dream accounts in no time.”

But you won’t; at least not those you’re dreaming of now. And that’s okay, because along the way, you’ll find yourself professionally. You’ll find that you’re passionate about healthcare, that you love the art and the science of the subject matter. You’ll love the challenge of simplifying the complex to communicate to people something that could change their lives.

And you’ll find a home. It just won’t be in the big city. Things change.

With graduation now in the rearview mirror, and as you head into your first big job in the business, I figured I’d give you a few things to think about in the hour-plus ride into Midtown:

 

A dream project isn’t always about the brand, but it is always about the opportunity.
Be open to brands that you might not know much about, perhaps have never heard of, or might not strike you as exciting. Things like calendars, office products, health insurance. Those brands, products and campaigns will challenge you; they might not seem exciting right now, but you’ll learn how to make them exciting and newsworthy. Remember: every brand has a story to tell. You just have to find it.

 

Bring your “O” game every day – Optimism.
Learning how to grind it out with challenging brands will instill an important perspective and work ethic that is critical in this industry: that optimism is the key to your success in this business. It’s infectious to others around you. And it establishes confidence from clients.

Clients expect hustle, dedication and sweat equity, every day; and optimism will keep you going. Clients respect honesty, even if it’s something they don’t want to hear, because by figuring out what won’t work, you are one step closer to finding what will. Optimism will drive that pursuit. And clients love to see ideas even if they don’t ask for them, because it shows you are always thinking on their behalf. Optimism will keep you engaged.

These are things you’ll learn from your mentors, a great crew that you’ll still be working with more than two decades from now. And these are the things you’ll impart of those who learn from you. Because your job isn’t just about dollars and cents, or impressions and clicks. It’s also about paying it forward, helping others grow professionally. Optimism is one of the most important things you can share.

 

“No” isn’t the end of an idea; it’s the beginning.
Remember how Edison tried and failed 1,000 times to invent the lightbulb? Accept that this is a business of criticism, missteps and failure. Get used to it. It’ll make you better.

The media will be critical of your clients, your campaigns and your pitches – that’s their job, to ensure they are putting forth the best, most interesting and informative story they can. Turn that criticism into creative fuel. It’ll make you a better storyteller.

Clients will be critical of your ideas – but that’s ok, they want the best value for their investment. Their criticism will force you to find the common ground between their interests and the media’s standards. This will make you a better counselor.

Leadership and colleagues will be critical of your ideas. Everyone will have something more to add. It’s not a shortcoming of your idea; it’s an expansion of your idea. It means you’ve got something good to build on. Learn to love “no” – it’s an important step in getting to yes.

 

It’s not always what you know, but who you know.
Always remember that bit of advice Dad gave you when you were heading off to college. That was his parting gift when you left the nest; and it’s fundamental to the DNA of this profession.

This is a profession built on relationships; it’s the people that matter.

It’s relationships with the people you work with, and work for. Someday, some of your agency colleagues will be your clients, and they’ll bring you in because they know you and trust you.

It’s relationships with the clients you work with and succeed with. People move in this business, a lot. And you’ll soon see that if you produce great work for clients, they take you with them when they move on to new positions. Some will come back time and time again. Many of those clients will become some of your most valued relationships over years, even decades.

It’s relationships with the media you work with – those relationships are built on integrity and trust. Maintain that standard, and don’t ever compromise it. Without it, the profession is lost.

 

You’re dreaming of a professional life at a big agency in the heart of the city; this first agency is a great start, it’ll be important in helping you figure out what’s right for you and what fits your personality, and what doesn’t. But things change.

When a small agency in New Jersey gives you an opportunity, jump on board. Don’t worry that you’ll only be the eighth employee.

Within just a few years, that agency will be winning industry awards for Creative Agency of the Year, Best Place to Work, and will grow quickly. And you’ll be there for it all, with people that you will count not just as colleagues, but family. They will be your most ardent supporters and your most valued critics. They’ll be there to break you down and pick you up; and you will do the same for them. They will be the people that you’ll run through a brick wall for. Because you’re all in it together. It’s the people that matter.

Things change. But trust your gut; it’ll ultimately lead you to where you want to be.

Learn more about the Healthcare Public Relations practice at Coyne PR.

Kevin Lamb
Kevin Lamb, Senior Vice President