A few years ago, I spoke to a class of film students at a university in Los Angeles, who asked me to give them some career advice before graduation. My friend, award-winning advertising writer David Morgenstern, shared some tips with me for the class that he had given to USC film students a few years earlier, and they were so fantastic I wanted to share them with you.
1) Return every call and e-mail quickly. Show up on time, even if you’re the only one there. Dress like you deserve your salary. Believe me that will put you ahead of a surprising number of people.
2) Write thank-you notes. Remember birthdays. Remember the assistants, the secretaries, the coordinators, and the mailroom folks. This is a people business. And people never forget how they are treated.
3) Every day, you are placing a brick in the tower of your reputation. Remember, everything you do, big and small, either adds or subtracts from your reputation.
4) Watch what you say in elevators, restrooms, airplanes, and casual conversation. She could be the client’s wife. He could be the boss’s brother. She could be your competitor’s accountant.
5) Don’t care who solves it. Just get it solved.
6) Learn how to tell a story: Every client presentation, report, and commercial is all about stories. Stories are how human beings make sense of the world. If you want to succeed in this business, be able to tell stories in ways that capture your audience’s attention.
7) When emotions are running high, make sure yours are running low. Life is unfair, so learn to lose with dignity. And learn to win with dignity. That means no excuses. No crybabies. No bragging. No trashing. Learn how to move on.
8) Proofread. Spell-check.
9) Good enough, isn’t. There will be someone out there who will sleep less and work harder, give up their weekend, and give it one more shot. That is the person that I bet on to win.
10) Think different. Be brave. The world is full of people with conventional ideas who go along with the crowd. It’s the mavericks and the dreamers who move things forward. When you hear an idea that makes you nervous and sweat, occasionally gather your courage, take a stand, take a risk, suck it up, and go out on a limb. Hey, you might even be right.