Failure is not only an option, but often the best type of learning experience for young professionals.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?
Even though this is a question that’s become somewhat of a cliché in interview circles, I was contemplating it, while thinking back to the days of when I was a young influencer (even if I wasn’t all that influential) and flashing back to the present while editing this Young Influencer issue. Cliché or not, it’s an intriguing question, and one each of us would be well served reflecting on.
To uncover my answer, I thought about the places I’ve worked over the years, the good jobs, the crummy jobs, and the bosses who caused me to question my career choice and capabilities and dread going to work every day.
There were mentors who’ve shown me the way too. It’s just taken me some time to realize that even though it didn’t seem as if I was being mentored at the time, I was learning.
I remember the co-owner of a public relations agency where I worked for six months before getting fired. His management style was classic micro-management. He’d leave the office for an appointment, and as soon as he got in the cab, he would call me on his mobile phone (back in the days before mobile phones were ubiquitous) to find out what I was doing. That was often less than 15 minutes after he had asked me the same thing before he left the office. My second day on the job, I asked him a question and he replied, “What’s the matter? Don’t you know PR?”
I never asked another question again.
Or the publisher of the office trade magazine who, after a meeting with representatives from an electronic typewriter manufacturer, berated me for asking them if their machine was similar to another manufacturer’s I just saw at a recent trade show. “Never ask about a competitor,” he grumbled at me after they left. “They hate each other.”
Two months later, during a similar visit, at the end of the product demonstration, he asked if their product was similar to another manufacturer’s. Yes, indeed, the next stop ahead, The Twilight Zone.
Another time while employed by the same trade magazine I received a demo model of a new electronic typewriter with a one-line display. This was the early 1990s and believe it or not, our editorial staff was still using traditional electric typewriters. After I finished unpacking it and was browsing through the instruction manual, the publisher stopped by my desk, asked me what it was, and then said, “I hope you’re not going to spend all day learning how to use that. We’ve got work to do here, fella.”
I can laugh at those experiences now. Despite dreading those daily interactions with my bosses, I still had positive experiences working at those jobs too. And if it weren’t for those jobs, I might not be where I am today. Although, my first editorial job working for a cable-TV magazine is why I’m here.
The publisher was the son of a well-known television personality from the 1960s. (Hint: “Smile, you’re on…”) I didn’t report to him directly, but those who did often found it a challenge because he was a quick-tempered, demanding boss. I only worked there 11 months before the publication was sold and the entire staff laid off. When I interviewed for my first magazine job in this industry, I reluctantly put him down as a reference. Despite barely knowing me, I received a glowing reference. He described me as one of the top people at the magazine, even though I was inexperienced and definitely not one of the top people at the magazine.
Thanks to time and experience, I can now place these stories in perspective, making it easier to find the advice I would give my younger self: Be patient, listen and learn, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask questions, and don’t be afraid to fail.
This year’s Young Influencers already have this perspective, and we are thrilled to present them to you here this month.
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