When we asked EO members what lessons they wish they had known at the start of their careers, EO Arizona member and CEO of The James Agency Veronique James shared the following four insights.
1. A Smooth Sea Never Made a Skillful Mariner.
A fortune cookie once contained this saying, and I found it to be a prophetically profound dessert. My mantra has always been “fall forward.” Mistakes are part of human nature, but they are particularly painful when it relates to your work. Mistakes stretch your capabilities, challenge your intestinal fortitude and turn your skill level up a notch.
REMEMBER: Run toward your mistake, not away from it. Don’t always expect to get it right the first time because you will disappoint yourself. The key is to learn from the experience, grow your skill set and become a more experienced practitioner. Embrace the challenges and “failures” because they give us valuable insight into doing it better the next time.
2. When One Door Closes …
Difficult decisions are a daily occurrence when you are growing as a professional. They may be stressful, but they are required every day. I started my career anticipating I would need to make a few difficult decisions, but I didn’t appreciate the quantity and quality of decisions until I really dove into my role. Some are scarier than others, some are more impactful than others, but those daily decisions contribute to the overall success of your future.
REMEMBER: Educate yourself, talk with other professionals or mentors, discuss with appropriate peers and, above all, listen to your instincts. While you may not be able to pinpoint exactly why you want to go in one direction, there’s a reason. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.
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3. Environment + Energy = Success.
Math equations may not be your forte, but commit this one to memory. When seeking the right office environment as you look for your first job, remember that the right people and the right clients are key to a successful business practice. The office environment is more than just the type of chairs and the color of the pain on the walls—although those play a role. The environment also includes the tone, feel and intangibles that the office exudes. The personalities within must mesh with that vibe and with yours. Pay close attention during your interview process: Are the staff and clients in harmony?
REMEMBER: Aim for a balanced equation when looking for your first gig. If the company is lacking in office culture and vibe, it’s difficult to attract and retain the right people and clients. Without the right people, the client mix will suffer. You get the gist: If one of the areas is missing, the tripod is lop-sided.
4. Networking + Resilience = Success.
You aren’t going to be at the top right out of the gate. In a world of digital instant gratification, our patience for doing the work and climbing the ladder wears thin. We are used to getting information right away, knowing how well we are liked in an instant and gaining feedback and popularity overnight. Be patient. Learning the good, old-fashioned way builds character and people who have taken the long journey of professional development can share with you that it won’t happen overnight. But with enough tenacity, consistency and—most importantly—a great attitude, you will grow into the role you desire before you know it.
REMEMBER: It won’t be easy, but you have to start somewhere. Don’t give up, and know that the best is yet to come!
Veronique James is a member and former president of the EO Arizona chapter and CEO of The James Agency, an integrated agency specializing in consumer advertising, public relations and digital marketing.