What Advice Would You Give Yourself As An Industry Rookie Given What You Know Today?

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If you could go back in time and give yourself some professional advice just as you were stepping into the marketplace, what would it be?

  1. Be entrepreneurial. I saw the Internet come online. I had plenty of ideas (from an online auction to a better search engine to a comparison shopping engine), but I didn’t think I had the entrepreneurial chops to make it happen. That upsets me. It’s especially upsetting because I had already done a few non-digital (and successful) entrepreneurial ventures. The real message here? Don’t be scared to try something new even if you’re not sure about how it will all come together.
  2. Share your thinking. Nothing has been more powerful for my career than this Blog. It’s not just a publishing platform, it’s the place where I can experiment with words and share my thinking with the world. That critical thinking coupled with the vulnerability of putting my very deep and personal thoughts online for the world to see has given me an ever-evolving perspective. This sharing of how I feel and think has given me a depth to my experience that I could not get anywhere else.
  3. Admit when something isn’t for you. I’ve taken jobs for money and it was work that I didn’t love/believe in. I’ve been asked to write pieces for major publications about topics that didn’t interest me. I’ve accepted clients and taken on speaking opportunities for all of the wrong reasons. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. Creating an opportunity filter and focusing on the right type of work will lead you down the right path. Money is important (and I won’t say it’s not everything), but less money and more meaningful work will lead towards more meaningful work and more money.
  4. Family first. I’ve heard many people say that it’s impossible to do the work that I do and still have a healthy work/life balance. I’ve written about this before. I don’t believe in work/life balance. I believe in life balance – which is a combination of family, friends, work and community. They all need equal attention, but when push comes to shove, it’s all about family first. If you don’t have a healthy home, it makes everything else volatile and in flux.
  5. Have confidence. This may shock you, but I’m both an introvert and a very shy individual. Part of it stems from the fact that I never graduated university. I started publishing magazines and figured I would go back to school if it didn’t work out… well, it worked out. You would think that success would lead to confidence, but it didn’t. I often feel like I’m not as smart or established as my peers because they have some kind of designation from a university. That feeling slowly subsided when I realized how much time I spend self-educating (reading business books, attending conferences, listening to Podcasts, etc…). I wish I had more confidence when I just started out.
  6. Don’t fake experience. My close-quarters combatives coach (Tony Blauer) used to always say that "experience is something you always get shortly after you really need it." I read a lot of Blogs from people who are either just out of university or from people who have a handful of years of professional Marketing experience. It’s interesting to see how some of these people have massive followings but the content lacks experience (and, in some instances, professionalism). You can’t fake experience. So, it’s best to box in your own weight class. No one is going to punish you because you’re speaking from your own level of experience versus pretending that you’re more experienced than you really are.
  7. Be yourself. I still love the Oscar Wilde line, "be you, because others are already taken." It’s hard to be yourself. It’s easy to fall into the ways you think people perceive you instead of the way you truly are. It’s a constant battle, but it’s worthy to fight yourself to uncover your true self. The more I let go and follow my instinct/heart (from what I wear to how I speak to people) the more things seem to work out for me, professionally. Don’t try to fit in. Try to fit into your own self. There is nothing wrong with becoming incompatible.

What would you tell a newbie version of you?


  1. Breathe and don’t worry so much about being “first.” Being first is overrated sometimes, and it still amazes me a bit that I’ll admit that. Observation, distillation and application of your own lens sometimes makes a good thing better. Trust your timing and trust your voice.

  2. Don’t be afraid of risk. It is when I took risks in my career that I learned the most and had the greatest rewards.

  3. I’m still a rookie so I dare not pretend to extend this conversation, but your observations are fascinating.
    You’re implying – practically stating – that you missed out on a crucial time of building social skills by opting out of college. I find that interesting.
    Your blog’s new color scheme is going to take some getting use to. Right now I’m afraid I liked the other one better. πŸ™‚

  4. I would definitely tell a younger version of myself the same first two comments. Very similar story as you. I came up with all sorts of ideas for Internet based services while backpacking around Europe in 1999. Envisioned a service that combined features of today’s Yelp, FourSquare, and Living Social on PocketPCs. Not all the conditions were right at the time, like lack of proper hardware and 3G, but saw it coming. Wish there were the easily accessible resources on startups back then like there are now. Watching a Tech Crunch Disrupt could have pushed me over the edge towards starting my own business.
    Like you, sharing my thinking has brought me great success in the last few years. I should have started that practice a lot earlier.
    Finally, similar to confidence I would say don’t be afraid to stand out and stand up. People are in search of leadership, they are looking for someone to provide a compelling direction. You may have to put in hard work to show that the path you envision is passable and will lead to success, but standing up and putting the effort will often lead to great results.

  5. I did what I was told and followed the rules to be successful financially and professionally and did quite well. until one day I realized it didn’t matter. Three cancers later, I am following my passion as a creative artist and events specialist. It takes time to find yourself… Do one thing a day that scares you! You will become fearless and spend more time living your dreams.

  6. What I especially love about this digital community is the authenticity and generous sharing of experiences. I feel an entire shift in how we live and pursue our lives. We no longer have to ‘compete with the Jones’s’ now that we’re enabling each other to pursue our own truths. I look to leaders like you Mitch and always come away enlightened. Thank you for your honest insights. Cheers!

  7. In keeping with “Admit when something isn’t for you” I would tell my younger you to quit at the “wrong” things sooner. Not to waste more time doing things just for others’ expectations. Realize that LESS IS MORE. That “We can do anything, but not everything”. This means there is times that I have had to choose between two great (or more) opportunities, and unfortunately, some times between several ugly options. But decide, act, adjust and know that NOBODY has it figured out.

  8. I’d tell the younger version of me that there is always opportunity to be explored that is just outside of your current skill set/comfort level and to not fear the fact that it is outside. The growth comes when you choose those things that are outside of your current box of reality.
    To quote Michael Gates Gill I would tell myself to get fired early in your career so that you don’t fear it. It did happen to me fairly early in my career and it was not a bad thing at all.
    I would also tell myself that fitting in – particularly into a certain profession doesn’t matter. I am an accoutant and I am often considered weird or abnormal by people within my profession (and other executives). It is good to be abnormal. My real growth has come from reading blogs like this one. When people ask me why I read marketing blogs, my answer is that I want to learn about business success. Staying within what is expected within any profession limits you. No matter what profession you are in – you need to look outside of that to really learn.

  9. 1. Stop hiding. Let people know what you do.
    2. Don’t wait until you “know it all.” You know enough to start.

  10. Seth’s simple post today said it all. Paraphrasing..How did you ( not Seth but can’t remember who) become so smart? “I did the reading”.
    The Internet makes this soooo much easier. Note to our (newbie selves) “Kids, do the reading”

  11. Do what you love – you’re going to spend a long time (both – hours in the day and years of your life) engaged in something – you better wake up feeling good – otherwise you might as well start taking bitter pills now!

  12. If I could go back there are so many things I’d say, but I think the most important is that life is not a race. If you take your time, and are willing to learn, all will happen as it should in due course.
    Also, this: Money is important (and I won’t say it’s not everything), but less money and more meaningful work will lead towards more meaningful work and more money. THIS is key!!

  13. I used to think that being smart was all that mattered mainly because it meant that smart people were right about business decisions the majority of the time. I’ve since learned that being smart does not always lead to success. I had the benefit and luxury of a good education and don’t regret a second of it but yet, I wish we spent more time in schools talking about “soft” skills too. It would save a lot of confusion and heartbreak once people realize that it’s often, positively, EQ and (sometimes negatively) machinations that drive advancement.

  14. A few of mine.
    1. Trust your instincts. Don’t convince yourself they’re not right.
    2. Work with people you like/respect. Cut your losses if you find yourself elsewhere.
    3. +1 on family first. Too many people pay this lip service. BTW… good friends are part of your family.

  15. I’m currently going through hard times and your entrepreneurial tips really help to keep pushing.
    Thanks Mitch,

  16. This post is truly inspiring for me as someone who is learning as I go. I am one of those people that did graduate from a well known business school, but the lessons I’ve learned through self education are priceless compared to the text book reading that was mandated in class.
    Your line about not living for a work/life balance but rather a life balance completely resonated with me as a new father and another on the way. Sometimes you feel like you have to choose between being the success at the office or the superstar Dad – this is simply not the case.
    Thank you for this post – another fantastic perspective!

  17. #1 Follow your own path, be creative-carve out a unique niche. Don’t try to duplicate today’s social media leaders and “gurus.” Today’s social media fads, topics and hot shot bloggers will come and go, so you need to think ahead of the crowd. What is your unique value to your customers, readers, audiences? What are you passionate about? What can you better than anyone else. Then start building your social media foundation. Ignore the noise, follow you passion and use good business practices in building this and the rest will follow.

  18. 1. It’s all about progress, not perfection.
    2. Do everything you can to master your fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of being wrong. Spend as much time engineering your actions to counter these fears as you do actually working. This might mean giving up mindless distraction/retreating but if you want to succeed, nothing will get you there faster than facing these fears and taking action in spite of them. Let the majority keep thinking this head trip stuff isn’t important but don’t you ever fall in line with them because this is where the game is either won or lost.

  19. Working for a small company enables you to wear many hats and acquire a tremendous amount of experience in many different areas, not possible with large companies . But also make sure to work for a well-known brand. It makes you more marketable.

  20. Spot on Mitch! I couple of things I would tell a younger self:
    Follow your heart/passion.
    Ask more questions.
    Take more risks.
    Always have fun, or don’t do it!

  21. This article represents the reason I decided to start writing a book about my experience going back to school for a career in computers; as a woman in a male dominated tech industry & classroom. How to not only survive but thrive… everything I wish someone would have told me during my first year back at school.
    One of my first and worst misconceptions was that I had to compare myself with my peers, and looking back, even though it motivated me to work harder it also created more stress than I needed. Coming in to the tech industry without a previous background was easier than I thought it would be and I am so happy to be pursuing this future. Some of the guys may know more about certain things because of their gaming obsessions or hobbies but we’re all taking these classes for the first time at the same time. I’ve found that simply doing the reading and prep work keeps me up with the class and helps me propel forward.
    Thanks again Mitch for the excellent food for thought, Infovore craving satisfied!

  22. Thanks for this post Mitch. We often tend to think that we are the only one to be faced with insecurities and challenges.
    I’ve learned a tremendous amount about digital marketing through your blog – so thanks for the education!
    Keep up the amazing work.

  23. Hey Mitch,
    The experience thing is something I struggle with greatly. I’m only a year out of college, and only a year and a half in business. I know I don’t have the experience yet, and I try really hard not to portray myself as some guru, but rather just say what I know and observe that works with businesses.
    But at times, I do need to check myself, because I feel uncomfortable with the fact that naturally people older than me have much more experience than I do.

  24. Great post, your honesty and perspective is why I read your posts and lisent to your podcasts. If I could I would tell my younger and more handsome self:
    – If you are not happy quit, because your not producing your best work.
    – Increase your network, don’t try to do all the work yourself.
    – Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t work for people who are.
    Thanks again,

  25. Thanks Mitch! I’ve been reading your blog for about 8 months now and this is by far my favorite. As a recent employee into the Marketing/Advertising world, I have been provoked, stretched, and strengthened by your insights/conversation. I’ll take these to heart as I start my journey πŸ™‚ -Best

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