Perhaps the least unique thing about me is that I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain. His storytelling style. His personal style. The way he exposed audiences to people and cultures through food, drink, and adventure. The way he pushed himself and the team around him to go bigger, deeper, weirder.
A couple weekends ago, I read his book, Kitchen Confidential. In it, Bourdain details his personal journey through life as a chef–telling stories of the people and places he encountered.
Anthony’s path was filled with learning, struggle, and sprinkles of success. Almost immediately I started to note parallels between Tony’s experiences and personal philosophies in his chosen craft of cooking to mine in design. I took note of a few wisdom-filled passages and how I felt they applied to my industry.
Over the past decade, I’ve been scheming. Plotting in secret. I’ve been experimenting with tactics that serve the most selfish of goals.
I’ve been collecting data (mostly in the form of gut feelings and Wunderlist stats) on personal time management and productivity. My goal is to maximize the time I keep for myself to get things done, which means minimizing work day distractions and interruptions.
Recently, I was preparing a presentation called B2B Social Media for a group of my company’s customers. The talk will cover the foundational questions of: why, where, what, how and finally the topic I have come here to discuss: who.
In covering the issues of voice, appropriateness and post frequency, or the “Rules of Engagement” as I dubbed them, I considered the thought process that should occur when a company chooses their social media manager. I realized this is a really important decision. One that impacts a company in a number of deep, potentially damaging ways if not carefully considered and chosen.
Here are the qualities an effective social media manager should display:
You don’t have to be a journalism or PR major (although that would be great!) but you need to have a way with words. You have to have sharp enough writing skills to write headlines, tweets and status updates that cut through the clutter. More importantly, you have to clearly observe the line between playful/humorous/edgy and inappropriate or tactless. One wrong move and you could lose a customer (or a number of customers) forever.
Things aren’t always what they appear to be. For instance, your marketing manager may appear to be playing candy crush on Facebook when she’s actually making note of the growth hacking techniques used to gain more players of the game than there are people living in Australia (true story).
Other times, things are exactly as they appear to be… like when your marketing manager appears to be taking a Facebook IQ test and she’s actually taking a Facebook IQ test.
My point being, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at either, nor should you.
We learn things every day while at work…it’s only that it’s rarely done while we’re doing our jobs. We learn through reading blogs, through scanning our twitter feeds, from conversations with our co-workers or texts from our friends. I have long held the philosophy that if I need time for “research and development” I’m going to take it. On the clock. And I don’t feel the need to ask permission.
Why? I’m going to use the dark arts of mathematics and logic to make my case.
First, let’s make an assumption. Let’s assume that an employer is interesting in having informed employees who are well-prepared for the challenges of the future. Now, I’m going to ask you to take a small leap and agree that in order to be prepared for the future of business (whether it be in marketing, sales, engineering or medicine) a person needs to learn in an ongoing way. Still with me?
OK, so, when is this learning supposed to happen? On my personal time? What personal time?
Ten lightning-fast years into my career I can say with honesty that I enjoy going into work everyday. I feel challenged, valued and I’m encouraged by what the future holds.
It wasn’t always dandelions and roses, though.
I had a lot of indecision in the early stages of my career as an interactive designer about whether I had chosen the right path. I can recall days and nights spent starring blankly into my monitor, mouse heavy in hand, questioning the life choices that had landed me in my specific situation.
After taking a hard look at where I was in my career and where I wanted to be I determined I was in the right line of work, I simply needed to re-dedicate myself to the craft to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.
Although I chose a career transition over a radical change, I’m here to offer practical advice on both. I am still completing the transition from hands-on designer to design manager and creative director, but I can tell you some of the things I did to make it happen:
Step 1 – Volunteer your time
I learned a valuable concept early on in my freelance design career: the best way to get to do exactly what you want to do is to offer your services at no cost.
When a client isn’t paying your rate, you’re much more likely to get creative freedom on a project. The same principle applies to volunteering your time to a professional organization or non-profit. Offer your time and volunteer to fill a role in an area where you’d like to add experience.
I see these opportunities at my day job as well, where management is looking for volunteers to step up on a special project or initiative. When these opportunities align with areas you’re looking to add experience in, volunteer your services.
Last October, I was promoted. The promotion was something I had hoped for, wanted and mentally prepared for (or so I thought).
The truth is, the only thing that can set you up for success in management is hands-on experience and reflection. No amount of advice, reading or research can inform on how to use your natural abilities and strengths to excel in management. Similarly, you may not become fully aware of your weakness until they’re revealed under pressure.
It’s important to self-analyze and identify areas for personal improvement. I find myself reflecting almost daily on the successes and failures of my interactions with my team and my time management. In order to improve, you have to take action and expose yourself to situations that will strengthen your ‘problem’ areas.
Here are some of the things I have learned to this point and will continue to focus on:
1. Challenging Myself
Seek opportunity to improve your weaknesses. For me, public speaking and directness with regard to expectations, deadlines and quality of work don’t come extremely naturally. I have started to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve realized that feeling uneasy about something means you’ve put yourself in a position to strengthen a weakness and you’re nervous because you care about the outcome. Embrace the awkward until it starts to feel normal.