What leaves the room when you do?

There are a lot of people on this planet. The last time I lined everybody up and counted them I tallied 7.4 billion humans. With that many people, all connected by the interwebs, you have a lot of options when you need a human. Whether you need an employee, a spouse or a plumber the supply works in your favor.

But we often find ourselves on the other side of that equation. We want to be employed. We want to be asked on a date. We want to snake someone’s drain. So how do we stand out in this 7.4 billion person crowd? It’s an important question that people spend far too little time contemplating. Yet I found a quote that states the answer quite succinctly:

Something special must leave the room when you leave the room. -Peter Drucker

Read that again a couple of times. (I’ll wait.)

Do you bring something special everywhere you go? You may have never thought about you in these terms. But you should. Over the next week I want you to think about what you bring to a room when you walk in. What do you add to the meeting, to the organization, to the relationship, to the overall value equation that others do not? What disappears again when you leave? If you can’t come up with anything you are a commodity. Our country places a very specific value on the commodity human. It’s called minimum wage. 

You’ve sat in meetings where there were too many attendees. You know there were too many because the meeting would have been exactly the same had one or more of the attendees not attended. On the other hand, we have also been in meetings when we asked, ‘Why are we meeting if Fill-In-The-Name isn’t here?’ You, my friend, want to be Fill-In-The-Name!

So what leaves the room when you do?

Here is a sample of the things you might bring to a room. Mix and match to create unique combinations. Or collect them all!

  • Energy
  • Experience
  • Connective tissue
  • Humor
  • Creativity
  • Compassion
  • Insight
  • Reason
  • Balance
  • Knowledge
  • Relationships
  • Trust
  • Positivity
  • Diversity
  • Know how
  • Spunk
  • Confidence
  • Reality
  • The wi-fi password

As you think about differentiating and marketing yourself The Perfect Agency Project reminds you that the same Principle of Specialness applies to all products and services.  What changes if your iPhone walks out of your life? Or your Yeti tumbler? Or your Johnsonville brats? You can’t simply replace these things with commodities without feeling you have lost something.

You and I both know you are not a commodity. But you must make sure that others clearly recognize the specialness you bring to the room. So reflect on your brand. What are your features and benefits that make you special. Focus on enhancing and augmenting them. Study the business and social situations you find yourself in. What isn’t there that you could add so that others miss you when you’re gone? I’ve always said that I never want to attend a meeting that I’m not in. Which sounds like something Yogi Berra might say. But if I can bring enough to the party that others are disappointed by my absences, we’re talking pure Drucker.

 

 

 

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10 tips every graduate should use to find a job.

It’s that time of year again. College seniors are triumphantly crossing the stage and grabbing their pricey diplomas to the proud applause of their relieved families. The smiles, pride and sense of accomplishment last until the student loans come and the U-haul carries the humbled graduate’s futon back home to start life in The Basement. That is unless they can land themselves a job in the mysterious new frontier we call ‘The Real World’. If you are anything like I was when I graduated you don’t have a clue how to land that first job. So here are my 10 keys to opening the door to the first job in advertising (and probably most other fields).

1. Request an informational interview.

This is the single best advice I can offer. It’s a free audition for you and the agency. And if the person you are calling won’t take the time to help out a young prospect you don’t want to work for that selfish bastard or bastardette anyway.

2. Research the company you want to talk to.

If you really want to talk to me you should know something about me and my company. So show up with as much knowledge as you can find on the business you’re interested in and its clients. A great tool I recommend using to do your research is the internet. Because it has all the information ever accumulated by mankind. #noexcuses

3. Make connections.

I’m not just talking about people networking. Make connections between the organization’s needs and your own areas of knowledge and expertise. I got my first job because I knew a lot about farming. And the agency had a new client that manufactured farm equipment. The agency seemed to know nothing about agriculture. So to them I was like Doogie Howser in flannel.

4. Show up a little early.

Don’t get carried away here. There is a proper amount of early. Too early and you look socially awkward. And late is the kiss of death.

5. Dress professionally.

Determine what that means in your world. For my first interviews out of school I borrowed a suit from my college buddy, Greg Gill. Greg is now a judge and wears a black dress to work. I have never worn a tie to work since. But I made a good first impression.

6. Lose the like.

If there is one thing that reminds me that you’re still a kid it’s using like the word like like way too like much.

7. Prove direction.

It’s great to be open to various possibilities. But I want to hire someone who knows what she or he wants. So know your skills. Know what interests you. Have a vision. And don’t get lost on the way to or from the bathroom.

8.  Don’t drink at the interview.

Advertising interviews can be tricky. Especially if you show up late in the afternoon or on a Friday. The beer is often available and encouraged (this is starting to sound like an ad for advertising). Don’t play along. The dangers outweigh the risks in this case. Demonstrate your self restraint. Ad people are really good at drinking (see Mad Men).  And there are always plenty of permanent markers around and artists who know how to use them on your face.

9. Talk about how you and your friends never use Facebook anymore.

Even if you are on Facebook all day every day say that you can’t stand it. Advertising people are always trying to spot the next trend they know nothing about. Kids, that is the ace up your sleeve. Tell them about the cool new things you are into and how you are rejecting all previously embraced media. Your stock will rise. Trust me.

10.  Follow up.

After the interview send a note thanking the people you met for their time.  This is important in several ways. It shows that you are considerate. It shows that you follow through. And it ensures that the people you talked to have your contact information. Send a note in the mail or by email. Both work. Email makes it easy for them to reply to you. A mailed note always feels special. And retro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get greater results from your reading.

I love to read.  Like most people I was born highly uneducated. Reading has become an instrumental part of my plan to overcome my early shortcomings. I love to learn and to become inspired. And if you are reading this I expect you do too.

I like reading classic literature because it makes me feel worldly. I liked reading the first three Harry Potter books because they made me feel magical. But then I realized my life is too short to read four more books about a fanciful wizard boy. Today I read a lot of books on self improvement, business, and biographies. I also read healthy portions of magazines like Fast Company  and Inc because I find them both creatively stimulating and educational (and I like the pictures).

Several years ago I read an interesting quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones that said, “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.” And this reading about reading encouraged Adam “Ordinary” Albrecht to read even more.

But today I’m trying to read less. Because I have found that too much reading leads to too little doing. If I fill my time with learning and inspiration I leave no time for action.

When I began The Perfect Agency Project I created a simple rule of thumb that influences my reading today:

Read just enough to learn something new and become inspired. Then act on it.

Since I started following this rule I have accomplished more. I’ve wasted less time. And I’m more excited about my work.

I think of reading now like a pregame speech. One that I listen to just long enough to become properly motivated. And as soon as I am lathered up I jump to work, acting on the inspiration.

That’s when I start writing, planning, structuring, detailing, calling, creating, wizarding or potioning.  And what I’ve found is that when I have one hour available, instead of one hour of reading, I can do 10 or 15 minutes of reading. And then I can spend the rest of the hour implementing. And the return on that one hour is significantly higher.

I encourage you to try this for a week. Read enough each day to want to do something new and exciting. Then do it. Then repeat the process. And let me know how it works for you. I’ll read at least part of whatever you write me.

 

50,000 reasons to take all your vacation days in 2016.

Right now millions of Americans are trying to figure out how to squeeze in the last of their remaining vacation days. Or worse, they are watching them disappear into the ether like the rest of 2015. According to a study by Oxford Economics the average American hits Dick Clark-Seacrest’s Rockin Eve with one week of unused vacation days still in their pocket. And when the ball hits Jenny McCarthy the vacation days disappear like gym goers in February.

This disturbing little study, commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association puts current vacation day consumption at the lowest point in the past four decades. And for those of you who don’t have a days-to-dollars calculator in your head, the result is 169 million days forfeited, amounting to $52.4 billion in lost benefits. Which means that your most valuable charitable contribution this year likely didn’t go to your church, the homeless or curing cancer. It went to your employer.

But there is yet a deeper problem here that The Perfect Agency Project would like to address. It’s the negative impact forgoing your vacation days has on your creative thinking. In fact, according to the National Science Foundation humans have an average of 50,000 thoughts every day. And if you don’t enjoy new experiences, read new books and meet new people you know what happens?  You have the same 50,000 thoughts day after day.  This type of stale thinking is career-threatening if you are a writer, art director, creative director, designer, strategist, developer, programer or marketer.

To enhance your creativity you have to add new fuel to the fire.  And the best way to do that is to take a day off and experience something new.  Travel somewhere you’ve never been. Meet someone new. Jump off something you’ve never jumped off. Scare yourself. Binge watch sunrises and sunsets. Visit a museum. Go to Burning Man. Because new stimuli create new memories. Which create new thoughts and new pathways. You will naturally incorporate all of these new thoughts into your work.  Which empowers you to solve new problems with more beautiful solutions.

So if you want to make 2016 your most creative and innovative year yet take your vacation days. It will freshen your thinking, expand your brain and make you a more valuable asset to your organization.  Oh, and if you do decide to jump off something you’ve never jumped off before make sure your mom isn’t driving by in her minivan. Trust me on this one.

 

 

 

I’d like to hire the fly that landed in my ranch dressing.

Finding great people to improve your team is one of the greatest responsibilities of leadership. But how do we really know who to hire? I recently read that Jim Koch, Founder of Boston Beer (maker of Samuel Adams) said that each new hire must raise the overall average. But a resume only tells us part of the story. References come from people who say nice things (I always use my Grammy). And softball skills only add value between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

So you have to be prepared to recognize great talent wherever you see it. Recently I was having an excellent restaurant experience in Nashville. My family and I ate at one of our favorite restaurants near Vanderbilt (no, not Cracker Barrel). It was a nice day so we ate outside. The food and service were great. My kids behaved. But near the end of the meal a funny thing happened. A fly dive-bombed into my ranch dressing.  I was too surprised and amused to be mad at the little fella. But needless to say his appearance pulled the plug on all chicken dippin activities.

I quickly discovered that you can learn a lot about someone when they are up to their neck in dressing. The longer I watched him (I assumed he was a guy and named him Flynel Richie) the more I admired this little bugger. In fact, before I paid the bill I saw three of the most important attributes I see in great co-workers in little Flynel. So what do great teammates do that lesser teammates do not?

1. They go for what they want.

Flynel knew what he wanted. You must too. You need to know exactly what you want in your career. Write it down. Focus on it, dream about it. Whether it’s a better job, more money, or a nice crunchy crouton, set the image in your mind.  Then when you see the opportunity to make progress towards it you dive-bomb your goal like my little guy.

2. They keep on moving

Rodney Atkins had a hit country song in 2006 called, “If you’re going through Hell keep on going.” Since we were in Nashville I assume the fly had heard that song.  Because that little guy was motivated. He kept moving. Kept working. Kept pumping all six of his little multi-jointed legs. He never gave up.  And he kept making slow but steady progress.  Flynel was the kind of fly you’d want to share a foxhole with.

3. They build connections.

The thing that ultimately saved Flynel was his networking skills.  As I watched him work his way across the Great Ranch Lake he kept looking at me. Seriously. In that moment I was his only friend, his cheerleader and ultimately his lifeline.  He looked up at me as if to say, ‘Hey Sport, imagine if you were me.  Pretty rough, huh? Just a fly who saw some delicious ranch dressing he knew he wanted, went after it, and got in a little too deep. Yeah, I see you sitting there with your wife and kids. I’ve got a wife and kids. And I’d sure like to make it out of this dressing to see them again.’

So I lent him a hand. Actually, I lowered him a butter knife.  He walked on. I airlifted him out like the Ranch Dressing Coast Guard. I wiped him off.  And set him on the ground. The little guy Tebowed for a moment and then took off.

I took a moment to reflect.  I have a strong vision of what I want in my career.  I am careful not to lose my head in the dressing. And you’re not likely to find me giving up. But I sure hope I’m making personal connections strong enough to ensure that when I need help someone will lend me a butter knife.