If only….

Recently we interviewed some venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who, upon reflecting on their early successes and failures, wished they’d known then what they know now. That thought popped into my head as I addressed a group of University of Vermont college students the other day. It was my third lecture Steve_cody_2 before soon-to-be-graduates in the past six months. As I addressed their questions and concerns, I thought to myself, ‘If only I’d had the opportunity to meet with, and speak to, an entrepreneur/businessperson when I was starting my career.’ Needless to say, I didn’t. As a result, I knew next to nothing when I showed up at Hill & Knowlton as a freshly-minted junior account executive.

So I figured I’d compile my list of ‘If only I knew then what I knew now.’ For example:

– Ninety percent of business is, indeed, just showing up. I never cease to be amazed at how dysfunctional American business & industry is. With a little hard work, inspiration and desire, it’s not too difficult to run rings around the average businessperson. So, check your intimidation at the front door.

– One’s image and reputation is everything. When I was younger, I was quick to accuse and quick to condemn. Happily, I didn’t burn too many bridges along the way. Now, with the possible exception of medical supply executives, I bend over backwards not to offend anyone.

– Networking is fundamental to building one’s image and reputation. I waited way too long to begin building a database and communicating regularly with what should have been an ever-expanding list.

– Voracious reading is fundamental to success. Monday’s UVM business class, for example, depended almost exclusively on the web for news and information. Despite the fact that most were business majors, few, if any, read The Wall Street Journal.

– Voracious reading fuels an expanded vocabulary which, in turn, drives clear, consistent writing (a commodity that is becoming increasingly scarce in business & industry). I believe the best public relations writing mirrors that of the Journal. Wished I’d known that earlier on in life.

– Multi-tasking is imperative. It’s amazing how much productive work one can get done on a conference call. That’s when I wrote this blog.

There’s much, much more to share and reflect on. But, I’d like to ask readers to contribute and answer the same ‘if only’ question: namely, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?

4 thoughts on “If only….

  1. Another thanks RepMan, for giving us those helpful tips that you never received. Although in this day and age, we college graduates need all the help we can get. At firms that offer entry level positions, applicants who have a college degree have become all too common. Growing up I knew that in order to get a good paying job I was going to have to receive at least an undergraduate degree. Although after paying upwards of $100,000 for my education a job is not even guaranteed. Granted, with guest lecturers, helpful professors, and a father who himself is a business man I do feel that I am ahead of the game, but not every college student is given so many opportunities.

  2. Every newbie/JAE should be allotted a timeframe which allows or even encourages them to make mistakes. You want to learn the right way to do something? Go do it incorrectly to learn and feel the consequence. You’ll be much better off having learned something on your own.
    Reporters have huge egos – stroke them. Tactfully.
    As for showing up knowing next to nothing, I don’t see too much wrong in that. I’ve been around newbies to this game who walk in feeling they are the heir apparent for my job because they attended some slick journalism school or have an advanced degree. These are the same folks who don’t know it is okay to ask “stupid” questions and are scared of trying something new because they might fail or don’t have the guts. These are usually the same folks who change tracks to second careers, like hawking rubber medical gloves and syringes.

  3. I like the picture. You almost rival me in the looks department. Chip off the old block, eh governor?

  4. here’s one- figure out what you want to do early on in your career. look at the top excutives in your company or industry and decide if that is where you want to be in 10 years. if the answer isn’t a resounding “yes” then jump ship early on. the years you “waste” early on are very valuable.