Thoughts_PhrasesWhether you’re on the job or thinking about a career in marketing, here are my personal favorite phrases that are killer….and not in a good way.  Catch yourself thinking or saying any of these and I’d pause for a few to assess if your mind’s in the right place:

I want to go into marketing because I’m creative.

Really?  Then go work for an advertising or promotions agency. That’s where the creativity happens.  All you really do is brief your partners on the ‘strategy’ behind the creative.  This also applies to the process of giving feedback.  Your role is to explain why an idea will work or not work for your brand; you are NOT to suggest ideas beyond things like “can you make this a little bigger or shift it to the left?”.  If you do, the idea comes off the table, completely.  It’s an unwritten rule that few will tell you directly; you’ll just figure it out.  Why?  Because you undermine the agency’s role and further you pre-empt its ability to lay claim to campaigns and accept advertising awards in good conscience.

Marketing smells more like strategy, project management and business analysis than an art shop.  Expect to have your nose more in Excel and Powerpoint instead of rubbing elbows with creative types or fiddling with Photoshop.

I prefer marketing to (finance?) because of the lifestyle.

I hope you mean you get to work on fun stuff and spend evenings and weekends working with awesome people.   If ‘lifestyle’ means working 8:30 to 6 to you, look elsewhere.  I definitely worked less than my Wall Street contemporaries but not that much less.  In the right company, it can be a more flexible job than many finance jobs, but being the center of the corporate universe means you are often on call.  Personally I found corporate finance to be more of a lifestyle job; those guys function more like accountants and their work day is way more structured and controlled.  Busy periods are anticipated and usually relate to end of cycle madness.  (PS for those who are considering corporate finance jobs, first question to ask is “when is your year end?”.  If it’s December 31, kiss the holidays goodbye for the rest of your life.  Run for the hills.)

I want to just come into work and get my job done without people bugging me.

This may not be exactly the way you say it, but if you have said anything like that to yourself, then I recommend you go into I.T. or graphic design.  That’s not marketing.  People are all up in your biz…all day.

I don’t play politics.  I just do what’s right.

Actually you DO play politics. Almost every day.  The premise behind politics is that you simply cannot please everyone, so you regularly and often subconsciously decide who you’re going to please as you allocate your time and energy.  If you reflect on your life outside of work you’ll notice you make choices to please certain people in your universe (spouse, kids, parent, in-laws, friend…) – often times, by doing things that are not logical to you or preferable.  You frequently do what you do for the sake of relationship benefits.  So, if you operate this way in your personal life, then why should it be any different at work?

You have goals. Goals for your business, your life, and your career. To achieve these goals you must not only contribute your brainpower but also influence people. And playing politics is about making choices; you can’t do everything and please everybody, so you make your choices based on your goals. That’s called playing politics and as I said, we do this often without thinking each and every day and usually for the sake of pleasing the ‘right’ people. Engaging this process with authenticity and healthy doses of goodwill will separate you from the shady types.

I could really show what I got if someone would just give me a chance / a job.

You create your own chances and there are countless ways to show what you got before you graduate or get to the next level. People don’t wake up at, say, age 28 and suddenly become outstanding; the indicators are there from as early as grade school.  You can show passion, dedication and achievement in anything you do, way before even becoming an adult.  Volunteering, sports, hobbies, clubs and school are all vehicles to show what you got; making the most of these will open up opportunities for you later.

My resume got picked out of a pile of 500 that were submitted to interview for what become my first post-collegiate job.  Why?  Because I got promoted to manager in my lame fast food job at the pimply-faced age of 15.  I was an insane kid.  Worked 40-hour weeks through most of high school.  The freedom that came with earning my own money was my crack.  I realized later in life that my passions drove my success.  You should look for the same starting place for your achievements.

I speak more about the necessity to have accomplishments here.

I don’t know what my manager wants.  Everything is a priority.

Many reasons why people say this.  Could be there is just too much going on.  Could be that your manager is stretched in his or her role and is struggling to prioritize.   Maybe you’re not as productive as you need to be.

Whatever the reason there is one way for you to help fix the situation: becoming fully familiar with what your manager does and how it fits into the broader org objectives and processes.  Big opportunity to get up to speed here.  The end goal is to be able to help your manager prioritize because you grow to understand how the company flows or functions and how decisions are made.  That’s actually one of the main reasons to network.  You want to understand how the pieces fit together so that you can influence the outcome most efficiently.

So if you’re working on a report for example, make sure you understand who sees it, what it’s used for and when.  Soon, you’ll be saying things to your manager like “ok, let’s get this powerpoint finished for YOUR boss right away. This other report goes to finance who sits on it until the end of the week until they receive all the reports from other brands.  I’ll ask them if they can wait until Thursday”.  Suddenly, you become solution-oriented, highly prioritized and an even bigger asset to your boss by figuring it all out for them.  The long term bonus for you is that you eventually demonstrate readiness for a similar position because you’re directing your team’s work flow with knowledge and insight.

I just want to run out these last few years until (milestone / retirement).

This is more for the older set but not exclusive to it.

A wise person once said that you don’t stop dreaming when you age, but rather you age because you stop dreaming.  Set goals, show your passion and keep driving (in this post I say ‘never stop’).  Be a ‘career entrepreneur’, which is the buzzword these days.  Once you stop thinking that way you risk landing on the scrap heap before you’re ready.  Companies suffer from a lot of downward pressure on headcount these days; you risk being seen as dead weight if you stop reinventing ways to add value.  I may offer that Madonna could benefit from this post, but I digress…

I’d like to work for this company because I like their brand.

Not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps you can benefit by thinking a bit more deeply about what you mean here.  If you’re a fan of the brand strategy or growth trajectory, that’s good.  If you just like the product or service and use it, well, that’s ok, too.  But, be mindful of the trap of just wanting to work for a brand because it’s cool….especially if many others think so, too.  The downside of having a zillion people wanting to work for a specific brand – if you subscribe to the laws of supply and demand – is anything but top tier pay or working conditions.  Check into that.  Otherwise, strive to become a bit more insightful about why your work life will be satisfying on a day to day level.  On my worst days on the job, I NEVER found myself saying “…but somewhere, out there, some kid is laughing at SCOOBY-DOO!”

I’m looking for a company with great training.

The best way to be constructive with this train of thought is to understand more broadly how a company develops you versus specifically what training programs are offered.  Methods that feel academic (e.g. courses) are but one tool, and not usually the most powerful.  You are better off to prefer on-the-job experiences; these include stretch projects that empower you or situations that provide frequent access to senior management to study how they think, chair a meeting and make decisions.


More to come, so stay tuned…