Gen Wise Perspective

Gen Y's perspective (pun intended) on our journey through work, life, and everything in between.

Archive for the category “Insights”

Can you ever stop learning?

Image copyright JESS3 (they make sweet infographics)

No. The minute you start thinking that you have nothing left to learn is the minute you become a quitter. It’s not possible to know it all. If you think so, you’re never going to improve yourself. Your journey on the road to become an invaluable employee, friend, partner, family member, etc. has just ended. Boo.

But the truth of the matter is that sometimes it’s really hard to learn because we don’t want to check our egos at the door.

I recently read this post by Mark Suster called “Why You Should Embrace Opposing Views at Your Startup” on my new favorite entrepreneur-turned-VC blog, Both Sides of the Table.

The post starts off by making some solid points:

  • What could you learn from looking at your competitors or other tech startups in a different way?
  • Are you cynical about their chances in the market just because they seem to be hot in the press and that bugs you?
  • Or you think their startup is a passing fad and yours is the real deal?

The part of his post that really struck a chord with me: “Even if you’re right – there’s something you may be missing.”

So true. As Mark’s post pointed out, it’s easy for us to get jealous in a situation like this. But that jealousy will only cloud your reasoning and cause you to miss an opportunity to learn something.

For instance: I work with tech startups. On top of that, I’m supposed to be the one making them seem like the shiny new object to everyone else. So it’s VERY hard to watch a competitor kill it in the press. There is one in particular that drives. Me. Crazy. Talk about hype. I’m still not convinced that anyone actually uses this product.

And I know there have been some “shady” and potentially unethical guerilla tactics behind their marketing strategy. Maybe the decision-makers and higher-ups at this company aren’t aware. I’m not saying this was condoned, but nonetheless it turns me into that little kid whining about how it’s “not fair.”

Well, you know what? If I adopt that mindset then I’m just as immature as the little kid. And at the end of the day, everyone heard about this company. So as much as it pained me to admit this, they had to be doing something right. What was it?

I sat down and really analyzed their strategy. As Mark Suster put it, you have to “be dissecting.”

Here’s what I saw:

  • They defined the benefit instead of listing the attribute: I didn’t have to connect the dots to imagine what was so revolutionary or game-changing because they did it for me. It’s not that the product can do X, Y, Z….it’s that X, Y, Z can help improve my life and shift society as a whole. Does that make sense?
  • They targeted early adopters of tech products (always a “must” with tech PR)
  • They clearly broke down the key points of differentiation
  • They had consistent messaging and strong positioning: they chose a space to live and then owned it
  • They assembled brand advocates in different cities (ones that they carefully calculated out)
  • They shared different parts of the company’s story with different news outlets, so everyone was able to have an exclusive and refreshing point of view on the story

These might seem like obvious points that should be a part of any company’s strategy, but there are SO many times when the marketing/PR team doesn’t sit down and think this through. Tech startups, in particular, can run into this problem because they often do something very innovative and get too caught up in the “tech” aspect of it without ever answering the simple “so what problem does this solve?”

I think I learned a PR lesson AND a life lesson from this situation.

I forced myself to learn from a company that I loved to hate.

And the next time around I was able to do it right for one of my new clients. I took what I learned and used it…and the results were extremely successful.

So please take this advice and do with it what you will: There’s always something or someone to learn from if you’re willing to swallow your pride. 

Are you constantly building your skill set?

A couple of weeks ago, I started writing down things that I wanted to achieve in the next coming years. As part of my job at Walker Sands, I work pretty closely with our development team. They know HTML like it’s their first language, and it’s something I have always wanted to know how to do on my own. After some hunting down, I found a class for Basic HTML/CSS taught by Chicago Women Developers. The class is great and I am so glad I took it. I’m now looking into taking advanced classes.

In your career, professional growth and development is essential. The continuous quest to learn more and keep pushing yourself farther than you have in the past will help you to stand out from the crowd. Having the desire to strive to learn more and do better every day has taught me that I’m definitely in the right career for me.

It’s hard to tell what specifically each person needs to do to build their own skill set – you are on your own with that one, friends. But what I can do is tell you what I do to keep learning and growing daily in my professional career:

  • Read what people who inspire you are writing. I am a firm believer in the fact that you learn best when surrounded by people who push you to do better. Jackie and I compiled a list earlier this year of sites we love that teach us and help us in our professional careers. It’s still a go to source for us. Check out the full list here.
  • Take breaks when you need to. Just like Jackie and I did on here, sometimes you need to take breaks to refresh and learn what you really want. It’s okay not study/work on something related to your field every single day. Sometimes you learn more by building a skill outside of your industry. You’ll be surprised by what learning guitar can teach you about patience (this is very true for me right now).
  • Try it yourself before you ask for help. The best way to learn something new is to try it on your own. With the HTML classes I am in, I have visited sites like w3schools and Online HTML Editor to find answers to my questions before asking someone who knows. You’ll learn it much faster if you are the one hunting for the answers.

Where do you go for a refreshing, unique point of view?

I asked this question to the Twittersphere yesterday after I realized that I’m extremely sick of reading the same opinions over and over. I understand that’s part of what happens when you stick to reading about a certain industry, which is why I’m thrilled that Kim borrowed me a copy of her new favorite play: Spring Awakening. It’s nice to mix it up every now and then.

I also enjoy reading sci-fi/fantasy novels for the same reason. Sometimes I just need a break from hearing about how to do _[fill in the blank]_ best with social media. I’m grateful that most of my friends are not in this industry and keep me from talking about this day and night.

Sometimes I just want to hear from someone who’s not spouting a bunch of bs. This week I was happy to encounter Joey Strawn. Joey’s blog posts always provide humor and get to the point. They’re not a bunch of fluff. It’s very refreshing.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here are some of the responses to my question “Where do you go for a refreshing, unique point of view?”

@IsaacSalazar my family and cab drivers

@ryanstephens Nobody in particular for me. I like checking out TEDx talks. Other than that I’ll look at a few people’s delicious bookmarks.

@willias1 normally id go straight to you, but if you’re asking everyone for new ideas, I’m not sure where that leaves me. #Scratchinghead

@jasonarican Depends on what sort of insight, but I like to go places that I know have opinions different from mine for a fresh perspective

@JasMollica I usually find something new in my Twitter feed that gives me refreshing insight. You just have to look!

@justicewordlaw I check out various youtube videos and then check out some of the top blogs I go to daily

@Jennilynn4 I get up from my desk and take a walk outside. It helps me clear my head/think.

@biggreenpen a kid (for refreshing/unique) or someone of a different gender/generation/nationality/ethnicity

@ryanknapp I tend to pop around on other people’s twitter accts or follow hashtags, see if anyone new stands out.

@jordankelley23 Sometimes it’s nice to go to an outsider thats not involved w/ the situation. Their advice is fresh & their opinion isn’t biased

@Kimberly_Lucio Jill Felska (@felska) because she takes each experience she has and shares it on her blog in a way that everyone can learn from it

What about you? Where do you go to get a different perspective and/or insight?

(thank you to Google images and blog.reflexstock.com for the pic) 

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