Getting Ahead in Digital Media

Like most new CEOs at the beginning of a new assignment, I spend significant time evaluating my current team  and looking for ways to improve it.   At this particular moment in the economic cycle, I have been innundated with requests for informational interviews, resumes, and LinkedIn invitations.  Several years ago, people would demand a signing bonus when they joined Bolt and once somebody left for another job after arriving only two months earlier.

The market has changed.

But it will get better, and then worse, and then better.   Like the stock market itself, you can’t really time it.  So people whether they are 22, 32, or 42 need to really spend time thinking about themselves and what they want in life.  It sounds simple, and may even sound self-absorbed, but I really recommend it because it might help some of you start to see your career as a journey and not a paycheck.   It’s good to dream, but it’s just important to assess what it will take to get there.

Let’s specifically discuss the 20-something employee.  Some of you have little to no work experience and some of you have a couple years.  Either way, if companies are doing their job right you should not be paid very much.  Entry level people now are getting hired for less than 30k all over the industry and the broader media landscape of television, advertising etc.  Substantial Raises are hard to come by.   Yet, some of these very same people will be making 100k or more within the next few years.  Why will this happen?

In two  words ,hardcore commitment.   When you are in your 20s you generally don’t have children, aren’t married, and don’t have a ton of other commitments.  This means you can focus on your career and much more importantly the education that you can get to make yourself more valuable.  This is simple stuff, but the fact is some of you will choose to put in minimal time for a paycheck that finances your life as an artist or  your social life.  That’s totally cool, but don’t kid yourself.  You will not get ahead as a professional doing that.  If you want your career to move forward with velocity you need to be all in.  You need to be thinking about how to make your company better all the time.  You might even wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea.  That’s a good thing.  It show’s you’re all in.

Good entrepreneurs or Digital Media CEOs use simple litmus tests to evaluate employees.  Do they use the service that they are working for?  How about competitors?  I wonder if  Facebook has a culture of evaluating employees’ use of Facebook and others.    How many times a day does a Twitter employee twitter?  So make sure you use the web service you are desinging or coding.

And make sure you spend some of your hectic nightlife getting educated.  There are countless meetups where good people educate the general public on techniques from everything to ad sales to user interface design.  You could go to school for free with what’s out there.  Of course, it will mean you have to meet your friends a little later or go the gym in the morning.  If you want your career to grow you have to make choices.

Here’s a more controversial suggestion.  Sleep less.  Push yourself to do more. And catch up on the weekends.  If you sleep less you can have much more of “it all.”

Right now there are 500 people who want your job.  That’s not say they would be better, but it is to say the market is competitive.  But hiring is time consuming, unpredictable, and new people have a learning curve.  No managers want to manage personnel change,  but they also don’t want to lead people who don’t share their passion and commitment.

So if you want to be a star and get more responsibility and compensation, you have to work to become one.  You decide what’s important.  Your boss can’t make that decision for you.  Only you can.  But trust me, when I sit around with other executives, recuriters, investors or whoever — we talk about stars.  Nobody else even comes up.  Unless they need to go.

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