There are people who look at the world and make it complicated. And there are people who make it simple.
If there were still bookstores, or if people still read, you could probably find a dozen books or 18 or 180 on managing your career. You could probably find an old course catalog from Trump Pseudoversity and find a pseudo PhD. teaching a pseudo-course on such. You could probably go to career fairs and career coaches and so on and get a couple hundred thousand gallons of high-octane advice.
And that's all fine.
Career coaches need to make a living, too. Who am I to begrudge anyone their purported expertise?
Almost two decades ago, I struck up an amiable relationship with the amazing Sally Hogshead.
I was running a fairly big agency at the time, and I was trying to turn the 150 or so creatives from complacent to hungry. That's not an easy job.
I asked Sally to come in one morning to help, and she did.
Afterwards we sat and had a cuppa. In about 45-seconds Sally explained to me everything you need to know about career management. It's advice I've shared with people I love--my wife and daughters. And a few people in advertising I care for, too.
It's really very simple.
"George," she said, "three things matter. First is your portfolio. Never stop working on it and improving it and keeping it up-to-date. Second is your reputation. Don't cheat, lie and steal. Don't grin-fuck. Don't bully. Don't traffic in empty words and emptier promises. Third is your network. It's who you know, who wants to know you, who believes in you. Who returns your phone call. Who you help when help is needed. Who helps you."
1. Your portfolio
2. Your reputation
3. Your network
Of course these spheres overlap. They reinforce each other. Good in one spills over and brings good to another. As does bad.
What's more you have to think of these three spheres as delicate plants, orchids maybe. They won't grow on their own. And they die easy. Like ideas.
They take hard work, care, light and feeding. Not one of them. All three of them.
In life (which is not the movies) there's no, "If you build it, they will come."
You have to build it and keep building. Have some success and keep building on that. Have some failures, but keep trying. Keep building.
If this advice is simple, there's nothing simple about any of this. It takes a daily effort. It takes work. And a dedication to being good and decent.
I started this blog way back in 2007 for three reasons. One, I need to write every day; it's my only real gift. Two, I'm painfully shy and wanted to keep my name in front of people who might someday hire me. And three, I wanted to make sure if someone Googled my name, I would come up first in the search results.
For a number of years I was averaging fewer than 200 views a week. But I kept at it, blogging every day for almost 13 years. Today, I get about 50,000 readers a week. If I were in North Dakota, I would be the biggest newspaper in the state, even larger than the Bismarck Tribune.
In all, not bad for one guy who holds down a full-time job or two and types with three fingers.
Do good things. Do them daily. Stick with it.
That is what I've learned so far.