In today's rapidly changing media environment, job security is fast becoming a utopian theory that few of us know first hand.
And while change is good in most areas of your life, when it comes to our careers, most of us prefer to feel respected, valued and truly essential to our employers. Throughout my career, which encompasses 10 years with Discovery Communications Inc. and now five years with Hallmark Channels, I've learned a thing or two about becoming an essential member of the company team.
If you want your employer to value your contributions and think of you as a vital link in the corporate chain, you must dedicate yourself to helping your company achieve its business plan. It's no accident that this is the No. 1 tip — helping your company reach its goals is of the utmost importance and yet is so often overlooked.
WATCH THE NUMBERS
Become known for your fiscal accountability and make a point of keeping your eye on the bottom line. When appropriate, put things in writing to your CFO. Simple statements like, “We moved from two-page spreads to one-third pages in our magazine buys, saving X dollars while still achieving our frequency goals, resulting in a savings of Y dollars,” can make an indelible impression on finance people.
Set objectives for yourself and each member of your department that link back to the annual business plan goals, and have management approve them. How can you measure your value, contributions and success without a clearly defined goal? Establish objectives which are doable, which means realistic and capable of being achieved; measurable, or capable of being tracked qualitatively, quantitatively or at the very least, through anecdotal evidence; and which support your company's overall business plan. And while it's easy to measure growth in household ratings or audience demographics, to measure shifts in consumer attitude, for example, you may have to field your own research.
Steer a strategic course. Very recently, we interviewed a few companies about a creative project, providing them with a Creative Brief that stated, very clearly, the target audience, the key consumer benefit, the reason to believe and the tone and manner of the advertising. Every single company said that this clear briefing was highly unusual in spite of the fact that it helps us to know what we want as well as get to what we want faster and better, which also saves money.
In fact, some of the team at Hallmark Channels find Creative Briefs so helpful that they write them to guide brainstorming sessions!
Be a team player in words and deeds. By helping your peers achieve their goals, you're also helping advance your company. Don't poach on territory. Don't play politics. Embark on a crusade against paper warfare (and that includes e-mail warfare — something I loathe). Hire people who are better than you, or smarter than you, in at least one area (if not all!). It only makes you and your team better.
For instance, if you are a long-range strategic thinker, you probably need a tactician who gets things done today. If you enjoy the creative process but get bogged down in financials, look for a team member who is turned on by the budget process and creating analytical charts to demonstrate ROI on marketing spend.
HEAR THEM OUT
Listen, listen, listen! The most inspiring leaders all share an almost magical ability to focus on the one person talking to them as if he or she were the only person in the world. Not only is this an incredible asset in communication, it also validates the person doing the talking! Listen to your boss, your peers, the people who work for you. And not just to their words, but to the needs and desires that are behind the words.
And above all, listen to your viewers and to trends in popular culture where they live.
Listening to our target viewers has been a critical element contributing to the growth and success of Hallmark Channels. By listening to both brand loyalists and skeptics, we learned how to be true to the Hallmark brand vision, as well as how to be fresh, relevant and surprising to our viewers.
Work hard, play hard. It's easy to bypass this advice, especially when so many feel that our time outside the office diminishes our professional value. Sure, it's fine to spend a weekend at the office working on a big project; just don't make a habit of it. If you love to garden or cook, spend a few hours weeding the rose garden or preparing a cassoulet. It can clear your mind better than a good night's sleep. Balancing your professional and personal life keeps you fresh, enthusiastic and passionate both at home and at the office.
Honesty is the best policy. In the end, it pays to be direct and candid, especially in matters that affect you, your team or your organization. This doesn't mean be cruel or hurtful in the way you do this. But if a team member is not doing the job or the creative work isn't up to snuff, you need to speak up. Always put the company's best interests first.
Grow a thick skin. I, for example, have grown a rhino hide! We all know colleagues who sit in a corner and sulk over little slights, real or imagined. In business, mature people take little bumps in stride. It all comes with the territory. Never forget that mature professionals are proactive. Immature professionals are reactive.
Addressing career objectives and how to advance within your organization will be a big part of this year's PROMAX&BDA conference in New York. Industry gatherings like this one can be beneficial in climbing that corporate ladder.