On work and work related choices

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

Steve Jobs

It has been a few weeks since I have finished a huge project. I tried to bring in social media into it but I have failed. But I would like to think that I have not wasted my time and that we can all only learn from our experience – if we wish to that is;) Many of those who worked with me on the project were really looking forward to me celebrating the departure – almost as if they’d wish they had the ability to do the same (for the record – they can!).  My family was extremely relieved to see me relaxed finally. My fellow bloggers were happy to hear that I will be back online. But me, well, I was quiet, still and tried to measure whether I have learned anything at all from this experience. I have not acquired any new skills – unless you count in waking up at 5AM each day. I have however understood a bit better all my clients who want to act as agents of change in their organisations and sometimes simply have to leave.

I have also understood all the things I have learned in my work experience so far that made me who I am today. I realised just how lucky my path was and how smart my choices were. Here is what I can think of today, though I am sure as time passes I will understand – and share – even more.

1. I have been a lucky individual when it comes to my post-grad jobs. Working at Nokia I have learned all the basics of team work, need for training and basics of tech industry. I was taught how to handle stress, why branding is important and why it needs to be embedded in the backbone of each and every member of staff. At TATA I have learned the importance of company vision, management of multicultural environment, the margin of just how much you can impress your prospects with well positioned numbers but how you don’t subscribe to stuff you simply don’t handle well as a team or as a brand. I think it was at TATA that I have learned the respect towards each client and their vision – I learned that a successful agency needs to be…well, simply humble and supportive. It was also at TATA where I have met my first amazing managers – leaders, captains (always in the office early, always leaving last), supporters and great mentors never forgetting to be respectful towards our talents too; managers who in the moment of extreme client workload would find the right joke to cheer us up and thus make us realise that yes, we can work harder! Later on at 1000heads I have learned everything about the world of word of mouth and at the time still emerging social media marketing. I have learned the pain and joy of working on a huge project and seeing it through till the very end with magnificent results and yes, stress, but also great team work on the way. The company grew and many people felt that it has not coped with the growth as much as we would have anticipated so many of us left, but that also was a good lesson to me: not to settle in, always search for the place and team that makes me love what I do.

2. I have acquired and developed industry (social media marketing) related skills almost parallel  to my personal passions. Yes, I was so lucky. When you get the job simply because you blog in a few languages (but also because you have the relevant experience!) it feels so good! When your personal interest in technology and communication, marketing and change is utilised on a daily basis – even while filling out yet another presentation slide – you feel that coming to work is really a natural extension of who you are and who you want to be.

3. I have worked in spaces and locations open to creativity, thinking outside of my own box but respecting my own input, inspiring new (my and team) ideas. I do not like office work but I can see its benefits. I have worked in open spaces, in small rooms and finally from home and on the go – wherever there is wifi or even offline. Everywhere I worked I had the ability to rest, grab lunch and use that time to connect with amazing colleagues, clients or senior managers so I have learned over food, coffee and on the way to work. In Eastern Europe I have learned to make Indian sweets and munch on a spicy pizza when pregnant – all this while sharing career tips with experienced businessmen. In Mexico I had the privilege to join my team for 2 hr long siesta, learn customs and still find the time to finish work on time, effectively. In the UK I have enjoyed elegant dinners dedicated to superb conversations about the future of the modern social web. I made friends and gained even more inspiration to sit down in front of my ‘screen’ or phone and do something amazing.

4. I had amazing managers, leaders and mentors. This is possibly the most important aspect of my work so far. Life gave me a huge opportunity to work with people were educated and highly intelligent, experienced but humble and always willing to treat me as an equal individual with great ability to become as great as they are – if I listen to their advise and work hard to achieve my goals, that is;) I had managers who trusted me, who believed in me and always knew better what I am capable off. Every hard push was well balanced, creative and if disruptive – with right reasons. Over time I have developed this great ability to even learn from observation, from how they worked and what they would not mention or how they would not react in crisis situations.

I would like to thank my past leaders: Mihaela, Sanjeev, Lyzzon, Mike R, Euan and Gabriela for all their honesty and inspiration.

5. I had amazing teams. I managed and collaborated with a great pool of individuals from so many countries, backgrounds, with skill set and intelligence I would never be able to compete. I have learned so much from their feedback, their work, their support and their small failures too.

6. I was trained to identify fast what works for business and what does not. I have worked for startups but also for large corporations – stable offices or offices opened in a new country, new environment. I have seen many sizes of businesses and worked with many business owners too. I have seen some of them failing to acknowledge the change and reality around their own services and operations, I have seen agents of change saving their future. I have seen many fail. For many reasons too.

7. I have been told and I have learned to judge people and companies based not on what they claim they are but on how they progress and treat their employees in the process. It’s the classic situation: you meet someone who says ‘Trust me, I am a very honest man’ and you can almost for sure assume that it is not true. I know that for a social media marketer (and a linguist who had to study psychology) this statement says a lot but if you still don’t get it just measure your own reaction and level of trust when hearing that statement and hearing something down the lines of ‘I am told/People tend to refer to me as an honest person’. This is exactly the shift that is happening in branding due to the overall understanding and usage of public social media platforms – consumers do not trust your branding messages. They want to be able to make their own judgements so it is the reviews and testimonials, organic discussions, that reflect the real value of your brand and services. And with the rise of semantic search the same is happening on Google. But I was lucky to have great tips from people who saw it earlier, in their own career. So when you host a pitch for agencies you gain the ability to judge documents and presentations not based on slogans or proud statements but on actual results and the way the pitch is delivered (understanding of your business, tonality, professionalism and respect).

8. I had courage; courage and need to change. Almost physical need, inner drive to change, to do things better, to learn, to listen, to follow the good advice, to try and to fail, then to learn and do it again, to move, to talk, to collaborate, to observe, to achieve, to articulate, to get it and to pass it on, not to own but to share, to take budgets and resources and create award winning campaigns, to experiment, to inspire people to grow and do amazing stuff themselves – then leave and feel happy, let it go and let others change too. And finally, yes, to enjoy the check but most of all the feedback, trust and future reference, friendship for it was that set of rewards I found somewhat equal to all my passion and hard work.

That is not to say that I am a perfectionist who has always delivered amazing work. No! Quite on the contrary – I  the more I learn, the less I know! I have succeeded on so many projects and yet I have also failed, I have made mistakes – and I was lucky to work with honest people who would point it out and expect me to do better, work harder, think smarter. I was lucky. I was also quite opinionated and difficult. I have actively looked for great projects and said no to ones that by default led to a series of failures. On many occasions I have tried to act as the agent of change and made it happen. On very few occasions I had to leave (quite gutted!) and accept that change is not possible.  When we fail we can only get up, learn and try harder to achieve success elsewhere.

Why am I writing this? Because if you work in a place that makes you sight with a heavy heart before you open the office door you know very well that something is not OK, but maybe you are not as lucky as I was to identify the exact issues. Maybe you just want to earn a little bit of money and that’s all. Maybe you do not know what you want. That’s perfectly fine. But maybe you do not believe that a good project and great people are out there and can actually join in, so they can shape you into a person who will achieve amazing things and love the work! You CAN love your work but it’s not all about money and 8AM to 7PM typing of endless streams of data or ideas that will never change anything. It’s about aiming for more. It’s about re-defining your idea of ‘success’, ‘quality’ and ‘trusted mentors’. And most of all – about accepting that the world is changing and to be happy you have to dare to step outside of your comfort zone, trust but question leaders, question assumptions, question YOURSELF. You deserve better and you need to make it happen, it is YOUR responsibility.

Sometimes you need to leave, change, make it on your own. Sometimes you will be lucky to find partners in this crime;) Good luck! There are many of us here to help you!:) You just need to dare to take the first step.

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