Over 25 years, I have worked for numerous employers in a variety of roles. I have learned a lot about evolving technology, strategy and marketing, the ever-changing landscape of media, and the business of creativity. I have seen a lot as a “seasoned” professional, yet I still continue to learn, and it becomes more apparent with each passing year that there is a component of business that is often overlooked, neglected and rarely taught to young people who are training for a career in media. This component is relationships.
When I started in this business, like a lot of young creatives, I was all about technical capability, talent, and creativity. I thought talent alone was all it would take to succeed, and while talent and skill are essential, I’ve learned that relationships are about equally important for both personal and professional growth. Talent is the cost of entry. Relationships help showcase that talent.
It’s no surprise that relationships are important in the workplace, considering every organization on the planet consists of people, and people crave connection. So while our jobs may involve writing scripts, producing promos, editing programming, or designing logos, human interaction and relationships are woven through the process of work.
LEARNED RELATIONSHIP BUILDING
Developing relationships comes more intuitively for some, but it’s still a skill that can be honed for the introverted, brooding-artist-type, like myself. And when I say, developing relationships, I’m not suggesting a life-long commitment to a forever friend, but simply getting to know the people around you. It means communicating, interacting and connecting with those with whom you work. It means taking a moment now and then to show genuine interest in someone nearby. In short, it’s being nice.
Small gestures, a little connection and being nice go a long way. When I worked for a TV network, we were meeting with design agencies, which we were considering for our network redesign. One agency asked me, “What are you looking for in an agency?” I answered, “We want someone who is nice.” They weren’t sure if I was serious, but I answered, “We already know that you have the skill, experience and talent. We’ve seen your work, and that’s why we’re here today talking to you. But, if we choose you, we are going to be working closely with you for the next six to nine months, and we want those calls and conversations to be a good experience. So, we want someone who is nice.”
The truth is that the landscape is populated with numerous agencies that possess amazing talent. So, how do you choose one if the talent is pretty much equal? For most people, it comes down to a relationship. They know someone from an agency, so they choose that agency. Or, they have a good experience with an individual or agency, so they choose them again. Or, a coworker, or friend of a friend recommends someone, based on their relationship, and the recommendation leads to new job for an individual or agency. Or within a business, a new VP is hired to a lead department, and shortly after their arrival, they “clean house”, they move or let go of some very talented employees to be replaced with people who the new VP already knows and trusts. The VP made decisions based on their existing relationships.
In no way am I downplaying the importance of ability and talent, but pointing out how relationships oftentimes are the deciding factor on who gets the job and who doesn’t, who gets promoted and who doesn’t, who loses their job and who keeps it.
Our interactions with people matter, and not just with the people who we think can advance our career or business, such as the VP of a department, the hiring manager and big-name clients. You never know who will hire you next or who will be your next boss. It’s a small world, and it’s likely you’ll bump into former acquaintances and colleagues again and again, and quite possibly work for one of them. I’ve seen unforeseen promotions, where employees become their boss’s boss, and where the client becomes an employee of the agency. So, be nice… to everyone, from the president of the company to the person at the craft services table. Not only is it the right thing to do, it will serve you (and your talent) well in your career, as well.
At Red Arrow, we take great pride in our work and our capabilities. As we partner with clients we want to represent them well with the work we do, and develop lasting relationships in the process. For us, “being nice” isn’t just a good idea or pleasant thought; it’s a part of our core. Our connection with people is as important as the work we do.
If I were talking to a group of college students who were looking to get into this business, or any business, I’d tell them to work hard to develop your talent. Never stop learning how to hone and refine your skill. Constantly challenge yourself to become better at your craft. Your skill and your talent will help set you apart. It will get you noticed. However, as you immerse yourself into your work, and as you stare at a screen for countless hours, remember to pause. Pause and take moments to connect with those around you… your boss, coworkers, clients, vendors, and the cleaning person who you’ll see when you work late. Get to know people. Develop relationships, because those relationships may, and most likely will, help pave the path of your career.