How Congress Informs Your Next Job

By Thought Leaders Archives
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Somewhat belatedly, welcome, incoming freshmen of the U.S. House of Representatives.  And while we're at it, welcome to the young professionals who are now part of the advertising and media communities.

I am glad you are here, and I applaud your youth, your energy, your passion and your diversity.

Although I have never held elective office, I have been a new arrival at a large, complex and powerful advertising organization … more than once, in fact.  Like you, I had passion and a sense of responsibility, and I expected to change things immediately and for the better.  Like you, I assumed everyone was just waiting to hear from me.  I, too, wanted to shake things up.

The reality, however, was that while I was hired based on my past credentials and expertise, now my skills would be put to use for different goals, in different ways and within a different corporate culture.  That demanded I spend time talking to, listening to and learning from the people who were already there.  I was urged to take "as much time as I needed," but in the real world I had to hit the ground running.  Still, I am grateful for the insights I gleaned from my new colleagues and their willingness to offer them.

One critical lesson I learned was that in corporate America no one is an "individual contributor."  I was part of a team, or many different teams.  Our shared goal was to make the organization succeed, not simply to be successful myself.

So now, dear freshmen, in Congress and in advertising, I want to share a few other things I learned from being a newcomer that may make your own entry less bumpy.

Like me, you will not have the luxury of months to listen to the people who came before you; but take what you can, when you can.  You were hired (or elected) to bring fresh new thinking, not to replace your colleagues.  They know how things work much better than you do.  They understand the realities of teams, or caucuses, within the organization, and how to develop your own leadership skills while collaborating with your peers.

You were brought in to make your new organization stronger.  You bring unique skills and thinking, and the promise of change that the Congress, the country and the advertising industry need.  Focus on what you add to the organization.  Think of yourself as an asset, and not as a distraction.

Your words have power.  Think before you speak.  No one is suggesting you shouldn't share what you believe; once again, that's why you are here.   But consider the culture of your new organization, and the time and place when and where your words will have the greatest power and influence.

While we are on the subject, know your facts before you share your opinions.  New ideas are refreshing and welcome, but make sure they are rooted in more than emotion.  We are all ready for something substantial and supported by reality.

Finally, retain your humility.  You may have been a big fish in your former pond, but now you are swimming in a much bigger one.  You will acquire power and stature, and we need you to become the kind of leader you were hired or elected to be.  It may take some time, and maybe longer than you thought.

For now, you are fresh talent in a new job.  We've all been there.  Don't blow it.

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