Young Media Professionals: Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

By DISH Media InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Young Media Professionals: Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

I graduated from Fordham University a little over three years ago and took a Marketing Coordinator position at DISH Media Sales, the advertising sales division of DISH and Sling TV.  Today, as Head of Marketing for DISH Media Sales, I am responsible for leading the brand strategy and communications for all advertising solutions, including national video, addressable and programmatic across DISH and Sling TV.  Many factors have contributed to my fast track to management -- great mentors, being at the right place at the right time and working for an innovative company that promotes deserving employees at all levels regardless of tenure -- but there is one key driver that I believe has accelerated my growth: I am comfortable with being uncomfortable.

As a coordinator, I was tasked with contributing to the execution of sales marketing and events.  I eagerly jumped into the beginnings of my media career.  I remember the most from my first year; this was when I adjusted my mindset, stepped outside the lines a bit and dug into what I was truly capable of.  Looking back now, I see how I pushed the boundaries, took chances, and pushed through fear to get there.

Here's what I learned:

  1. Never Say No to An Opportunity That Scares You       

Six months into my new job we were planning for our annual sales conference and I was asked to moderate the leadership panel.  My first instinct was to decline.  How was I, a new college grad with no experience, going to get in front of a hundred people and lead a 45-minute discussion with members from DISH Media Sales Leadership?

I accepted.  Saying no because I was scared wasn't a good enough reason to turn down what, I now know, was an opportunity.  The day of, I was sick to my stomach.  I tried my best to listen to each presentation throughout the day, but instead I wrote my opening lines in my notebook over and over again for six hours.  When the time came, I took a deep breath and began to speak.  The panel finished successfully, and I had done it.  I had taken a huge step forward and put myself out there, and I knew the next time I had to speak in front of a group, it wouldn't be as hard.

Everyone has an inner monologue -- the voice that tells them right from wrong, when to fight or flee, and the one that says, "I'm not capable of that right now."  Sometimes that voice holds you back.  The media industry is lightning fast.  If you wait until you're confident you are ready to execute an outside-of-the-box idea someone else will do it first.  That doesn't mean that you should recklessly risk it all.  But if you challenge yourself to aim a little higher and learn from your mistakes, you'll accelerate instead of standing still.

Today, I'm a member of the leadership team I was afraid to get on stage with.  Those 45 minutes are small in the grand scheme of things, but they forced me to join the conversation and trust my voice.  Growth can be very intimidating, but the more you go outside your comfort zone, the bigger that zone gets.

  1. Be Self-Aware

Two weeks in, my manager told me to meet with our Head of Programmatic to learn more.  I responded (in a way I thought was) positively, "Great.  I have addressable down, but I could use a programmatic 101."  She chuckled and said, "Well, actually, you don't know much about addressable either."  Her candor surprised me.  Being the "addressable product marketing contact" was part of my job.  I felt exposed.  But she was right.  I could not know everything about a highly advanced advertising solution in that short amount of time.

Guess what?  You don't know everything, and you're not expected to.  How many job descriptions have you read that say they are looking for people who, "excel in a fast-paced environment?"  Most of the time that means learning quickly on-the-spot, prompt decision-making and adaptability.  Media changes every day.  If you're going to keep up, admit to yourself what you don't know, ask questions and seek out resources.

Being vulnerable and acknowledging that I may not have all the answers is still not easy, but that candid uncertainty got me to where I am today.  If you're okay with working on (and sometimes even exposing) your weaker areas, they will become catalysts for growth, rather than set-backs.  A year ago, I was tasked with leading marketing for a multi-million-dollar business.  I knew I wasn't fully prepared for what that meant.  So, I used resources, sought consistent self-development and surrounded myself with people who not only guided but challenged me.  I've since been given higher-level responsibilities and have earned my seat at the table.

  1. Work Hard and Think Big Picture

Going from student to employee was a difficult transition.  Suddenly my actions had business implications and I knew I had to make the right impression.  Immediately, my work ethic kicked into gear.  I was staying late, skipping lunches and bringing my laptop home on the weekends to finish projects.  Within the first few months, I caught the attention of our executive team -- as a "highly dedicated employee."  I had set my narrative and successfully separated myself from any "recent grad" stereotypes.

Although working hard had come relatively easily, I realized that I had really only shifted my behavior, not my mindset.  I was still seeking constant direction and hyper-focusing on the tasks in front of me to avoid making any mistakes.  I was missing the big picture.  Instead of asking, "what are we looking to accomplish," I was executing, and had become more dependent on my manager than I liked.  I needed to pick my head up a little bit and have trust in my own abilities.

Business is not college.  The quicker you realize your reputation matters and you're not on a pre-set course, the better off you'll be.  It's easy to fall back on old habits and let your age or lack of experience be your excuse.  But that can hold you back.  Working hard and understanding how your actions impact overall business objectives makes a big difference.

Now I think about the future every day.  Where are we going?  How do we get there?  Sometimes I even uncover that the hard work my team and I have been doing must be changed or re-focused.  This can be frustrating -- but it's how we get ahead.  Our career paths are not set in stone, and things change.  If you work hard, have an eye on the end goal and embrace change, you'll be ready for anything this industry throws at you.

Photo courtesy of DISH Media Sales.

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