On September 29th, 2017, I had the pleasure of spending all day in Atlanta listening to some pretty cool people talk about some pretty cool things.
For those of you who don’t know what SPARKsouth is, it’s a digital marketing conference held in Atlanta, GA designed to help students from throughout the Southeast launch their digital marketing careers. The conference is an all day affair featuring keynote speakers, panels comparing brand, agency, and entrepreneurial tracks, a mentor lunch, and casual networking. For students in digital marketing, the event exists to help them figure out what they want to do with their lives. For professionals already in digital marketing, the event is a place to give back by sharing what they’ve learned in the industry, while getting to recruit some of the best and brightest in the Southeast.
Here are five things that I took away from the experience:
1- Sometimes Passion Isn’t Always Enough
During one of the agency-track panels I attended, the speakers discussed how they came to find themselves working where they are today. A couple of the speakers mentioned that they had never dreamed of ending up working at a marketing agency. One of them had started out in journalism; she said she always knew writing was her true passion. But she said she also came to find that the job she had in journalism was making her miserable. It became clear listening to her story that passion isn’t always enough for your career.
You want your life’s work to be built around something more than a passion. You have to find what fascinates you and pursue that. Although your passions may be what interests you, the fascinations you have will be what drives you. Passion can burnout and fade, but fascination will always challenge you and entice you to keep learning, working, and growing.
2- Where You Start Out Isn’t Always Where You End Up
It became clear throughout the day, listening to and speaking with different professionals, that where you start in your career path isn’t always where you will find yourself in ten, fifteen, twenty years. So many of the professionals I spoke with mentioned starting out in completely different backgrounds. Some were economics majors in college, others focused on journalism or the arts.
I began to realize that it’s not always going to be about what degree you got or what your first job out of college was. You get exposed to so many opportunities throughout your life that you should never limit yourself to only what fits on the linear path you think you have to follow. Instead, let yourself get lost along the way. Give in to the “what-ifs” that you find yourself wondering about. The only opportunities you’ll regret are the ones you turn down.
3- Don’t Let Your Health Take a Backseat to Your Business
Being such the strong-minded Type A person that I am, I was ready to spend the rest of my life pushing the limits and spending every day working until I reach every one of the goals I’ve laid out for myself. But then I sat in on an entrepreneur-track panel, and it got very real. There I was, sitting in a room listening to three very successful (probably millionaires or close to it) entrepreneurs talking about how they spent their whole lives working day in and day out to get where they are. And then they said don’t do it. They weren’t saying don’t be successful or don’t pursue your goals, but they did say don’t do it at the expense of your health. After mentioning several experiences of hospitalizations and stress-related health problems, these people made it clear that you can’t just keep pushing and pushing without finally getting a push back.
Thanks to this panel, I now know that it’s okay to turn the phone/laptop/tablet off at 11pm every night. It’s okay to say no to things sometimes. It’s okay to carve out a little bit of time every day to dedicate to yourself. Although it may not always come naturally, it’s important that we all take the time to slow down occasionally, and regroup to focus on what really matters to us.
4- Balance Self-Confidence with Self-Awareness
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”. Dale Carnegie said it best. Networking is an important and necessary part of working in the business world, but it shouldn’t always just be about the idea of yourself you’re trying to sell to others. It is important that you know your strengths (and can show them to others), but it’s equally important to understand your weaknesses. Everyone loves confidence, but they love the humbled version of it. Let your actions speak to your abilities, and always remember that you can gain more from asking than you can from telling.
5- Never Stop Learning
Maybe this last one is a pretty obvious sentiment, but I don’t think it can be emphasized enough. In the field of digital marketing, everything is changing, growing, improving by the second. You had to be able to adapt with it. If you get your degree, find a job, and then think, “well this should be good for the next thirty years”, you’ve got another think coming. As was repeatedly discussed throughout the entire day, this industry moves too fast for your learning to end after college.
Surround yourself with people of perspectives different from your own, learn from them. Get yourself a subscription to Harvard Business Review, then learn from it. Ask good questions, ask a lot of them, and then learn from the answers. You’ll always become a better version of who you were yesterday if you always challenge yourself and make every opportunity a learning experience.
Well folks, that’s all I’ve got. Inspired yet? If not, I suggest you go to the next SPARKsouth conference, it’s always better to hear it directly from the source.