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Four obvious pieces (and one not-so-obvious piece of advice) on starting your career brilliantly

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13:30 PM | 28 September 2015
by Heidi Hackemer
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At this point in your career, you’re highly replaceable - sorry, it’s true. You don’t know much of anything yet. You’re going to make mistakes. And because of that, someone’s gotta have faith in you, put time and energy into you and teach you. And all of this is 100% okay. We’ve all been there.

But if you don’t do some basic things, you will be replaced. So first, four rather obvious things to keep in mind...

Number one: It’s about your hustle

Work hard. Really really hard.

Learn how your team does things like communicate and run a process and adapt.

Learn the basics and the craft of your work. Don’t be afraid of the “shit work” - that’s usually where you learn the most.

Ask questions when you don’t know what you’re doing. Remember, no one expects you to know what you’re doing. And if you don’t ask you’ll probably under-deliver or mess something up which is more painful for everyone involved in the long run.

But don’t ask the same question twice.

Number two: It’s all about your attitude

Have a good attitude. The team, the project, the client and the process is not about you and no one wants to (nor should have to deal with) a moody intern or junior. We have enough shit on our plates from clients, from other members of the team and from running a business.

And if you have a good attitude and hustle and then something shitty happens, like you get dumped or there’s something happening in your family or you’re sick and there’s legit reasons for you to have a bad attitude for a spell, your bosses will take care of you and let the bad attitude have room.

Added bonus: Be a team player when you’re young and your bosses now will take care of you for the rest of your career.

Number three: Learn, absorb, take direction, take criticism

Although sometimes it stings, 90% of the time it’s better to get the critique than to be ignored (unless the person is abusive. Then that sucks and you should think about making a move). Thank the person who criticises you for taking the time and go do things that show them you listened.

Number four: Figure out ways that you can be proactive

There is nothing so sweetly satisfying as an employee who’s been invested in that one day:

  • walks into work a few steps ahead on a project than where they usually are.
  • starts doing that thing that they’ve been coached to do without coaching.
  • that is thinking of ways to make things better without being asked to.

It’s like crack for managers.

Okay so that’s the obvious ones. But here’s the super secret sauce, not-obvious piece of advice that no one is going to tell you at this phase in your career and hardly anyone around you will follow:

Number five: Put the phone down

This is the time of your career to hustle and to impress, but learn now how make time for yourself that doesn’t include a device.

You see, devices suck the creativity and productivity out of us. To be truly creative and productive, the mind need times to wander, be bored, rest and recharge. The mind loves nature and quiet, it loves the zone out and the day dreaming. It loves dinner with friends where the devices stay firmly tucked away. All these things are like mind crack.

Because when you are always on, always checking some network or platform, your brain never gets to the great work. Instead, it wears out.

Oh I know. Everyone around you is instragramming like mo fos. They’re shooting off emails at midnight and liking to the point of sore thumbs and bleary eyes. And in the short term, it looks like they’re “winning".

They’re not.

Because here’s the kicker: giving the mind that regular space is how we truly kill it at our jobs (and our lives) in the long run.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend making this space leading up to a big deadline when your boss needs you. This might be more of a Saturday or Sunday morning kind of thing. But even if it’s just ten minutes a day or an hour a week, find the time.

One less Instagram check.
One less Buzzfeed troll.
One less stupid article like this to read.

Find the time.



Read our interview with Heidi Hackemer, founder, Wolf & Wilhelmine about her time working for brands and companies like Google, LEGO and Sony. Plus what it is to be a strategist in the agency environment. 

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