5 Lessons I Learned After Making a Massive Mistake in My First Marketing Job

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Years ago I made a bad calculation in my first marketing position. That mistake cost a struggling nonprofit thousands of dollars that it really didn’t have.

I couldn’t get over my error for a long time. In the moment I scrambled to find a “fix” but there really was none.

This is the first time I’ve spoken about this mistake in public because it rocked me so much. I was so embarrassed. I felt so guilty. And I also felt like there was very little I could do to fix my mistake. What’s done was done.

I’m sharing it today because I think it’s important that you know that even though I’ve moved forward building a career I really, really love, I haven’t always had a perfect, error-free go of it. Far from it. So today I’m sharing what I learned from one of my lowest career points.

  1. Everyone makes mistakes at one point or another. You are not exempt--even if you try really hard. So go ahead and mentally prepare in advance for the time in the future when you will mess up. If you have a perfect record thus far, you probably have not been entrusted with much. So remember, that person that you admire so much for his or her career? They’ve definitely made mistakes. They’ve been embarrassed. They’ve cost someone else money or value. But it’s important to recognize that they moved forward. They moved on, learned from their mistakes, and added value for their clients and team in jobs after that one.

  2. When it comes to making a big decision with a vendor or client on behalf of your company, if you are at all doubtful about your decision, double-check with leadership. You’ve been entrusted with tasks that your supervisor believes you can handle. Some leaders like to have a finger on the pulse of everything happening in the department they manage, and others would rather empower their people to make decisions. And still others have so much to manage, they have to entrust some decision-making to subordinates. If you are tasked with a decision that you don’t feel full confidence about, take the time to “bother” your busy supervisor. You may not want to. You may feel like it makes you look less competent or less confident. But the truth is, the discomfort you feel double-checking with leadership will be way less than the discomfort you will feel when you have to report a mistake you’ve made.

  3. Don’t let mistakes define you. You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s easy to feel like making a big mistake on the job is a career-defining moment. Remember, there is a big difference between saying “I failed” and saying “I’m a failure.” Yes, you can swim in your sorrow about said mistake for a little while. That’s understandable. But you have to decide at some point to get back up, recognize that everyone has made a mistake at some point, and move forward. I remember getting congratulated on a job well done for my work in that marketing job by people who didn't know about my mistake. I felt like a fraud. But the truth is, what they appreciated about the work I did was true. I did do good work. The mistake I made didn't cancel out the good work I did. And it took me a long time to realize that. Your mistake does not define you. How you respond and learn and grow does.

  4. When you make a mistake, own it. Passing blame will just amplify your error. Often times it’s much more comfortable to blame a mistake on someone else. “My superior should have given me more information.” “The vendor should have flagged it when they saw the order was unusual.” “My colleague should have…” None of these responses are helpful after the error has been made. And none of them help you avoid making similar errors in the future. Blaming others shows weakness--not courage. So when you realize you’ve made a mistake, own it. Apologize. And offer solutions to rectify the situation. Passing blame just makes an embarrassing situation more shameful.

  5. After you make a mistake, learn from it. A mistake’s only value is teaching you something that you can implement in the future. So ask yourself, “What could I have done differently?” Review the entire scenario from start to finish. Journal about it. You may even write a full After Action Report like a military general. How will you choose to let this lesson impact your future decisions? Find the value in the bad situation by identifying your takeaways moving into the future.

Making mistakes on the job hurts. You can’t go back and change the past once the experience occurs. But you can take stock in what happened, learn from it, and move forward with courage. In my situation, I had trouble shaking it off. But over time as I learned lessons and experienced more wins, the pain of failing became more removed and now I can use it as a way to connect with others and encourage them. How can you move forward after failing and help someone else?

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Tuesday Tip 008: The One Tool Every Freelancer MUST Have

You went freelance because you love what you do.

Maybe it's diving into a character in scenework, or capping off an article with the perfect closing sentence, or seeing a client "get it" for the first time. These are powerful moments. But the truth is, if you are freelancing, consulting, side gig-ing, or any number of ways you wanna slice self-employed work, you are also your own marketer. 

It doesn't mean you have to rent a billboard or send private messages to every Facebook friend you've ever made (please no), but it does mean that the word won't spread about your ridiculous talent unless you cause it to spread. 

So here is the first thing that you should do:

It's true. Unless you're absolutely not interested in growing your business or charging more (gross!) then you need a website. I'm not even talking some big honking Wordpress monstrosity. I just mean a place online where people can find you if they are looking for you and a place where you can point people to learn more about what you do. Here's a couple of options:

1. Squarespace. This is what I use for my website. It's intuitive and easy to use. I can easily build out landing pages for special products. And I am easily able to take care of my own ticketing for events. It has everything I need. Plus it makes my blog look pretty. :) $8 per month, yall. 

2. Wix. My acting website is over here. There was a little while where I felt like Wix was falling behind its competitors but it appears that lately they have upped their game. You don't want to blog from a Wix website but this may be the easiest site setup of any out there. 

3. About.me. If you are not actively seeking new clients, this is the site I recommend for you. You can let people know who you are, what you do, where they can find you on social media and how they can contact you. You can probably set this up in 10 minutes. Do it! 

4. Wordpress. I use a self-hosted Wordpress site for my side business. It integrates beautifully with about a bazillion plugins. There's just tons of free ways to modify your site on Wordpress. It's the motherload. 

Bottom line: be anywhere online as long as you are somewhere. You are self-sabotaging if you do not have a website of some sort! So own your freelancer identity. Ship it before you really feel like it's "ready." Get out there and get work. You deserve it. 

Have you picked up my free eBook More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives? It is available for FREE download until the end of the month. Grab it here.

The Connection Between Increased Responsibility and Increased Expectations


One of my first assignments for Profile Magazine was to interview the inspiring and no-nonsense Raquel Libman. Raquel is the executive vice president and general counsel for the Miami Heat. Yes--that Miami Heat. In our interview, Raquel shared a few speeches and interviews that really impacted her along the way. I took the liberty of doing the googling for you and included the links. Enjoy!

Raquel Libman's Career Advice

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received? You’ll be happiest and most successful if you learn and work in ways that make the best use of your natural strengths and abilities.

Who do you recommend young female professionals listen to or read? Madeleine Albright. Most recently she was interviewed for a TED Talk—a terrific resource in and of itself—on being a woman and a diplomat. Also, there is a 2007 interview by Laura Liswood, who spoke at the Salzburg Global Seminar, called “Women and Power: Mechanisms to Advance Women’s Leadership,” which is really excellent.

What is one lesson that you share with younger colleagues? Don’t be in too big of a rush to develop professionally, because the higher up the proverbial food chain you move, the harder the job, the greater the pressure, and the higher the expectations. Telling yourself that you are ready to have the buck stop with you is one thing, really being ready is another.

A closing thought from Raquel: "My role within the company is by its very nature the antithesis of ‘front and center,’ and that’s fine with me,” she says. “The truth is that there is a tremendous amount of preparation involved in putting on a game or a show, managing a facility such as the [American Airlines] Arena and everything in between. The trick of it is to make the end product look effortless.”

Libman has worked hard to prove herself in a male-dominated industry and has been rewarded for the great work that she has done.

Do you agree with Raquel's assertion that you'll be happiest and most successful if you make the best use of your natural strengths and abilities? 

Enjoy the full-length version of this article in Profile Magazine.

The Surprising Secret to Standing Out in the Hiring Process

The Secret to Standing Out in the Hiring ProcessLast year I got the chance to sit down with Demand Media's CFO at the time, Mel Tang. (Update: Mel is now the CFO at SpareFoot.) While Demand Media may not be a name you're familiar with, you've probably visited a few of their sites such as eHow.com and LIVESTRONG.com, and you may know their digital artist marketplaces such as Society6.com and SaatchiArt.com, among many others. Demand Media sites have more than 70 million unique worldwide users—more than the populations of California and New York combined. Today I want to share a few of Tang's stellar ideas on what he looks for when hiring talent.

The Surprising Secret to Standing Out in the Hiring Process

“I tend to look for and hire people with the raw talent and who have a passion for overachieving—not necessarily in what they do specifically, but in being helpful in anything,” he noted. “To me, experience and specific skill sets are helpful, but not the primary driver of a hiring decision. This approach requires more upfront training and managerial oversight, but once up to speed, the amount of what you can do with a team like this is truly unlimited.”

“I joke that my objective is to train myself out of a job,” Tang said. “Ultimately, that’s how I think about running our team. You find the right people. You work with them early on, and then let them run on their own. I am there to provide guidance and support, but I try to stay out of the way unless I’m needed. That’s how I like to lead.”

Have you considered that being passionate about going above and beyond no matter the request may be what sets you apart from other candidates with a similar skillset? 

Enjoy the full-length version of this article in Forefront Magazine here.

5 Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers
Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

When people find out that I do multiple things (writing, social media, acting) they often sort of shake their heads in bewilderment. I want to take them by both shoulders and say, "you should do more than one thing too!" In lieu of that potentially awkward moment, I'm writing this blog post. Especially for my artist, musician, actor, dreamer friends, I want to encourage you to pursue your craft and consider pursuing something else alongside it. After spending four years as a professional actor, I knew to have the lifestyle I wanted to live and to be inspired and engaged with the work I was doing on a daily basis I would need to pursue a second career. Of course there are the exceptions, but by and large, getting a second skill is only going to improve your life.

Here's why you should have two jobs

1. You don't have to let your dream die. I'm not proposing that you give up the keys to your dream for a life in Office Space. If I'm the first person to tell you this, move in a little closer. Pursuing a second career doesn't mean you're selling out, it means you're opening up more doors for yourself. You don't have to give up the certainty that you'll be making a decent living because you want to be in a band or be an actor. Pursuing a second career gives you the opportunity to pursue your passion without resenting it for making you really, really broke. Pursue a second career so you won't get to that dark place of cursing your career when you can't make rent.

2. You become more marketable. Whether it's a second skill directly tied to your first love (learning how to sew so you can step into the costume, learning how to run sound so you can take over the board if a band needs a sound tech) or one completely different (ie me with journalism and acting), having more than one skill makes you more valuable in the overall marketplace. You never know what open door leads to the next, so simply becoming a more useful worker overall is a very, very good move.

3. It gives you options. You know what the problem is with acquiring only one skill in a tough market? If there's no use for that skill at the moment, then you're out of work--or out of the kind of work that you actually like doing. If the idea of waiting tables between gigs til you're north of 60 sounds kind of awful to you, I urge you to rethink your plan! If you are a passionate, talented person, there's no doubt that other industries would jump at the opportunity to use your talent, passion and heck, charm (cause we know you got it!) for their cause. What about real estate? What about social media? What about yoga? What about entrepreneurship? Draft up a list of things that people have told you you're good at, you feel personally are your strengths and things that you like (*besides* your first love career). Start there.

4. You can make an impact in the lives of more people. If you work across several fields you will be making a greater impact on more people. Not only will "show people" know you but so will marketing people or nonprofit people or real estate people or church people. You get the idea. If you want to do something significant with your life and leave a legacy, consider how you may have an even greater impact if you work in more than one field.

5. When someone says "no" it's not over for you. One of the biggest advantages of having more than one skill is that you're not putting all your eggs in one basket. If that gig that you're really hoping for doesn't pan out it doesn't mean you have to go back to the worst-job-ever. You get to go back to your "in-between-gigs" job that is fulfilling, purposeful and rewarding. Isn't that so much better than going back to your minimum wage job where you're really not using your strengths?

Bottom line: your passion/first love career is your main thing. It's your identifier. But don't let your passion for that career keep you from having a meaningful day to day existence in your work. Reinvention is always acceptable. Adding on a second skill or heck, business, is a good thing! So think about what else sparks your interest, the other things you're good at, and how could you use the skills that you've developed for your art in other marketable ways. Remember, the artists who are at the pinnacle of their careers aren't doing just one thing. Whether they create new companies, (hello Jessica Alba), or invest in startups, or go back and forth between acting and music, your role models aren't just focused on one career. So why should you?

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