If you’re starting your career this fall or maybe you’re already 10 years into it, who are you meeting now who will remember you later? The assistant to the brand manager? The security guy at the reception desk? The junior media planner? Too busy for more than a quick nod on your way into your ‘important meeting’? Think again.
I didn’t start my career planning to chum for every possible ally along the way. I just took my own personality to work, something I learned at the kitchen table from my gregarious mother, who worked as a secretary at various Philadelphia ad agencies in the Mad Men days. She always told me how some people treated her graciously while others gave her the ‘where’s the boss?’ once over.
So, by osmosis or genes, I picked up her style along with my briefcase and always tried to see behind the eyes of those who let me in. It wasn’t hard; it was fun and I met so many fabulous people on the way.
Years later, the karma bounces back. This week I called the office of the chairman of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, hoping to get a foot in the door with a high-powered stranger. Even after three decades of success, I felt like a newbie again, fearing the kiss-off of “We’ll get back to you.” But when a woman named Kathy answered the phone and I started to explain that I’d sent my book, she stopped me in the warmest voice, “I remember you from when you worked for one of our agencies.” That was in the early 90s. Yet after thousands of wannabe-important’s passed by her desk, she’d remembered.
Many times I run into people I met briefly in some long ago client office. And whether it’s in an airport or in some corporate elevator, I’m always delighted to hear, “Hi, Mary Lou! Remember me?” Several years ago, I visited Avon’s NY headquarters, my 80s career “alma mater” and at least a half dozen assistants-turned-managers reached out, “You’re back!” It amazes me to know that in a no-human-contact e-mail, texting world, there are still hugs to be had.
It’s a small world in marketing and advertising. Yesterday’s junior is today’s CMO. More important, yesterday’s acquaintance can be today’s friend. I know we’re in a hurry to win. But if you pause long enough to listen, to meet, to thank… you won’t be alone when you get there.
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