Why You Should Become a Mentor

The best thing I did for my career last year was becoming a mentor for 500 Startups. Mentoring is a great chance to give back and to contribute to your local community. I found that being a mentor also had some great side-effects such as exposing me to fresh perspectives, clarifying my thinking on industry issues, and building my professional network.

When I moved to New York, I decided that it was time to start giving more back to the startup community, so I contacted the 500 Startups team about becoming a mentor. 500 Startups is one of the leading accelerators and seed stage investors in the world. Their new marketing-focused investment fund is called 500 Distro (short for distribution) and they had a couple of new portfolio companies in New York that seemed like a potential fit, so I started mentoring one of them in February.

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Audiobooks to help you get the startup mindset

I’ve worked in venture capital, management consulting and design thinking. But nothing prepared me for the intensity of working inside a startup. I’ve been lucky to have gradually absorbed the startup mindset over several years of working in startup incubators and accelerators. This mindset has allowed me to cope with the intensity of startup life. But the mindset needs to be learned.

Simon Sinek
Start with why is a great introduction to how the startup mindset works in marketing.

Some of the things that you need to succeed in a startup are techniques and information, but the bedrock is the “startup mindset”. This mindset takes time to acquire. I enjoy a good TED talk or conference video. But spending a several hours listening to an audiobook written and read by someone who lives the mindset is one of the best ways you can start to think like a startup person.

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Five things to do before asking someone for coffee

These days I get a lot more requests for coffee. My policy in the past was always to say yes to meeting new people. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about why having coffee with 50 people could change your life. I pride myself on connecting with a random assortment of interesting people across all sorts of industries. I guess you could say that I’m a pretty friendly guy.

Social media for professionals
It’s worth getting your online presence in order before you reach out to someone asking for a coffee.

Recently I’ve started to notice correlations between whether a coffee meeting is useful and some common factors (that are obvious before we sit down). So I’m starting to filter my inbound coffee requests a little bit more than I used to. I still love meeting new people, but these days a coffee catch-up has to be short, sharp and effective.

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Fifty coffees in London

Having coffee with fifty people is a great way to get input for a new project, startup or career move. I first wrote about the fifty coffees idea in Inc Magazine and it was based on an insight from Silicon Valley investor Mark Suster. Personally, I’m a bit shy so meeting fifty new strangers was a great project for me.

50 coffees
I had coffee with 50 strategists and leaders working in design, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Last year, I wanted to immerse myself in London’s design and innovation scene so I had coffee with fifty people working in the industry. I learned a lot from their advice and even more from the questions that they asked me. I asked them about the future of innovation, design thinking and how different companies are adapting to social media. It was also a good excuse to check out some new cafes for my coffee blog the Coffee Hunter.

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Fifty coffees

Each time I make a significant change in my life I have coffee with fifty people to get their views on what I’m up to. If you’re raising investment for a startup, changing careers or moving to a new city then you owe it to yourself to have coffee with fifty people before you make the jump.

50 coffee meetings
50 people are a lot to ask for advice on a particular issue. For a big enough idea, it’s worth it.

Setting the goal of having coffee with fifty people forces you to be clear about what it is that you’re up to. Making the goal public (one person at a time) also makes it much stronger. Having fifty coffees is good because then you have to commit to the specific move that you want to make and tell other people about. You’ll also get input from smart and interesting people to help you make a better decision.

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How to get a job in advertising

It’s not an easy time for students wanting to figure out how to get a job in advertising. You need to fight hard to get your first job in the creative industries. I recently gave a speech to a group of students from Temple University about creativity in business. The most common questions afterwards were about careers, internships and jobs. It seems that finding a job in advertising is proving even more difficult than ever.

Owned Earned Paid Media
Advertising, Design and PR agencies have traditionally stayed out of each other’s territory. But digital, brand and social media are changing this.

I’ve picked up a few tips over the years on how the industry works and what the best ways to get started are. London has an amazing array of advertising, marketing, communications and public relations agencies. Continue reading How to get a job in advertising

Being zen at work

Reading the Steve Jobs Biography has made me realise how important his philosophical views were to his business life. I’ve made a point of keeping my own beliefs to myself, in my work, and on this blog. But Steve’s example is forcing me to confront the fact that the general attitude you bring to life really does inform the attitude that you bring to business.

Steve Jobs Landmark Forum Zen
Your approach to life influences your approach to business more than most people realise.

Recently, several bloggers that I respect such as Olivier Blanchard and Seth Godin have been sharing more about how their personal beliefs inform their work. In this sprit, I’d like to share my own brief explorations with Zen and some practical things that I’ve learnt. Continue reading Being zen at work

Resume tips for a career in innovation

I get asked a lot for advice about how to get a job in advertising, design or PR. Most of the people that ask me are looking for jobs as a strategist, planner, consultant or account manager. It’s not easy to get started in brand strategy and innovation.

CV Advice for strategy jobs
Brand strategy, design thinking and social media are fascinating careers but you’ve got to build your business credibility early on.

Over the years, I’ve compiled the most important things to check in your resume when applying for jobs in innovation, design and business strategy. I’ve also kept track of the best career advice that I’ve been given…

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