I’ve seen a lot of posts out there recently with people giving advice to their 18-year-old selves. One I liked featured some of the top college basketball seniors, including one of my favorites, Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine.
Tomorrow, my twins will turn 19. I don’t expect either of them to go into PPC – they’re not interested in it – but nonetheless, I was inspired to share PPC advice for my 18 year old self.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
I was an 18 year old hotshot. I did well in school and was good at a lot of things: sports, music, writing, and more. I thought I’d be a huge success right out the gate.
Not even close.
The very next year, when I was 19, I took accounting. It was the hardest class I had ever and would ever take – including grad school, and that’s saying something. I studied for hours every night just to get a 2.5 in the class.
A couple years later, my first job was a disaster. It wasn’t a good fit for me. I failed at it.
But failing is learning. I learn far more from failing than I do from succeeding. At 18, I was afraid to fail. I can’t say I love it now, but I’m not afraid to fail. 18 year olds, don’t be afraid to fail. It’ll teach you a great lesson.
Technology will evolve into something you can’t imagine right now.
Let’s face it – I’ll be 50 next month. I was 18 in 1984. Google wasn’t even a gleam in Larry and Sergey’s eyes – in fact, Larry Page was an 11 year old student right here in East Lansing. The internet itself didn’t exist, at least not publicly. Computers existed, but were not commonly used. We had a Commodore 64 at home, but I didn’t have one at college. No one did. We hand-wrote term papers and then typed them on a typewriter. DVDs and iPods didn’t exist either – we rented VHS tapes and listened to music on Walkmans.
Just the other day I was talking to my daughter about VHS tapes – she had watched the movie “Be Kind, Rewind” in her film class at MSU and thought it was funny. Even at 18, she remembers using a portable CD player and watching kids shows like Veggie Tales on VHS. A ton has changed in her lifetime, not to mention mine.
My point is, the career you end up with may not even exist right now. Mine sure didn’t. Go with the flow. Learn skills that translate across jobs: writing, thinking, and analyzing will get you a long way in whatever career you choose.
Be curious and ask why.
PPC is like CSI – performance fluctuations are often a mystery begging to be solved. The answers are not going to be fed to you – you’ll need to dig them out. Learn how to research and ask questions. You should always be asking “why” – why isn’t this keyword performing? Why did that ad perform better? Why didn’t this feature work the way I thought it would?
Critical thinking is a crucial PPC skill as well. Don’t believe the hype and hyperbole in the blogosphere – read, understand, test, and think for yourself. Don’t fall for gimmicks like “great PPC hacks” and “this feature is a unicorn” and other hyperbole. Some things you read or hear might work great; others will be a disaster for the accounts you’re managing. Learn to spot the BS.
Find mentors and sponsors.
This advice goes whether you decide on a career in PPC or anything else. Find a mentor or teacher who will take you under their wing and show you the ropes. In every job I’ve ever held, I’ve tried to find someone to emulate. Sometimes it’s been a manager or boss. Sometimes it’s been a more senior coworker. In PPC, it’s often been colleagues I’ve met at conferences or online. The point is, find someone who is willing to answer your questions and give advice. Find someone whose actions you respect, and emulate them.
Also be on the lookout for what I call “reverse role models” – those who show you what not to do. We’ve all had bad bosses and coworkers over the years. Take note of the things that upset you and make sure you don’t do them!
My husband and I have always tried to teach our kids that there are good and bad people out there. You will not always get along with everyone. You’ll have bad teachers, bad classmates, bad sports coaches, and bad neighbors. Learn how to deal with these people in a mature and professional manner. We’ve never allowed our kids to quit or switch just because of a bad teacher or classmate. We’ve helped them learn to deal.
(Let me caveat this by saying we haven’t forced them to tolerate abuse of any kind. There is a time for parents to step in, too – and part of being a parent is knowing when to draw the line.)
Do what you love.
This is perhaps the most important advice I can give. When I was 18, I wanted to be the next Jane Pauley. I loved television and everything about it. I was a telecommunications major at Michigan State and was convinced I had the smarts and the skills. I’d wanted to do this for as long as I could remember.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. I’m not the anchor of NBC Nightly News. By the middle of my junior year of college, I realized I needed to be more realistic. But I didn’t give up on what I loved. My first job was in broadcast – selling advertising for a local radio station.
I learned that I hated selling, but I loved advertising. I eventually got into marketing for a local company. It was there that I got into search when Adwords launched their CPC program in 2002. I’m doing what I love, even though my job now is something I couldn’t even have dreamed of at 18 in 1984.
The moral of the story is, don’t give up on your dreams – but find something practical to pay the bills in the meantime. And be open to new directions.
The Final Word
So much has changed since I was 18 – it’s literally a different world. What was once the stuff of Star Trek fantasy is now a reality. It’s amazing. So to all the 18 year olds out there, enjoy the ride.
What would you tell your 18 year old self? Share in the comments!