Welcome back to #PassItOn, a series featuring the best career advice and insight from women of the Futures Network, an alumni group for Wacl Future Leaders Award winners. In this instalment, we hear from Collette Philip. She believes that an entrepreneurial mindset is an essential skill in any workplace.
When I set up my agency just over four years ago, I called myself the "accidental entrepreneur". I never thought that I would run my own business until I spotted a need (big brand strategy for small, ambitious social-change organisations) that I was passionate about.
As a winner of the 2018 Wacl Future Leaders Award, I was provided a mentor by the mentorship programme: Avril Gallagher, a media powerhouse and independent consultant. After talking to Avril, I realised that whether you run a business or work on the brand side or in an agency, having an entrepreneurial mindset is essential to succeed in the world of work today.
In the context of the important discussions about race at work happening now, I want to say upfront that as a black woman in the advertising industry (where I spent the first eight years of my career), I was conditioned to take the exact opposite approach in order to survive. I was taught to keep my head down, told that my strengths were weaknesses and shot down if I dared to suggest something new.
When I moved client side, the lessons I had absorbed from my early career were entrenched. It was only after my mentoring session through the Futures Network that I realised the importance of a truly entrepreneurial mindset.
Here's what I learned.
1 Relish your independence
No matter where you work, you will have some agency within your day job – there are always areas where you have autonomy and freedom to act as you see fit. So it's really important to recognise this freedom and use it. Don't lean on excuses such as "the client won't like it" or "senior management won't go for it". Instead, own your power to make stuff happen.
2 Lead with curiosity
It's frustrating when people say no and we face pushback on our ideas. But rather than giving up or getting defensive, the entrepreneurial mindset teaches us to react with openness and curiosity. Ask yourself: what would it look like if we tried this? Is this an opportunity to test and learn?
3 Flex your strengths
We all have strengths that help us stand out. It's important that we understand what those strengths are and hone them as if exercising a muscle. Keep them toned, show them off and put them to work, especially where heavy lifting is required in challenging situations.
4 Understand who needs you (and why)
In this industry, we know all about the importance of targeting. But how often do we apply this to our own careers? Having a clear sense of your target audience – the people who can most benefit from what you offer – and knowing exactly why they need you is a massive advantage. It helps you know your worth and focus your efforts where they will make the biggest impact.
Having an entrepreneurial mindset helps us think quickly, react openly, embrace change and stand out. Now, more than ever, it is how we will thrive, not just survive.
Collette Philip is founder of brand and strategy consultancy Brand by Me