On Friday Nov 7, we had the opportunity to hear from Chris Konya, an innovation consultant with a lot of experience in brand strategy. Currently working for a start up with a really cool name (The Gild), she shared with us insights from her journey from a student to an insight expert.
She started the talk with an unusual prop – a little notepad with the main themes drawn out in a really cute way. Her first advice to us was:
“Don’t fall in love too quick”
At the beginning, Chris saw herself as an artist, an anthropologist, a sociologist, or a psychologist – any “- ist”, as she puts it. However, her dad had other plans for her since he wanted her to go into business. At that time, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted. While she saw herself in these fields, she also considers herself a very practical person. She decided to pursue marketing in college for that reason, and as she wonderfully put it, “There may be a long way to figure out what you really want to do, so wait for a second before deciding where to go.” Her first piece of advice to us was thus, don’t make hasty decisions, take time to explore, which really ties into her next piece of advice.
“Cast a wide net”
Chris casted a wide net of experiences and interned a lot in college. In fact, she used to do up to 4 internships at one point. This experience was very helpful for her in figuring out what she liked and didn’t like. Chris also urged students not to get too entrenched in one field, but to put themselves in situations where they have opportunities to learn.
“Take any interviews you can get and remember that they are not just interviewing you, you are interviewing them. You are valuable to them” was her advice. This was such a great advice that several of our Youth Cafe hosts shared with us and that might explain their success: interviews are learning experiences for the interviewee as well as the interviewer! Implicitly, it’s a reminder that you have choices and value for others (future employers in this case).
“What turns you on?” What drives you? What is your passion?
Back in college, there were two courses which were really exciting to Chris – advertising and product development. Following her interests, she got her first job in advertising. The first assignment was to create a media plan for a small local zoo, which was a job that was very heavy on numbers. However, when she presented the plan to her boss, it was the first time someone was so straightforward to say that her job was not good. This was a learning opportunity for her as she realized that numbers were not her thing. Thus she asked herself, “what part of advertising do I like?” In the meantime, she moved to account management for a while, since she liked talking to different people. This led her to discover that she found strategy interesting, and it has a lot to do with people, like what consumers like and don’t like. Thus, her advice to us was to be self-aware and try to ask ourselves what aspects of out work excites us the most, and to follow our hearts. But how do we develop specific skills? Well, she had the answer!
“Work on the muscle you want to build”
If you work on developing the particular skills that you believe are important for your career, it will help you become who you want to be. For Chris, she wants to be the best she can be. One important thing she learned through the years is that no matter how good or bad things go, just ask how it’s gonna be like next time. All what matters is what you learned from it. Someone once said to her, “you will never be as good as your weakness as those for whom are strength.” Thus it is about the balance between strength and weakness helps find out the strength. Therefore, it makes more sense to work on what makes you unique.
For example, in Chris’s journey, a phenomenon coach from an ad agency where she was working once told her that she was not a good presenter. Chris did not see it as a weakness but it allowed her to focus on what she was good at – coming up with good ideas. On the other hand, she also decided that she would learn how to present and she looked at all the opportunities to improve, and she’s now definitely a wonderful presenter. Another way to work on weakness is to leverage on people you know. For example, Chris used to have a colleague who was very different from her. The more she saw how people respond to him, the more she realized that this is person is totally different from her, very social, super extrovert and talkative. They can do things each other can not and thus, they can play off each other pretty well.
“ Who do you want to be?”
Chris spent a lot time thinking about this. Who do I admire, who I enjoy spending time with, what kind of environment? In terms of environment, are those people nurturing people? Are they growing me? Or cut me down? Are they open to do things in different ways? The other is the level of stretch, how much do you want to be pushed? The environment used to nurture her was not pushing her anymore, thus she moved to small agency. Her advice to us was that we should always be thinking of our next steps and keep ourselves open for new opportunities.
Many of the participants inspired by Chris’s insights had questions for her and we had a lively discussion. Among the many themes discussed 2 stand out:
Are there any tips for reserved people who want to get good presenters? (Remember Chris told us she was once told that she was not a good presenter, and none of those present at the Greenhouse could believe it).
- Work on that muscle. I am an introvert. I used to be quiet and shy. I did it a lot, with people who are good at presenting and socializing. The more opportunities to do it, the better you can be. The key is to push yourself to talk to people. Parties and events are great opportunities, low stake and a lot of people, you might not be able to see these people again thus don’t worry about the consequences, just practice.
- Talk in bullet points and get to the point quick. Chris said earlier in her career, she rambled a lot. Later she learned that for what you want to say, get to it fast, don’t lose audience.
Are there disciplines / rituals to get new ideas and be creative?
Bring in new stimulations into your brain and get new ideas! Think about problem through different lenses. Adjust your brain a bit.
I also use mindfully my subway commute. Physically moving helped mentally moving. I spent this time “off” (alone) thinking about my day, projects, things that I don’t have time to think off during the day.
As you can see, this was one more insightful Youth Cafe (Thanks Chris!) and a wonderful way to end our series for this semester. More to come in the Spring.