Letter to my younger self: Simon Parker, White Label

Everyone is making it up and career goals are overrated, says Simon Parker, managing director of White Label, to his younger self.

Simon Parker, White Label
Simon Parker, White Label

Dear Simon, 

First things first – working in advertising and marketing beats working for a living – it’s far better than having a ‘real’ job – so don’t stress about stuff. Marketing is wonderful, exciting and interesting and it affects people’s lives – slightly. Don’t kid yourself that it’s rocket science or brain surgery, or anything more than a dog and pony show. Take it every bit as seriously as you should take it, but don’t fall out with anyone over a disagreement about the font on a print ad. Do however, sweat about the small stuff from time to time – that’s where a lot of the important stuff lies.

Clients are not wrong, not brave or cowardly. They have got a job to do as well. What you are doing is important within the parameters of what it is, but it’s not art with a capital A.

Other people’s perception matters – let’s not pretend it doesn’t. But so does being true to your self and reaching an accommodation with other people. Work it out for yourself what the right answer is. If you are a good person, you’ll be alright.

Beware of certainty and people who are certain – that’s not what the world is like. Lots of people further up the food chain are scared of uncertainty – probably because they are a little bit more insecure than they are letting on, and therefore they act more sure than they are. Don’t be worried about that. And if you don’t know something, say so. There is strength in saying that you don’t know, and asking how to do something is not a sign of weakness.

In general, people are nice and talented and want to do good. Don’t give in to cynicism – nobody wants to be around a cynic. Optimism is good, being friendly is good, being kind is good – it’s not weakness.

Remember – nobody else knows anything – even the ones who seem like they do (to quote William Goldman). To a greater or lesser extent, that’s true – everyone is making it up. There are a lot of people still working what they want to do with their lives in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Sometimes career goals are overrated. I’m sure the idea of an arrowed path is what people make up for themselves. There is nothing wrong with smelling the roses along the way and taking a more circuitous route – it’s more exciting. The ditch is more interesting than the middle of the road. And the greasy pole is just that – greasy – and a pole.

In the end it’s all chaos, and your job is to try and work through that chaos. And don’t forget that ultimately the reason you are doing it, is to help people sell more stuff – let’s not be corny about what it is that we are trying to do here.

You’ll soon realise that the work you did earlier on in life on building sites is where you’ve learned about the realities of business, including the fundamental importance of being nice to people – so you have our father to thank for that. But the best piece of advice you will ever receive is from Bill and Ted – be excellent to each other – so don’t forget that one.

And on a final note – that thing, that time, with that person who asked you to do that thing – don’t do it! And that group that you thought were crap, they weren’t.

So relax. Enjoy it. Work hard. You will have a blast.

Love Simon


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