PLATFORM WHERE I STAND • WHAT I VALUE • HOW I THINK

PROFESSION

Resources and reminders to draw on to help chart my next steps. Where am I going and what do I need to know to get there?

What is a strategist?

Everyone has their own definition of a strategist: a point guard, a connect-the-dots author, a synthesizer, an excavator, an improviser, rock flippers.

I think of a strategist as an architect. They create a blueprint that balances the desires of the client and the context of the space it will exist in. Numbers, sketches, structure, and consideration of context combine to create a guiding document for a project.

Always send a thank you note.

Genuine fan mail is appreciated. A thank you note can be digital or hand-written.

  • Take some notes on what went well in an interview or what you learned from your interaction
  • Think about the recipient: did they seem to enjoy your conversation? Where did you connect? What were they like?
  • On the card:
  1. Date—top right corner
  2. Greeting (first name or title, depending on formality)
  3. Thank you for [taking the time to meet with me, welcoming me to your office, introducing me to...]
  4. I enjoyed [speaking to you about, learning more about...]
  5. Repeat your interest—not your qualifications [I would be thrilled to, I'm even more excited about, looking forward to...]
  6. Sincerely, [name]

Be thoughtful, but contribute.

Be heard so you don't get over looked. Don't overthink it—just because you haven't had the opportunity to fully develop a thought doesn't mean it wouldn't move the conversation forward. Speak up so you can show your investment and understanding of the conversation.

  • I agree with Name. And _______.
  • Name, were you going to say something?
  • Everyone seems to agree that _______.
  • To build on what Name said, I think _______.
  • Yes! And _______.

Cover Letters

Formula = Company + Me + What we can do together

Customize it to who you're sending it to, address it to a specific person, and take the opportunity to showcase what your résumé doesn't.

Research the company and organization

  • What's their mission and vision?
  • What do they value?
  • What is their culture like?
  • What is their leadership structure like?
  • Who works there?
  • What do they do?
  • What are they best at?

Think about yourself

  • Who are you?
  • What do you value?
  • What environment do you work best in?
  • What are you best at?
  • Would you fit well into this organization?
  • How could you be successful here?
  • What would you add to this company?
  • How would this company help you grow?

Draw the connections

  • How could you work together?
  • What makes this a good fit for both parties?
  • How will you both benefit?
  • What would you be excited to do together?

"How do you feel about short and long term ambiguity?"

— SAEID VAHIDI

Learn to make decisions without knowing the full picture, develop and rely on gut instincts, be flexible and release control, and be confident in your ability to rise with the occasion.

What I bring to a team:

I am an introvert—I'm quietly absorbing my surroundings, filing away information, and analyzing the systems around me.

I am a learner—I have an innate thirst for knowledge and I accept the title "nerd" as a badge of honor. I genuinely love to study and take notes.

I am productively distracted—I allow my mind time to wander and play with ideas.

I am a thinker—not a talker. I am intensely invested in my work, but I'm not a vocal participator.

You can expect me to push my glasses up my nose and get to work.

40 Ways to Spark an Idea

  1. Draw a perceptual map
  2. Think of opposites
  3. Find a problem to solve
  4. Go to where the brand is consumed or purchased
  5. How would another brand solve this problem?
  6. What makes this brand extreme?
  7. Did you ever realize that...?
  8. What is the brand's secret?
  9. If the brand was a person, who would it be like?
  10. What's the coolest thing about this brand?
  11. What's the biggest negative perception about the brand?
  12. How does the brand fit into the cultural landscape?
  13. Who influences the brand?
  14. Who does the brand influence?
  15. What does the brand value?
  16. Show the brand to someone else: what do they do with it?
  17. What is the brand's point of view?
  18. What story do you want to tell about the brand in the end?
  19. Find an informant: "interesting people with an undeniable credibility" (Rob Campbell)
  20. Where are the edges of the brand?
  21. What cultural moments surround the brand?
  22. Why?
  23. Craft a "commercially valuable statement of purpose": How can we ____ so that ____. (Phil Adams)
  24. What's the endgame?
  25. What keeps the brand awake at night?
  26. Get stimulation from other brains
  27. What is the brand's utility?
  28. What is the brand's aesthetic?
  29. People like ____ have this brand in their lives.
  30. Why does the brand exist?
  31. What can this brand disrupt?
  32. Make a prototype
  33. This brand is ____.
  34. This brand is not ____.
  35. Make a mood board
  36. Write in bullet points
  37. Who talks about the brand?
  38. What else do they talk about?
  39. What motivates interaction with the brand?
  40. What's the most important thing to know to make this project successful?

RedPepper

Nashville, TN • Atlanta, GA

RedPepper's culture champions the mantra, "Work hard, stay curious, and keep growing." They support personal growth, engage strengths & passion, are creative strategists, believe in change, and value everyone's unique brand of creativity. This is an agency where I can see myself working.

Why I love RedPepper:

  • Redbit: everyone gets an opportunity to lead an educational and relevant ten-minute seminar at the weekly Alignment meeting. It's a TED Talk, tailored to where you work.
  • CreateAthon: annually, RedPepper donates 24 hours of its billable hours and creativity to local non-profits. They strategize, build, develop & create to meet the unique needs of the organization.
  • Planned Growth: RedPepper encourages a "hustle & grow" mindset, so each quarter they note professional and personal goals and have a collective list of "stuff we want to learn."
  • Instagram & Blog: the articles they publish on their blog show inspiration and desire to learn—but are still overflowing with fun. From hand-lettering with chocolate syrup to analyzing Claire's take on Gen Z, the blog & Instagram are full of insights and pull back the curtain on what it's like to work there.
  • When you view their website's page source code, they have a commented out section of code that looks like their logo.
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Career Contessa

Career advice for women—from searching, to interviewing, to professional development. Advice, interview tips, Q&As with industry leaders, job postings, and more.

Mentorship

"Work hard to find her, but work harder to keep her." — Heather LeFevre

  • Look for a champion. They don't have to be your boss, or in your department, or even senior to you
  • Important qualities: inspiring, someone you want to know, has your best interest in mind, calls you out
  • Work to exceed their expectations
  • Follow up and show that you took their advice & did something with it—that motivates your mentor

Questions to ask your mentor:

  • What are you reading?
  • What would you do if you were me?
  • How can I help you?
  • What were your weaknesses and how did you conquer them?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What are my blind spots and how can I work on them?
  • What do you wish you knew at my stage?
  • Who else would you recommend I connect with?
  • What's on your list of things to learn?
  • What should be on my list of things to learn?
  • What would you do in this situation?

CULTURE

Dissecting communities in dialogue with what's happening now.

TOOLS

Instruments and aids to build better work.

Open Strategy

Resources for strategists & planners: trends, frameworks, approaches, analytics, inspiration, templates, culture, data, and more.

Makerbook

A collection of resources for creatives: photography, mockups, fonts, graphics, tools, and more.

Facebook IQ

Insights by Facebook, broken down by geography, generation, device, time, event, and holiday.

Tension

Inspired by Kunal Merchant

(Brands+People+Culture) ÷ Links = Tension

  1. Identify target audience
  2. How do they engage with each other? What do they share? Fear?
  3. Highlight cultural moments—be couragous
  4. Find the edges, seek & prove
  5. Rinse & repeat

Brand Map

Inspired by Declan Bolger

Establish a brand's position:

  • What the brand does for me
  • How I'd describe the brand
  • How the brand makes me look
  • How the brand makes me feel
  • Facts & symbols

We Are Next

From Natalie Kim

"Advice and insights from the ad industry, for those early in their careers."

Hyper Island Toolbox

A toolkit stocked with resources and exercises to inspire creativity and collaboration.

JWT Intelligence

Trends, analytics, and cultural pulse from J. Walter Thompson to lead future-thinking and insights with data.

We Are Social

World-wide social listening and trends of the internet, mobile devices & social media. Don't miss the annual Digital Global Overview.

Google Trends

Featured insights and trending topics from Google about the world and what we're searching for.

NETWORK

"A choose your own adventure of the best kind."

A web of people who inspire, enlighten & motivate me.

Alex Morrison

"Brave & generous."

  • A strategist's best friend is bullet points
  • Don't mistreat the privilege of this industry
  • Attitude and effort are the only things you can control
  • A good strategist is a hybrid of creativity and research

Natalie Kim

"Do what you think is right, until someone tells you it's not."

  • Be a creative sparring partner—build, don't brawl
  • Act as a business consultant—but a cool one
  • Be a futurist—hypothesize, zoom out & ask why?
  • Strategists are numbers people—insights and stories with data
  • Think like a UX planner and designer—turn consumer wants and needs into action and adjustments
  • Look for a champion—and nurture the relationship

Leslie Ziegler

"Learn how to think, not what to think."

  • Don't let feedback destroy you
  • Know your strengths—and your weaknesses
  • Be willing to "stick you hand in the garbage disposal"—volunteer and be open to doing anything
  • Embrace your imposter syndrome—work hard and be humble
  • Get comfortable with no
  • Learn how to think, not what to think

Ken Black

"Follow the things that challenge you and make you grow."

  • Knowing why you're doing something creates resolve and heart to stick with it—when the project is called into question or loses direction.
  • Who you are and who your consumer is are both important
  • Where gives context to where your brand & work will exist
  • Working backwards can be a useful tool
  • What do you see when you close your eyes and think about the brand?
  • When—in the landscape of culture—is the perfect opportunity to implement change?
  • How do you brief & inspire; launch & create change; follow-up & direct energy?

Kunal Merchant

"Don't fight for your idea; fight for the right idea."

  • Aim for "thumb-stopping creative"
  • Brands–People–Culture: focus on the links to find tension & insight
  • Use ideas founded in data to help brands be brave
  • Highlight cultural moments
  • Find the edges

Brock Kirby

  • When you get stuck, go do something you like & that you know you're good at
  • Unplug and don't be influenced by anyone or anything digital
  • Did you ever realize that [insight]?
  • Find a problem or something to crack to establish a sense of direction
  • Human truths over product truths

Heather LeFevre

"Learners believe intelligence and talents can be grown over a lifetime."

  • Productively distracted—trying new things & allowing your mind time to play with ideas
  • Jealousy teaches us where we should steer our energy and what goals to aim for
  • Non-learners believe intelligence is fixed, but learners recognize that talent and intelligence can be nurtured and grown

Erika Bridges & Saeid Vahidi

"A hybrid thinker that brings structure to chaos."

  • Be smart, interesting & work hard
  • Follow your curiosity
  • Know when to give structure and when to light it on fire
  • Find the heat–the core–the insight & build a story around it
  • Relatable truths will light people up

Dana Wade

"Resist the average."

  • Harness distraction into action
  • Keep a clear vision
  • Use data to highlight intersection of creativity & content
  • Have a point of view—and stick by something
  • READ

Scott Bedbury

"Be resilient & flexible."

  • Benchmark of good work: are we proud and did we make people think?
  • Have courage
  • Make it personal to inspire change
  • Discover what you love and be good at it

WISDOM

A catalog of insights to inspire, refresh and remind—instant reality checks, perspective calibrators, & injections of positivity.

Attitude & Effort are the only things you can control. Respond with flexibility, be optimistic, and make certain that nobody else works harder than you.
Celebrate the small things & collect confidence along the way. Be willing to try new things, fail—fail better—and gather confidence as you learn.
Learn to give and accept feedback. Invest in your work, but detach yourself from its criticism.
Recharge your battery, collect your thoughts, find an outlet for stress—do something meaningful for you that brings you joy.
I think the most prominent theme in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird is empathy: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Feel what someone else is experiencing and reframe your perspective.
Fight for the right idea—even if it isn't yours. Feed the idea, not your ego.
"Pangs of jealousy can also be teachers. They give us clear signals as to where we should steer our energy, and they point us toward our genuine selves. They reveal which goals we should aim for." — Heather LeFevre, Brain Surfing the Top Marketing and Strategy Minds of the World
Know who your work with—from the CEO to the night-time custodian—and treat each person with equal respect. Work hard at your job, but don't forget to acknowledge those who are working hard at theirs, too.
Resolve to learn new things, ask questions, and be a sponge. Learn from those around you and build a collection of interesting & useful skills.
Read: novels, articles, fiction, non-fiction, satire, Twitter threads, newspapers, journals, research, poetry, databases, comedy, classics, short stories, essays, mythology, speeches, memoirs, reports...

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