Friday, January 21, 2011


I was fresh out of college and working in my first job. Well, my second job technically but we're splitting hairs here. For the purposes of my resume today, that second was my first. I was an account executive at the biggest ad agency in town, and I was in the group that generated the most revenue. So, in the eyes of the ad world and my relatives who cared, I was off to a good start.

The problem was I was the new guy on the team and I had the clients that generated the least amount of revenue. In terms of overall client rank, mine were at the bottom. Which meant that within this group, I was nobody. Though outside the group, I lived off the aura of said group, but everyone knew that I was the runt of the litter.

It came therefore almost as a decree from Zeus when I got the call. I was being tapped to work on our agency's largest account. And not only that I was still going to just report directly to my Group Account Director. And! I was going to be working on the client's most technologically advanced product. Praise to Mount Olympus, my chariot had come after all.

I was all of 22.

So I get to my first meeting with our clients. It was my boss, the Group Account Director, the client's Marketing Director and her Senior Brand Manager. There was also a technical manager there who started us off by explaining this new product. I thought it was relatively simple actually. But this was back in the 90's and tech was a foreign word still to most commoners.

I wanted to impress badly. I wanted to prove I belonged in that room. And as luck would have it, my previous first job (now forsworn but then acknowledged freely) had me working with this client's direct competition. It was not quite the same bells and whistles, but conceptually I had a very good grasp. Which meant I was going to open my mouth. I asked, I answered, I poked, I prodded, I espoused; just stopped short of proclaiming. I might have beamed a little. I was wise beyond my 22 years.

My boss had asked me to wait in the lobby while he finished some outstanding conversations with the marketing director. I think I had two cigarettes while waiting. It was a short car ride back.

We were walking in the office corridor. Past the receptionist, past the keycard entry door. Right after the door closed, he turned around to face me.

"So, I spoke to the clients after our meeting. Overall, they liked you, they thought you were smart and very enthusiastic"

I guess I didn't realize it was an audition but that I had passed so what did it matter.

"One thing though". His eyes sharpened.
"You need to learn when to keep your mouth shut. You talked too much and I don't want that to happen again. "

I was 22.

To this day, I can replay that scene in my mind like it just happened. That walk back to my desk never felt longer.

It's been the best lesson of my corporate career.

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