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The Plus-One Mindset and Your Marketing Career

The year was 1994. I had just graduated law school from Boston University and was debating whether to finish one more semester to finish my Masters in Mass Communication or go work in a law firm straightaway.

It was a simple cost/benefit analysis until I learned that BU was installing a state-of-the-art Power Macintosh lab. They had a one gigabit, standalone hard drive folks! The chance to use such cutting-edge technology and this emerging thing called “the Internet” made my decision easy, so I stayed and caught the web-bug that fueled my quick escape from the law and my 20+ year career in digital marketing.

Like all marketers of my generation, we learned digital marketing on the fly. We had to teach customers what the web was. We had to sell websites by analogizing them to “digital brochures.” We had to explain what SEO, PPC, CPC, CPM, and permission-based marketing were ad infinitum. We spent nights devouring ClickZ, FastCompany, RedHerring, SearchEngineLand, Wired, and the latest Seth Godin tome for new insights that might give us a competitive advantage, help us ride the next tech wave or at least make us sound a wee bit smarter.

Along the way, however, I was introduced to an approach to work that created career opportunities I could never have imagined. It’s called “The Plus-One Mindset,” and while I can’t lay claim to inventing or even branding it, I can share with you what it has meant to my career and what it could mean to yours even today.

Behind every job is a job description. That description serves a few purposes. First, it defines the qualifications being sought for the role. Second, if well-written, it can help attract top-notch talent to apply. And lastly, it serves as the guideposts for the new hire’s day-to-day responsibilities.

That last part is where a lot of folks get stuck. Instead of seeing the job description as a guide, they view it as a hard and fast set of responsibilities from which they shouldn’t stray unless specifically instructed to by their boss. In the worst cases, that job description also becomes a shield that they wield to fend off additional responsibilities.

The irony, of course, is that you cannot advance in your career unless you take on additional responsibilities. Consequently, those who eschew doing the “extra” things often miss out on the “next big thing.”

Enter “The Plus-One Mindset”

The Plus-One Mindset is the simple notion that in addition to my daily responsibilities, I’m going to look for additional ways to add value over and above my current role. As the internet grew up around my generation, examples of Plus-One people abounded because new tech created all sorts of opportunities outside of old job descriptions.

Take Gary Vaynerchuck. His original Plus-One role was as the host of WineLibrary TV. His day-to-day responsibility was running his family’s liquor store. But with YouTube on the rise, he began sharing wine tasting advice and ratings on a channel he created for the store. This “side-role” not only propelled the business from $3 million to $60 million in sales, it also served as the springboard for the business, marketing, and inspirational speaking empire Gary has built today. Vaynermedia. Vaynersports, VaynerRSE, and more speak to the power of the Plus-One Mindset on overdrive.

Not Gary Vee? No matter, you can adopt a Plus-One Mindset as well and uncover new opportunities in your current role. For me, it was a simple as being the guy who read, digested, and distributed key insights from the day’s headlines to my agency coworkers back in the early days of the Internet. I became the guy who knew the latest marketing trends and technologies which, in turn, created opportunities for me to speak at industry conferences, engage with bigger brands, and make the leap from an agency to the world of MarTech marketing.

Whatever the industry, a great Plus-One Mindset manifests itself through a number of beneficial behaviors:

1. Hand-Raising. Everyone gets overwhelmed at work every once in a while. Plus-One people look to raise their hand to pitch-in whenever extra help is needed and their time permits. This creates opportunities to meet and work with people from across the organization that you might otherwise never meet. And that builds your personal brand as a team player.

2. Fearless Tech Engagement & Testing. About six years back, I spoke to a room full of college students at the height of the blogging craze. When I asked who was blogging, only two students raised their hands. I knew right then, those students would have a leg up on their classmates if they were to go into digital marketing because they were personally experimenting with the emerging marketing technology of the day. This remains a Plus-One opportunity for marketers today.

Are you asking Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri questions to see how they differ? Are you reading up on all of the Marketing AI applications covered in the pages of the Marketing AI Institute? Or The Exponential View newsletter from Azeem Azhar? Nothing helps you see what’s next like getting hands-on with technology and getting insights from those on the bleeding edge of tech. Plus-One’s get that such experience helps see around the next corner to the next opportunity.

3. The Development and Business Application of Mutant Superpowers. As a child raised on the Marvel Comic Universe and The X-Men, I’m a big fan of mutant superpowers. Everyone has one–a hobby, skill or interesting passion that when disclosed in the work environment could become a tremendous asset. It could be that you’re a closeted artist, photographer or stand-up comedian–all skills that could come in handy to a marketing department. It could also be that you’re a consummate networker with connections that can help deals in the pipe right now. Dig, and you’ll likely find a mutant superpower or two that could help fuel your company’s success far beyond your job description.

4. Infectious Empathy. The Plus-One people I know are also some of the most empathetic as well. This is because they’re looking beyond their day-to-day to see a bigger picture that involves understanding the needs of their co-workers, customers, and company and how they can help better serve those needs. Plus-One people may not have all the answers, but they contribute to a company’s culture in ways that make Executives take notice.

I get asked all the time how I went from being a lawyer to a CMO. It certainly wasn’t by way of any master plan on my part. Rather, I did the job and then some. That “then some” was a series of Plus-Ones that have paved my career path in ways I could never have imagined.

So ask yourself, what’s your Plus-One? Because if you’re not asking, you may be letting your job description become a career deception.

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