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What I would do differently in my career if I was 18 again.

I regretted writing this blog within 20 seconds when I stopped to work out how long ago it was that I was 18.

Safe to say those 21 years (bloody hell) have gone quickly.

It was also a bit of a reminder how the overnight success of Molzi (well not strictly overnight, but 4 quick years) wasn't really overnight at all. So many of the learnings, and failures, and contacts that I'd made during those 21 years put me in a much stronger position to make Molzi a success.

Below I try to capture a handful of things I would do differently, armed with the knowledge I now have.

Career aside, I'd have LOTS of other advice for 18 year old me.

Start building a personal brand earlier

I've been using Linkedin now for 14 of those 21 years. In my early job roles in sales I used Linkedin to prospect for customers and was pretty successful. But it wasn't until I started Molzi that I learned about content marketing (or personal branding as it's now known). The concept of giving away our secrets for free was slightly alien to me, and the idea that I should let customers find me rather than me approach them. But I went with it and never looked back.

Over 80% of our revenue at Molzi came inbound through my personal Linkedin profile. Millions of pounds of business, as a direct result of me giving away content for free.

So my advice to 18 year old me is to start building my personal brand straight away. And be ready to play the long game. Don't be tempted to stop because the engagement is rubbish or the leads haven't started flowing.

I predict that it will be very difficult to build any business in the future, if you don't also build an audience. In the old days, you would find your audience through TV ads or newspapers. But that's not where the attention is any more. You have to create your own.

Never apply for a job

Most of the jobs I ever got, I never applied for. And most of the great people I hired, never applied to work with me.

Despite this, I wasted days and weeks of my life applying for jobs, doing interviews and getting nothing from it. And then I realised, that potential employers couldn't create a job vacancy for me if they didn't know what value I could bring to them. So I flipped the process and just messaged MD's and CEO's with proposals on why I should join their business and what I could do for them.

I ended up with really interesting jobs, and often with just one interview and no competition.

I would suggest to 18 year old me, that I should think of a job search as a client pitch. Don't wait for RFP's where you are up against hundreds of other people. Find a way to demonstrate the value you can bring directly and you'll never have to enter a mind-numbing recruitment process again.

Leave bad bosses quicker

Bosses that rule by fear should never be tolerated.

And I think nowadays they probably aren't, although I'm sure they're still out there.

I had a wide selection of bosses in my career. Weirdly most of them had the same first name though. But that's where the similarities ended.

At one end of the scale, I had a boss that listened to my crazy ideas and backed me to bring them to life. And at the other end of the scale, a boss that I was frankly afraid of. I can hand on heart say that I didn't learn or develop at all under the 'angry boss', but wouldn't be where I am today without the supportive one.

My advice young Mr Mole, trust your gut and leave a bad boss as soon as you know. Any time you spend there will be wasted.

Invest less time/stress in my employer and do my own thing sooner

I believe that I wouldn't have had the level of success I had with Molzi if I was 10 years younger when I started it. The experience and network I had built up was invaluable, not only in the success but also enjoying the journey.

But, I probably didn't need to wait as long as I did.

So my advice to little Chris is to build up that experience, but don't waste a second in sweating and stressing over a job that brings no further development or learning, and just makes someone else richer.

There you go. Somewhere out there is an 18 year old version of me embarking on their journey. I hope the above advice can be of some help, but actually sometimes you need to make the mistakes yourself for them to really benefit you.


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