5 Lessons I Learned As a Young Manager At ModCloth
My career in marketing got a unique and scrappy start when I applied for a writing position on Craigslist for the then-startup called ModCloth in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I was 24 years old, had just graduated with an MFA in poetry, and was looking for an interesting gig to pay the bills while I decided my next move.
Over the course of the next five years, vintage inspired ModCloth would grow to 350 employees with offices in three cities, generating over $100 million annually. By the time I left in 2013, I had worked my way up from Fashion Writer to the company’s first Social Media Manager to Marketing Campaign Manager and finally, to Head of Community and Product Marketing in our (new) headquarters in San Francisco.
It was incredible to experience such fast growth at a digitally native lifestyle brand during the very beginning of my career. I learned a lot from mentors and colleagues, but the best teacher was probably my own trial and error. Believe it or not, I was appointed as the first Marketing lead when I was moved into the Marketing Campaign Manager position in 2009. I was 25 years old with only a small amount of prior management experience and suddenly, a half dozen very smart people were looking to me for leadership. Luckily, my team members were as tolerant as they were hard-working, and understood that I was doing the best I could (we all were)!
Those early years were exciting and tough in a way that no other time in my career will ever be. Years later, not a week goes by that I’m not putting to use something I learned firsthand from my early years at ModCloth. Here are five key lessons I learned that I use to this day:
1. Management is a two-way street.
The manager is responsible for communicating with the leadership team to establish priorities and remove obstacles for their reports, who tend to have a greater tactical workload. It is essential that both parties are comfortable giving and receiving feedback, or else everyone in the company suffers. If you want to be a successful manager, make sure you are receiving (and learning from) feedback as often as you are giving it!
2. Taking on tasks outside of your job description leads to career opportunities.
One evening after I had worked at ModCloth for a couple of months, the CEO walked around the office and asked if anyone would be interested in helping him with Facebook Ads. I volunteered, admitting that I didn’t know anything about it but would like to learn. And thus, my marketing career was born! Even if you’re bogged down with your own work, it can be invigorating to take on a new project that not only gives you a break from what you’re used to, but can also open doors that you didn’t even realize existed. Encourage your team members to identify areas of the business they’d like to learn more about and help them set up extra projects that might help their career in the long run.
3. Mentorship is the most important aspect of management.
Always consider how you can help your team members become better at the jobs that they currently have, as well as for the careers they want to have in the future. What skills can they learn today that will benefit the company now and help them reach that next step? Make this a subject in your recurring reviews so that your team members understand the impact of their current projects as a contribution to their future success.
4. Accepting criticism is essential to successful management.
I used to take professional feedback personally. Luckily, I quickly learned that the only way I would ever become the best version of myself in my career was by learning from the perspectives of those who work with me. As a manager, it’s even more important to welcome criticism. Always give yourself some time to let your emotions subside before making a decision regarding next steps and remember, the expressed dissatisfaction is not directed at the person you are, but at the situation.
5. Be their manager, not their friend.
Your primary role needs to be that of a manager in order to set them up for success for their current job and ongoing career. That often means being honest and providing clear and direct feedback. It’s hard for friends not to take their friends’ negative feedback personally, so you will only be doing yourselves a disservice by blurring the lines between friend and manager. In tough times, work can be a blessed break from one’s personal life, and it can be pretty awkward to have to work with your boss Monday morning after attending a bachelorette party together Saturday night. Remember: Someday you won’t manage your team member any longer and will be able to strike up that friendship any time you’d like!
Maggie Glover is a marketing professional and writing in Los Angeles, CA. www.hiremaggieglover.com