By Shaina Forman

The smell of a freshly-opened package of notebook paper… the grinding sound of the pencil sharpener… sightings of glittery Lisa Frank pocket folders strewn across the classroom… Excitement and uncertainty of what lies ahead for the year is racing through your mind.

Lessons you learned from all of those first days of school can wholeheartedly apply to your professional life as a marketer today.

  1. What was cool in junior high might not be so cool in high school. Don’t be that kid who shows up to ninth grade with a rolling backpack. If you’re targeting a new market, what’s always worked for you in the past might not work now. It’s time to experiment to discover what resonates with your new audience and what they care about.
  2. Befriend the new kid in school and play nice. It was always a mystery which of the kids you played with during recess would turn into lifelong friends. Now, you never know where a new professional contact might lead you down the road. If somebody reaches out to you, make a connection for them. They might someday introduce you to a new customer, help you get a job, or even turn into a great friendship.
  3. Fads are fads. On the first day of school my junior year, almost every single girl showed up wearing the exact same denim miniskirt from American Eagle. It was flat out embarrassing, and nobody ever wanted to wear that skirt to school again. What are you doing to stand out from the pack? Just because your competitors offer a deal doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to do the same. Fads are important if you want a piece of the virality, but think ahead about what will most likely bring you long-term success. And make sure that you can communicate your value propositions before somebody else comes along and copies you.
  4. Get organized ASAP. Just as it was important to keep track of your homework assignments in your daily planner, you still need to always have full visibility into everything you’re working on. The more organized you are, the easier it is to prioritize and see what’s bogging you down. Then you can find areas where you can save time and focus on what’s most important.
  5. Don’t be scared to try something new. Join a new club and get out of your comfort zone. Take a random class to learn a unique skill. Do something unexpected. If your marketing communications are becoming the same old same old, or if you’re feeling stuck, get out there and try something different.

And one final pro tip: writing with colorful markers still makes life more fun.