By Anna Seacat
Whether in the form of a termination, lost client, or failed pitch, I have yet to meet a leader who has not felt the sting of a major career set-back. Mine occurred a decade ago, but I survived the challenge, and my career is better off because of it. I was reminded of this turning-lemons-into-lemonade mentality while reading the new February issue of Fast Company, wherein the recently fired manager of Lady Gaga, Troy Carter, shared how he has remained successful despite being fired several times by major players in the entertainment industry. Below is a brief summary of the 5 key takeaways:
#1 DON’T BE SCARED TO PICK UP A SCRAP OFF OF SOMEONE’S CUTTING ROOM FLOOR.
After being fired by Eve, Troy Carter decided to sign on Lady Gaga as a client. However, at the time, Gaga was an unknown artist, who had just been dropped by @DefJamRecords. Coupled with this fact and the artist’s odd style, most managers would have (and did) turn her away. However, Carter explained that part of being a survivor is seeing opportunity where others see scrap.
#2 DON’T BE AFRAID TO GIVE AWAY YOUR TALENTS (at least temporarily).
When Carter couldn’t get Gaga’s first single on the radio, he began to engage fans by “pumping out homespun content on YouTube” (Sacks, 2014, p. 80). Although artists have come around and now see the value in giving fans free content via social media, at the time that Carter began to post Gaga’s music videos on YouTube, the rest of the industry was cursing the medium. He argued that when you are just starting out or have been pushed down, working for free will create a valuable network of supporters.
#3 CONSIDER WORKING AND INVESTING IN OUTSIDE INDUSTRIES
Early on in his career, Troy Carter was fired by Will Smith’s camp, next Eve, and most recently Lady Gaga. He credits his willingness to a set aside a portion of his capital and energy to projects in other industries as one of his safety nets. In fact, while working for Gaga, Carter was dabbling in the technology industry by investing and consulting tech start-ups. So, when Gaga cut him loose, he had laid the foundation to jump into several profitable projects.
#4 BE WILLING TO MOVE OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
In the Fast Company article, Carter noted that most professionals are comfortable with how business is done in their industry. However, when he or one of his clients are low on the totem pole or on the rebound, he looks for alternative and unconventional ways of conducting business. As a result, his willingness to try new things has earned him a reputation for being cutting-edge. In fact, he is credited for moving the music industry into the social media realm.
#5 ACCEPT THAT YOUR COMEBACK WILL TAKE TIME
Troy Carter admitted that losing the Gaga account was an emotional set-back. And, even though he is incorporating all of the rebound tactics above, he admitted that his comeback will take time. However, he values the time involved in building a successful career. Carter’s current book of business is not anywhere close to the level that Lady Gaga is, but he refuses to use his industry networks to rocket his clients to the top of mass media. He explained that, while a recently dismissed executive or a no-name artist may want to reach the top immediately, he aims for his and his clients’ success to be “slow-bake versus microwave” (p. 104), because only then can the success be sustained through down-turns.
It is understandably difficult for leaders to accept rejection, but perhaps accepting that the comeback will not happen overnight is the real challenge. If you ever do find yourself packing a box and moving on, remember that whoever just dismissed you is surely not as well-known or influential as Lady Gaga. And, yet, even her rejections are (slowly, but surely) on the rebound.
Do you have an inspiring story about being fired, losing a client, or being dismissed after a pitch? Please send me a message to share with your fellow readers. Cheers to rebounding.
Sacks, D. (2014, February). Step Up. Fast Company, 182, 78-80, 104.