Early in my career, I had a manager who read The New York Times every morning when she arrived at work. (Print edition.) And as an account manager knee-deep in about 50 tasks before 9:00 a.m., I remember thinking to myself, “Well, that must be nice to be able to read the paper at work.”
When we were in presentations, she would say things like, “I don’t know if you saw the article in The Times this morning, but…” and her comment would be met with nods of agreement from our clients. When kicking off a creative team, she would support the strategy with data from a Forrester study and quell any concerns in the room. But, even with these examples, I didn’t quite get it.
It wasn’t until later in my career that I realized reading at work is work, particularly in the marketing and advertising industry. By reading everything from the trades to research, my manager stayed current on trends, gained insights, found inspiration, and perhaps most importantly, mined data to support our recommendations—both internally and externally. When a question was posed that wasn’t addressed in a brief or PowerPoint, she drew on her knowledge to answer in real time, which meant the difference between instilling confidence and creating doubt.
I’m not proposing that industry reading should consume all of our workday, but I am advocating that it should account for some. Professional development isn’t simply webinars and trainings. Reading is one of the simplest ways to help us stay relevant, spark new ideas, jumpstart new processes and ultimately add value to our companies, our teams and our approach to work.