I have been in the working world in a sales or marketing capacity for about fifteen years now, and there are several lessons I have learned throughout that time. If you’re just getting started in the workworld, or maybe haven’t had the experience of corporate America, listen up as some of these life lessons may actually save you some embarrassment, heartache, and pain in the future- or in any work environment… and maybe in life in general.
Lesson 1: Never Burn Bridges
Now matter how God-awful your boss/coworker/colleague/outside influencers/client/company is… keep your cool. I can’t tell you how cyclical the world is. You never know when that person you chewed out will end up being your boss or client in the future, may have to hire you for something, or may know someone who knows you. It’s not worth it to get all Jerry McGuire on someone when there’s a karmic chance you’ll end up in their presence again. You may as well give yourself the best opportunity for a comeback. It is SO worth it. Do not burn bridges EVER.
Lesson 2: Bad bosses/people will weed themselves out (unless they own the company)
If someone is a terrible leader, at some point it is going to show. And the leadership above that leader should be astute enough to figure it out. If your boss is just lacking the skills necessary to be a leader- perhaps there is option for improvement. If your boss is lacking the attitude for being a leader, then there definitely can be a problem. The best thing you can do, is well, focus on yourself. Do what you need to do to get your job done. Don’t complain unless asked for constructive feedback from higher-ups… and always be careful what you say, especially in writing. Just bite your tongue if you can. Pick your battles wisely.
And try not to cry or get emotional… it helps NOTHING. Remove yourself mentally from the situation. If your boss is truly a terrible person, that’s their own damn fault- not yours. Their terribleness has 100% nothing to do with you. It has to do with their own loneliness/family issues/self-esteem/self-perceived inadequacies.
Lesson 3: Triple check that email.
Oh gawd. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sent an email and didn’t spell check or wrote a funny subject line only for it to be forwarded up and around a thousand times and be so embarrassed by it. Or have seen ‘Company All’ emails get the ‘reply all’ treatment by a bunch of idiots that clog my inbox. People are busy. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Lesson 4: Leave when you’re on top.
My good friend A-train was on top of the world- literally- he was ranked like #2 in our sales organization and a Director position opened up for which I encouraged him to apply. He said he didn’t want to go yet because he was about to get a big payday and thought he was killing it in his current position- even though a Director level was where he ultimately wanted to be. Sure enough, he waited, and someone else got the position. Now he is #150 and really wanting the Director position. ALWAYS go for the position you want when you’re on top. You may not want to leave just then, but when you’re on top your confidence is soaring and your résumé is bangin’. When you’re on the bottom and want to get out, desperation doesn’t bode well for an interview. Go when you’re on top- always. It’s the Seinfeld way- and he’s still making a ton of residuals.
Lesson 5: Don’t take things personally.
Business is business. For real. If someone rejects you- it is based on the business decision they are making at the time. If you don’t get that promotion or job or whatever, you should probably be thankful because it just wasn’t meant to be – for you- and wasn’t the best fit- for them. If you make a mistake – take ownership and fix it asap… people aren’t perfect and make mistakes. If someone berates you for a mistake, don’t let it affect you. Just fix it. Separate yourself personally from the situation. It will make your life a LOT easier. Less drama=happier job.
Lesson 6: Get personal.
Ok, I know this seems like I am contradicting myself from Lesson #5. I don’t want you to take things personally, but when interacting with people- get personal. People love talking about themselves. Get them talking. Most people’s jobs do not define them. Their religion, sport, family, travel, pets, whatever… does. Talk about those things if they are willing. I am genuinely interested in what people have to say because I think we can learn something from every single person we meet. You can find out something new or something you have in common. This is one of my most favorite parts of my sales job. And don’t ever assume anything- just ask!! You don’t know until you ask, listen and learn.
Lesson 7: Know a little about a lot of things.
I read a lot. I read the news online and get the main highlights every day. I talk to people all the time and ask them about things. I travel, I look for ways to learn more about the world because I love learning. This has made #6 a lot easier because I am aware of many many different topics in the world, locally, etc. The more you know… right NBC?
Lesson 8: Keep your word.
L.A. people are notorious for being flakes. Yep, the LA Flakers. I have friends who flake on me constantly. I have friends who flake on me occasionally. I have dates who flake on me. I have client appointments who flake on me. I never really experienced the magnitude of this until I moved to L.A. Seriously. I had to create a 50% guideline just to keep myself from feeling dejected… everyone in L.A. (unless they have proven otherwise) WILL flake on you 50% of the time. And I think we are so numb to this fact, that everyone does it. I used to take offense to it, but now, it doesn’t bother me much. I’ve been desensitized!
I can say that I very rarely flake on anyone. As you have probably guessed, I have a jam-packed schedule so I kind of have to keep my word or I may lose the opportunity for a while to see that friend/person/client whatever. So when I keep my word, you can bet that makes me stand out in the business world. The flakers may not notice as much- but the non-flakers absolutely take note and appreciate it. I genuinely have respect for people’s time and schedules and I think keeping your word just proves that point.
Lesson 9: Play nice in the sandbox.
There’s no point in being hypercompetitive and/or an information hoarder. It’s like money or love or anything else…. the more you give, the more you get back in return. Seriously, this really works. Try partnering with people instead of fighting with them. Just let go when a competitor or coworker tries to outdo you. The only person losing in that situation long-term is them.
There’s an old saying “Your Networth is your Network.” It is so true. Build your life team/partners. Share knowledge, wisdom, everything you can. It will come back tenfold and everybody wins. What goes around, comes around, whether bad or good. Hedge your bets and do good.
Lesson 10: Show gratitude.
Obama got in a bit of heat for saying that people got you to where you are today. That you didn’t make it on your own. While the way he said it was a little harsh- especially for those hardworking entrepreneurs of the world, I am pretty sure it is true. You probably had somebody buy your first order. Or help you learn the accounting ropes. Or help teach you about an industry or a nuance or a niche or a new process. Or created a connection for you. A teacher, a mentor, a competitor. Somebody taught you something. A hard lesson. A good lesson. Hopefully you have thanked that person. Showing gratitude for the people in your life, the situations in your life- the job you have… means you recognize and appreciate those influences in your life. Count your blessings and be thankful to all of those around you who have helped you out in so many ways.
And best of luck! May you live long and prosper….