About 6 weeks ago, a colleague of mine asked me to have a coffee with a young lady who was trying to get into my line of work – integrated media. This is the career advice that I wish someone had passed along to me years ago when I joined the workforce. It was also the advice that I passed along to a shiny eyed millennial. I’m not saying it’s right, but it got me to where I am today – middle management! Everyone’s dream! Go ahead – be jealous! Just to ensure that I was on the right track, I also cross-referenced this advice with “Why Not Me?” by my girl Mindy Kaling and a new favourite author – Shonda Rhimes (Year of Yes and a host of shows that I don’t watch). Here you go:
- WORK HARD, then WORK HARDER – I’m sorry to say, there are a very lucky few people that get ahead by being lazy and well connected. The rest of us have to put a little effort into our jobs. Mindy and Shonda both agree and if an Indian Woman, a Jew and a Black woman all give you the same advice, you should listen, or just start your next joke with that as the opener…The amazing Mindy Kaling refers to this as “Hard Work, Or The Thing No One Wants To Hear About”. The young lady that I met with, was wide-eyed with horror when I told her that this was the best advice that I could give her.
- Luck is where hard work meets opportunity. Truer words have never been spoken. I’ve been told that I’ve been lucky in my career because whenever I’ve needed a job, one magically appeared for me. Au contraire mon freres (et soeurs) – that’s brothers and sisters to you, it’s because I’ve worked hard and people know what they are getting when they take me on.
- Memorize peoples’ first and last names. Pretend you are Victor Newman confronting Jack Abbott if that helps (a little Y&R reference for my frousins). You will find that in business, you are your full name. I’m no longer Jill at the office, I’m Jill Schneiderman. Could be worse, my name was supposed to be Ernestine Schneiderman after my grandfather, but my mother wouldn’t allow it. If that was my name, I wouldn’t be working my glam media job (she says with a note of sarcasm), I’d be rocking back and forth in a corner somewhere saying “Why me? Why me?”
- Meet as many people in your office as you can, and try to understand what they do. This is invaluable to me – I work in a company with 30,000+ employees – if you know someone who knows someone, it can really help you out. The more you know, the more you learn, the more you expand your expertise.
- Be an expert at something – that makes you an invaluable go-to. Whether it’s fixing the photocopier or knowing something that your company specializes in, you really need to find your area and become a true expert.
- Develop a thick skin. I used to be so sensitive – any confrontation or perceived insult would hurt my little heart. One day, I realized that the grumpy person that I was dealing with was that way with everyone and I realized that although I couldn’t change people, I could change how I reacted to them. Someone has to be the one to let it go, I’m suggesting that you be that person. It’s not personal. It doesn’t mean you have to put up with abuse, but if someone is just plain outspoken or a little abrasive, you need to get over it, and yourself. I know a lot of people whose bark is much worse than their bite. They have helped me immeasurably over the years and I wouldn’t trade working with them for anything.
- Don’t be an idiot and suck up. People know when they are being sucked up to. Be yourself – trite advice, but true. Always treat the receptionists, executive assistants and people in the mailroom like gold. They often have a thankless job, but they are the ones who can make or break you, not your superiors. Plus most are lovely people. Remember too, that little junior employee that you brush off may one day be your boss.
- Don’t get caught up in the things that don’t matter…worry about the things that will make a difference for you and give in on the things that won’t.
- Know who holds the power and don’t get on their bad side.
- Last but not least, everyone has bad days, I’ve had my fair share. You don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s life, so don’t judge them on their off day. Judge them for how they treat you overall.
There you are – everything you need to get to middle-management and beyond…your welcome.