I was just thinking of a few things you might want to know… circa 2008 as you are starting your career and building your life on your own. I know I may not be speaking to you with a lifetime of experience under my belt, but I’ve done a few ‘trials by fire’ in the last 5ish years, and have learned a lot.
You’ll be working primarily with men, all the time. I know you think you know everything there is to know about men since you were a tomboy and spent a lot of time with your dad and brother, and have always had male friends. Well, let me tell you, you will learn a few things and you’ll learn them the hard way. First and foremost – and don’t discount it because you think it won’t happen to you or that you’re so savvy in the ways of the world that you’ll never get tricked – if you get the slightest inclination a man you work with is being amorous, 99.9% of the time he is. Don’t assume that people, especially men, want to help you out of the goodness of their hearts. Don’t think that a man who wears a ring considers himself off the market. Don’t be lured into a sense of security because the man is 20, 30, 40 years your senior. Don’t assume that he’d rather network with you instead of spending time with his family just cause. And especially don’t trust him because he holds a position of authority (especially if it is over you) – this does not mean he lives by a code of honour as most – ahem – executives do…
I can see you now – you’re laughing at my words, thinking you’re much too smart for any man to pull any of that shit on you. Think again. It will happen. Repeatedly. It will happen by that rep you meet in an office who says he’s really interested in your company and wants to hear more. It will happen by your boss who stays late in the evening and comes in early in the morning. It will happen by that client who says a dinner meeting is all he is available. It will happen by that other client who says he can discuss it tonight… over a bottle of wine, of course. It will happen when you get a new job and apply for a position where your boss just needs to talk to you, one-on-one over several meetings where he thinks tequila is a good idea. It will happen when you go to a conference and have messages left saying that your manager has left his hotel room for you with the concierge. It will happen. You won’t always get it right, but if you aren’t too naïve, you’ll get through it without too many scars.
Learn how to say your piece without being confrontational. Also realize confrontation in business is all perception, and this can occur with any emotion – if you convey anger, frustration, dissatisfaction, etc, your message won’t be delivered. If you can’t say it calmly, wait for a better time. It’s not about being a bigger person, it’s about expressing yourself and your thoughts in the way that is true to you, and in a way you can say it succinctly so that the recipient can understand.
Cut your communication to ‘friendly bullet points’. Make a list of what you want to discuss and stick to it. Don’t be dissuaded or distracted. Keep focused. This will garner you more respect than you can imagine when you talk to busy people, and will position you in the winners seat when it comes to negotiation.
Stop gushing and ask for more. When you get a job offer, don’t listen to your mom and say yes because it’s more money than you’ve ever seen in your life. That’s cute, but it gets old real fast. Results don’t come cheap, and if you know you are effective and competent, you don’t either.
Get people in your life that make way more freaking money than you do. Get perspective by finding people who might intimidate you at first. The funny thing about this point is that the subject is money but it really has nothing to do with money. When you know people who aren’t living paycheque-to-paycheque and can’t remember when they ever have, you realize that they don’t make any decisions on time investment based on money. They do things because it is of value to them – because it’s fun, it’s a development opportunity, because they’ll learn something. Your work is the biggest investment of time you can make, so don’t base it just on green. You’re worth so much more than that.
Don’t just dress well, dress the best and pay for it. This will grow you leaps and bounds in no time. Your presentation is the physical manifestation of who you are. It deserves the best. And for god’s sake, work on your posture.
Take your vacations and if you ever possibly can, take your sick days too. I know, I’m one to talk, but you’ll be a better contributor for it. Take care of your physical and mental health, drink water, meditate, exercise and be kind to yourself. Build your confidence.
Finally, wish the best for your colleagues, clients and bosses. Genuinely want the best possible outcome in every situation, and remember that feeling angry is not a positive outcome. “Winning” but still having that nagging feeling of frustration is not winning at all. Connect to who you really are before dealing with confrontation and change, and you’ll realize you always want what is best for each person. Allow that to come through, and let go of the rest.
You’re doing great and you’re going to be just fine. Know you’re loved, capable and special because you are genuine in your desire to lift people up. Do it for yourself.