I had an interesting weekend to say the least, but one of the highlights was getting to speak with a young woman who is interested in starting a career in the magazine industry.
Let me rewind: A good friend of mine is a corporate recruiter. As someone who started my career in the non-profit arena, I have to say I think my friend does just as much, or more, on a daily basis to make the world a better place, than a lot of charities. One of those things is going around to colleges and talking to students about what the job market is really like, how to present themselves to companies upon graduation, and you know—giving them jobs.
I don’t know if you remember how scary it was graduating from high school or college and having to figure out what to do with the rest of your life—but having someone to tell you that you are employable and will be okay goes a long way!
At a recent event she met someone that really impressed her, but someone outside of her area of expertise. Unlike the accounting and finance majors she was used to meeting and greeting, this young lady wants to work in magazine production. She called me on her way home from the event and asked if I would share my experiences in that arena.
Now, I would not go so far as to say that I’m an expert, but I’ve been lucky enough to work for various magazines and publications over the last few years. AND, there were so many people willing to sit down with me and share their experiences and advice when I was younger.
So, on Saturday I met with a really lovely girl, with a really bright future. The experience got me thinking about what I think about the most important professional advice I’ve received or learned over the years—and the truth is I think it kind of transcends most professions. I mean sure, I gave some publishing specific tips, but most of my advice was pretty general.
Here are the tidbits I’ve learned in my 9-years of grown-up jobs, and many years before that of not-so-grown up jobs.
I think that for a lot of people the word “networking” dredges up images of cheap suits, sweaty palms, toothy grins, and business cards. That’s not how I see it. I really, more than anything else, believe networking is about making friends. That takes time, but it’s worth it. Taking time to get to know people, their likes and dislikes, and the ins-and-outs of their lives, and allowing them to know you and yours—not only adds more to your social life and support system, but it means that you will be prime time on their radar when something that fits your skill set and interests crosses their desk. I would say that I have gotten the majority of my freelance work not by applying, but through my network of professional and personal friends.
Be the Kind of Person People Want to Spend Time With
It’s important to be good at your job, but isn’t it even better if you actually like being there? I can’t help but think that decision makers feel the same way. While it’s sometimes easy to think of bosses as stodgy authoritarians, they’re just people. People like to be around people that they like. And sometimes those people leave jobs and take the people that they like with them. And sometimes those people see interns and think, “They would really add something to the dynamic around here.” I don’t consider this ass-kissing, I consider it more friend-making. You can’t force relationships on people, but you can be open to getting to know them, be around for post work drinks, and coffee machine chit-chat. Those are the little moments that make the work day so much more manageable. Those are the moments that stick out when you think about why you like your job.
Toot Your Own Horn
Despite what you may have heard, bragging isn’t bad. Well, it’s not bad when it’s done in a subtle way. When you tell people what your strengths are, more times than not they will believe you. They will also squirrel that info away for rainy days when they realize they need someone who is really good at color-coding/alphabetizing/investing/project management—and they know that’s your strong suit.
It’s Okay to Suck at Stuff
I am incurably honest about what my short-comings are. For starters, as a writer I have an almost comical misunderstanding of grammar rules. I don’t deny it. I compensate for my shortcomings by having a network of people I trust to proof my work. But, if something slips through the cracks, well—I told you so. If you’ve proven yourself (and bragged a bit in the process) in a work environment, you are valued. You are also human, and if people know what you’re not great at, you may reach a point where that part of the job, depending on the kind of job, is sourced to someone who is good at it. Being honest about sucking is like sucking insurance.
Even Bad Jobs are GoodI have had just about every job under the sun. I have worked at Chuck E. Cheese. I’m a licensed security guard in the state of New York. I’ve been a nanny, an admin, a hostess, and envelope stuffer. I’ve also had quite a few jobby-jobs, and from all of them I have learned what I like and what I don’t. I love the social aspects of being a waitress, nanny, and giant rat. I love the order and organization of admin work. I love the independence of freelancing. BUT, I’ve had some pretty craptacular work experiences too. From those I’ve learned what I don’t like, what I absolutely do not ever want to do again. The really important information to know about your professional life, is that like most things in life, you have more power than you probably think you do. Life’s too short to spend 40-hours a week, every week for 50 years, being unhappy. Learn what you don’t like, and don’t do it.
I probably have a few more professional life lessons hidden in my psyche, but this has become quite the lengthy blog. Now it’s your turn: What work-life lessons would you share with someone just starting out?
Trader Joe’s low carb tortilla, scrambled egg whites, tomato, lite cheese
Veggie burger, cheese, gluten-free bun
Chicken noodle soup
Salad with lettuce, tomato, feta, olives, cucumber, lemon vinaigrette
Exercise: 30-minute strength training, 60-minute walk