Remember that feeling? The excitement of heading off to university or landing that first job, the sheer joy of the unknown that lay ahead. We’re going to take over the world! Welcome to the next life phase: The Career. This big, scary, wonderful beast that kickstarts us into ‘being adult’ will carry us through and support us for the rest of our lives. It’s something we’ve never done before let alone have the experience of, and if only there was an instruction book to assist in hurdles that will arise.
Over the course of my twenties and the beginning and building of a career in event management, there were some things I picked up along the way that I wish someone told me when I was starting out. If I could talk to young me now, here are some pieces of advice that I would give.
#1. Always be respectful
Now i’m not saying that I was a rude kid who spend most of their time in The Breakfast Club, but I was outspoken. It is the art of wisdom and finesse to hold tongue when the other person is possibly suggesting something that isn’t in agreement. A: We’re not always right and B: The issue can be approached in a respectful manner. I’ve also realised as the years go by just how small the industry is and how everyone we meet will mostly know someone we’ve worked with. That lady I met on my first day of my graduate job? Well she’s now the senior manager of that department I’m interviewing for.
Be kind, we never know when we’ll meet this person again. Reputation is being built the moment we step foot into our first job. Also, be kind anyway.
#2. Everyone just wants to be accepted
We can meet some serious characters in the line of our career, some incredibly open and caring people and then some who seem to try and roadblock others. Instead of reacting to the actions of others, take a moment to step back and realise they are just like us, are looking for love and security in their life too and might not know how to go about it or are hurt in some way. Now I’m not saying to lie down and let them walk all over, au contraire – to be respectful is to set boundaries. Try to not react to their emotions, instead finding the facts of the situation that need to be dealt with. Remove the emotion and don’t feed the fire. Depending on the relationship with the person, it could be worth to check in at a later time to see if they’re ok. Always remember that when someone lashes out, it is about them and not the person they’re targeting – they are just upset and don’t know how to deal with it. Compassion goes a long way and is a tool used to reach win-win situations.
#3. Invest in a tailored suit (i.e. yourself)
We are human, therefore we are prejudice. I’m sorry but it’s going to take a long time to change this. First impressions are important and have the ability to hop jump skip someone to another level in their career. It’s personal marketing – buy a suit, get it tailored, – look and feel like a million dollars.
Feeling successful makes others believe in the success – Fake it ’til I make it, right? Going for an interview, meeting a client, making a presentation or accepting an invitation to observe an operation – wear the suit, dress to impress. Putting effort into presentation tells the ‘audience’ that they are worth impressing, that we mean business, we’re sharp, intelligent, successful and that our words are worth listening to. It also tells us that we value ourselves. Delivery is the next step, but presentation gets their attention. Of course, this isn’t ‘one size fits all’ as depending on the role it is appropriate to dress certain ways (don’t want a surgeon in theatre wearing a suit), but we can always present ourselves well no matter what the role is. It really is for inner confidence, as feeling good inside shines as bright as the midday sun.
#4. Learn how to negotiate salary
It wasn’t until I was 25 that I had a chat with a colleague who was a recruiter and she advised me the golden rules of negotiating salary. DO NOT be the first party to name a number. There are many one-liners that can be found on the internet to be used. They’ll ask in an interview ‘What’s your salary expectation?’ – deflect by saying ‘I would be happy to discuss salary once it is deemed I am the candidate for the role’ or in the offer stage: ‘Salary isn’t the deciding factor in this role, i’m sure you will put together a package we will both be happy with’. There is no requirement to answer if an interviewer asks what your current salary is. It’s none of their business. I fell in this trap when I was younger as I thought I had to answer every question they asked.
The best way to negotiate salary is in writing. Try as much as possible not to discuss the money part in person. Leave them to make the offer for counteraction. Remember that this isn’t personal, has nothing (per say) to do with the candidate. The recruiter’s job is to keep the price low. They are paid to get the candidate to accept as low as they can. The candidate is the only person fighting their corner, so have a figure in mind, and work towards achieving that figure. There are many more ways to negotiate salary and I recommend finding a trustworthy recruiter, who isn’t involved in active applications, to talk through salary negotiation. Check out a book called ‘Never Split The Difference’ by Chris Voss to learn about the art of negotiation.
#5. Take care of yourself
A healthy body and a healthy mind are the only things that keep us alive so we can enjoy a career. Thankfully today we are much more aware of mental health and wellbeing. So much has changed in the last 10 years and it’s only improving. Yes, the youth have the ability to get over hangover in 11 seconds, but that luxury will soon fade. At the start of my career, I sacrificed my health for the sake of the job. It’s a natural instinct especially when I was trying to prove myself and make a mark in the industry. It’s especially true for me as I work in the events industry. Fuel the body with good food, ensure it gets enough sleep every night and if there’s a busy period coming up, get lots of rest beforehand. Establish an exercise routine. Learn mindfulness and meditation – there are many resources available online. Learning to meditate will have a huge positive impact on anyone’s career – lowers stress, improves sleep, improves critical thinking, allows response rather than reaction to situations, helps to create mind space when working under pressure…The benefits are endless. I talk more about that here.
The list could go on, but above are some of the ones at the forefront of my mind. Have you got any advice you wish you could give your younger self when starting out? Comment and let me know. If you’re starting out in your career or negotiating salary for the first time or have any questions, please ask and I will try to help, or connect you with someone who could help. The more we can share and help each other to learn, the better we can all be in the workplace.
Collaboration, not competition, as Darwin said!