Dearest Clara, Last week, I started to think about the lessons and wisdoms that I have learned over the years from my mentors and colleagues when it comes to work and the workplace. But soon I was also thinking of lessons I learned more broadly there as well. These have served me well as I moved from one workplace to the next, and I have applied many of these same lessons from my work life to my non-work life:
- People need to know what you’re about in 30 seconds or less: Be efficient. Know yourself. Know what you want. Be able to communicate that to others. I know it sounds simple, yet it is amazing how many people don’t know how to do it. Sometimes when we spend a lot of time thinking to ourselves, we forget that others don’t necessarily know what we’re thinking unless we tell them. And they’re likely not going to take a lot of time to hear us out---practice giving your “pitch”, that way it will be perfect when it matters.
- The deal isn’t done unless there is ink on the paper: This will happen to you. At work . . . in real estate . . . with your local florist . . . doesn’t matter, it happens all the time. When we get excited about a project or an offer or a possibility, it’s easy to assume lots of things just by talking about it. When you’re on the receiving end of an offer, remember that the terms aren’t done and decided until the proverbial ink is dry. Deals will fall through, offers get rescinded . . . until you are one hundred and ten percent sure and signed, always have a plan B. You’ll be less disappointed in the long run. And if you’re the one doing the offering, try to keep your descriptions as flexible as possible for as long as possible. That way, you’ll be disappointing others less in that same long run.
- Some things will just "go away”: It’s not possible to get to everything that’s asked of us at work (or at home, or at school). Part of learning how to manage what’s on your plate is prioritizing what you know will be important and then taking your very best guess at what is less important. As you get older and have more experience, that guess will become easier---but you will get it wrong sometimes. This will result in some mistakes, and definitely in lots of effort as you make up for it, but overall, it should help keep workloads manageable. Develop your radar for truly important and critical projects and requests that are priorities, and pay less attention to the stuff that will likely “go away”.
- Check the headlines the morning of: It’s just good practice. I don’t know if the news will still even be printed on paper by the time you are my age, but in school, in work, before big meetings, check the headlines. You’ll be surprised how much you reference them because they are relevant or because they help make conversation while you wait for relevant things to start.
- The best bosses aren’t necessarily the friendliest ones: As you start working , you’ll work for and with a variety of people, and you might not immediately like some of them. That’s okay. But there is a difference between liking someone and learning from someone, and in the end, I’ve learned the most from people who sometimes weren’t always the friendliest or the most approachable. However, by doing good work and building up your credibility over time, you’ll gain access to them and lessons that they can teach from their experience that you will not easily get elsewhere. Look for bosses and mentors that you can learn from. Then one day, it will be your responsibility to teach it back to someone else.
All my love,