“What do I need to do now to start preparing for the ‘real world’?”
“The sports industry is so competitive, what advice would you give?”
“What should I major in if I want to work in sports?”
These are just a few questions that are regularly asked by students or people trying to get into the sports industry. Harvey Mackay wrote a book entitled “Dig Your Well Before You Are Thirsty”. It was primarily a networking book but it also brought up a number of good points in regards to getting a job, getting a better a job and getting ahead in your job.
Having been at the college level for nearly 20 years, I was often faced with questions from students about what to do after college when they get into the “real world”. No matter what age or career you are in, it is good to ask questions before you absolutely need the answers. It is good to have something to drink on hand when you are thirsty. It is good to have food in the refrigerator when you are hungry. It is good to have a parachute packed when you jump out of a plane. Here are a few simple pieces of advice for being prepared for the “real world.”
(1) Network…Network…Network – The business world is full of people getting hired because of their connections and associations. The more people that you connect with, the more you will increase your sphere of influence. Take every opportunity to network. If you meet someone, remember their name. Follow-up with an email. Even more memorable, jot them a note. If a person speaks to your class, introduce yourself to them. You never ever ever never know who you’ll meet that will one day be someone that can help you out (or can be assisted by you). There is also no such thing as an unimportant person. Do you know the name of the custodian? Do you know the name of the I.T. guy? How about the lunch lady? Those are all pretty important positions. They may not be glamorous but they can spread the positive word about you. They can also help you out in a pinch. What about the secretary? Everyone wants to know the boss, but who do you think is the gate keeper for the boss? Get to know secretaries. They control a lot of the business world. Dig your well before you’re thirsty. Build a strong network.
(2) Be wise, not just smart – When I was a teenager, I was walking with my mother and walked across the street when I wasn’t supposed to. She reprimanded me but I confidently told her that pedestrians have the right of way. She proceeded to tell me that I’d be DEAD RIGHT. That has stuck with me through the years. Often times, I might be dead right with my decisions. I might be the smartest person in the room. I might know the right thing to do but it might not always be the wisest course of action. We are not talking good versus bad decisions. We are talking decisions between okay choices. It is like when a high school student makes their final decision on college. It is not like the colleges that they didn’t choose were evil or their life would be a failure if they choose the other schools. They just decided that one was a better option. Sometimes, our better option is the wise one. Maybe the best way to describe it is when your wife or girlfriend asks you if her hair or dress looks nice but it doesn’t. What do you say? You can be dead right or you can be wise. You’ll be dealing with bosses, boards, the public and social media. One response that is too honest could cost you your job or your next job. Be wise.
(3) There is no substitute for experience – Get as much experience as possible. Volunteer for everything that you can. Even if you don’t get paid, get experience. It doesn’t even need to be in your specific field of study. Nearly every job or task can provide you with knowledge and context that might help you down the road. I volunteered at a library for a few months when I was in high school. That actually helped me in my first coaching job when I was in charge of study hall and we had all of our sessions in the library. Learn as much as you possibly can. Do not look at tasks as beneath you. You’ll gain valuable insights but also demonstrate your initiative and work ethic. Volunteer to be on committees. Volunteer to do what no one else wants to do. Volunteer for what everyone wants to do. Volunteer.
(4) Exceed expectations – Be good at whatever you do. In fact, be better than good. What will set you apart from everyone else? How will you add value to the company, the team, your colleagues or your boss? Are you irreplaceable? If you want to get a raise, get a better job or earn more respect then you need to better or different than those around you. The earlier you start doing this, the better habits you’ll develop. Don’t wait to get that big job and then you’ll start working hard. Don’t wait until you get disgruntled and want more money or more responsibility. Establish good habits now. Make people take notice. Be the best intern. Be early for meetings. Turn assignments in on time. Refuse to offer excuses. Be proactive. Mediocrity is the norm. What will you do to exceed expectations and make yourself irreplaceable?
Jamy Bechler is the executive director of U-Leadership and a John Maxwell Certified Leadership Speaker and Coach. Contact him at CoachBechler@CoachBechler.com to find out how you or your team can be more successful.