April marked my one year anniversary as a Sales and Marketing Coordinator at Own The Room/Blue Planet Training, a small (less than 50 employees) public speaking training company with big Fortune 500 clients. It is a startup environment located in New Jersey, and I have learned so much already! Here are some lessons I learned in my first year in a “real job”:
1. Don’t let projects get “stale.” Our teachers and professors were right to suggest that we should work on projects/studying a little every day. The real world isn’t about cramming, regurgitating, and forgetting; it is about learning, applying, and maintaining. Otherwise, inactive projects go stale, and the more time that elapses, the harder it is to pick up where you left off.
2. It’s okay to work for free/cheap. Sometimes. If you want to help someone but they cannot pay you, if you feel that an opportunity could open more doors, or if something can help you build your network or gain a mentor, it really is okay to work for free. This is how I got started freelancing. However, if you feel subservient, disrespected, or as if you are doing work that paid employees do, it is really not. Consult with the labor laws in your area and know your rights.
3. Read, read, read. Start the day by reading the news. Follow news sources on Twitter. Keep your eyes peeled for articles about potential clients and businesses in your industry. If you are in marketing and sales like I am, this is extremely important in order to keep your message relevant.
4. If have a feeling something has been forgotten, speak up. I am not saying to be a crazy micro manager, but it is good to double check things, especially in a startup environment when people are juggling a lot of tasks and ESPECIALLY if your intuition is going wild.
5. Find work-life balance. My work-life balance means to never ever check work email from my phone. It stresses me out and increases the chances of letting something fall through the cracks.
6. Treat real people like celebrities and celebrities like real people. Our CEO says this all the time. Treat everyone the same.
7. Communicate effectively always. When I first started, I was making a lot of cold calls. This made me nervous and I said “um” and “like” a lot. I knew I was in trouble one day when the COO called me into his office. He told me I needed to get rid of the weak language, one of our training program’s key principles. I was flustered and embarrassed, but he was right. How would we sell our product if our salespeople were not communicating effectively? After that, I became extremely conscious of filler words and opted for a pause instead.
8. Be patient. Be positive. I am always eager to see results, results, results. But relationships take time to build, ad campaigns take a while to get right. Time spent thinking and talking needs to be cut in half and time spent doing needs to double.
9. Meet people, help people. The book Startup of You by Ben Casnocha and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn really rocked my world! Introduce people who you think can benefit from knowing one another. Really listen to what people say. Send relevant articles, send thoughtful LinkedIn requests, send thank you notes. I highly recommend joining a club or organization (I like my local young professionals group, New Jersey Young Professionals!) Not only is it fun to be part of something and make friends, but also the members may give you ideas on how to grow your business or career if you let them be helpful. This is especially true for small business!
10. Check everything at least three times. Then give it to three other people to check. Seriously. Be like Nike and JUST DO IT.