Playing in The Background- You’re So Vain- Carly Simon
Many years ago when I was a wee lad I was a copier salesman for Pitney Bowes. I was pretty good at it, managed to win a sales contest that sent me to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics and won a couple of other branch awards.
The two things that served me best were my ability to tell a story about how our copiers would help company XYZ be more productive and my willingness to out work my competitors.
Too Young To Recognize What I Didn’t Know
Sometimes when I hear millenials complain about not being taken seriously or about how they are portrayed I think back to that time because that was when Generation X was getting bashed.
We were called lazy, selfish, indulged and more by the Baby Boomers and their parents. It wasn’t always fair, accurate or right, but it wasn’t completely off the mark either.
That is because we weren’t always smart enough to recognize what we didn’t know. If someone handed you a business card that said they were the President, CEO or Chief Visionary of their company we smiled and felt good because we had made a contact that was important.
What many of us failed to do was ask questions like, “how many people are in your company and what are your yearly sales?”
If someone said they were a consultant and referred to having very important clients and more business than they could handle we often accepted it at face value because it didn’t occur to us that adults would try to fool us into thinking that they were more important than they were or that their business was more successful.
Paying Your Dues Is About More Than Peeling Potatoes
I’ll concede that sometimes I have been the guy who rolled his eyes when someone who is barely out of school complains about having to pay their dues and that I am not a big fan of articles and essays about how we should indulge the millenials because they just want to be valued.
Paying your dues isn’t necessarily about peeling potatoes or being the mail room person. It is about taking the time to learn your craft and learn how business works in the real world.
I am a huge proponent of education but the classroom doesn’t prepare you for all that you encounter. It doesn’t necessarily teach you to recognize that some titles are giant piles of bullshit that are designed to make you ignore/forget that the person you are dealing with is trying to sell you something.
When you start shouting words like strategy and tactics I want to hear the substance behind those terms. It sounds good, but sometimes strategy means you go full speed ahead and adjust on the fly and sometimes it means you engage in qualitative and quantitative research about your client and their objectives.
A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. Mark Twain
One of the biggest challenges in the workplace is trying to find ways to help those who are inexperienced gain that experience so they go from being rookies to seasoned vets.
From my perspective the biggest challenge doesn’t come from working with the person who has no experience but from the one that has just enough to make them think they know a lot when in reality they are still quite green.
Once upon a time I was that guy. A couple of wins and a double dose of confidence was enough for me to figure that I could handle/figure out whatever came my way but not enough for me to recognize that a clever salesman could use his impressive title to fool me into thinking they were something that they were not.
And now a thousand years later I think about all of the titles I had and laugh. Some of them were very cool and some quite ordinary but none of them by themselves provide you with true insight into what my accomplishments were.
They didn’t tell the stories of contracts signed, long term partnerships and other things that were significant and noteworthy. Nor do they tell the stories of silly things I said when I was too green to know what I didn’t know, but as my grandfather used to say, you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.