What I Wish Someone Told Me About the Workforce

Carolyn Kepcher maintained her cool - and her class - when Donald Trump essentially said, "You're fired."




For anyone who's graduated college within the last four years, first, let me offer my sympathy: This is truly one of the hardest job markets in recent decades. When I graduated in the late 90s, we felt hopeful about prospects. For the most part, we could find jobs in our chosen field with time and effort.

A mortgage crisis has pushed our economy so far down, immigrants seeking prospects here are actually returning to their countries of origin. This isn't the American Dream. All dismal news aside, there are tips and strategies to give yourself an advantage and increase your odds of being hired.

Always Say "Thank You": This seems so basic, but I've seen many people who never showed appreciation for the opportunity. When I was offered a position that I declined to take for another job, the first thing that went through my mind was to send a thank you note to the hiring manager whose job offer I didn't accept. Remember that we still live in a small world where paths may cross again. Also, I was truly thankful that someone gave me an opportunity.. I recently read a quote from a woman who's a banking industry veteran: "Many people don't appreciate their jobs, but I've been thankful for every job I got."

Look for Opportunities That Others Miss: Even if you don't land your dream job, there is often a hidden gift in it. Carolyn Kepcher, formerly an executive for Donald Trump's National Golf Club, said she learned so many business skills when she was a waitress. She observed that every single table you wait on is a potential sale, and every customer is your "client": You're presenting yourself to someone who's judging your performance. As a young woman, being a waitress was probably a job she settled for; however, she took those skills into her executive positions. She now works for Bill Gates.

Don't Publicly Bad-Mouth Your "Evil" Boss: Speaking of Kepcher, she refused to bad-mouth Trump when he let her go. The reasons seemed clear: His children were entering the business world, and he was bringing them on board. Kepcher kept her class and never spoke publicly about his decision. Meanwhile, she'd been a loyal and hard-working employee of his for many years. Some bosses are truly rude and unfair, but the best revenge is to move on and succeed. Resentment of others will only hold you back.This is a lesson I've learned the hard way.

Be Nice and Respectful to All Colleagues: Whether a person is higher, lower, or at your professional level, treat that person with the respect and kindness you'd like. The old adage of the Golden Rule doesn't stop at the workplace, but many people forget this in an effort to climb. This tactic has short-term results, but in the end, you lose credibility and respect for your behavior. Your reputation precedes you no matter what field you're in. A CEO whom I will never forget treated other executives, clients, and janitors with equal politeness and dignity. I have incredible respect for people who don't base their behavior on someone's title. It's rare and one of the most clear signs of honorable character.

Take Personal Responsibility and Learn From Your Mistakes: There is a columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine who offers invaluable advice to young females in the workplace. If you get the magazine for no other reason, this pays the price of admission. The best thing is she focuses on her own professional missteps: She doesn't blame others for her failures. She acknowledges she took things too personally early in her career, and she knows she would be much farther along today had she not. She's been fired, which she freely writes about and examines without a hint of blame or self-pity. She's mouthed off to superiors (even dropping F-bombs) while seeking a promotion. A career woman who takes responsibility for her behavior - the good and the bad - is a model for how to succeed. The columnist's biggest piece of advice: Don't blame others.

Decide What Matters to You and Follow It: If your career is number one, put more than 100% of your skills, talent, and work ethic into it. If your goal is to raise a family, realize that you have a window of opportunity and plan for it. Some women can "do it all," but the hardest thing to face is most of us have to choose. I've seen more women have a baby and resign than women who've had a family and still put their focus on career. Many of these women - if not all - said choosing their family was the best choice.

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