Dealing with Advice

Some tips for entering the work force.

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Back when we were headquartered in Cincinnati, our corporate attorney was the same person who represented some of the members of the legendary Big Red Machine, including Johnny Bench, the famous Hall-of-Fame catcher.  My father got to know Johnny over the years through our attorney’s holiday parties.  Years later, after we moved to the Tampa Bay area, my father called our attorney on a day when Bench happened to be sitting in his office.  Wanting to send his regards, my father asked to speak to Johnny on the phone and told him his grandson (my son) was playing catcher in Little League and asked Bench if he had any advice for him.  He replied, “Yes, there are three things he must do; first, if you’re the catcher, you must catch the ball at all costs, that is your job; Second, when you make a throw to another base, point your opposite foot in the direction of the base, it will help guide you in the proper direction, and; Third, always wear a cup.”  Although his last point was said in jest, it was not without merit.  Over the years, as I coached several Little League teams, I always began my catcher clinic with this little anecdote.  It was simple, humorous, and because it originated from someone highly respected in his trade, my players took it to heart.

Throughout our lives we are always seeking advice, be it from a parent, a mentor, a coach, a teacher, or whomever.  The obvious is not always obvious and, as such, we find our way through life by the help and society of others.  Although we may be seeking acceptance for our decisions, advice is primarily aimed at lighting the way to a destination we must travel alone.  Consequently, the better the advice we obtain, the more confident we will be in our journey as it helps minimize the number of mistakes we may make.

If you are familiar with my work, you know several of my tutorials are aimed at offering advice to young people as they enter the work force, including my book, “Morphing into the Real World,” which is a handbook on how to develop their personal and professional lives.  Recently, I asked some confidants what three pieces of advice they would offer young people, and although there was some commonality in their answers, there were also differences:

The “Great One” of Sarasota is a management consultant who worked in a Fortune 500 company for several years and is intimate with both Information Technology and corporate politics.  His advice:

1.  Stay hands on, be a subject matter expert, stay on top of the skills required for your profession.

2.  Develop solid communication skills, written and verbal and use them often.

3.  Embrace positive workplace ethics and treat others as you would want them to treat you.

Another friend is a much traveled writer from Michigan who frequently pens political articles:

1.  Forget the current fashion trends: hide any tattoos and lose all piercings that show.  Dress for success.

2.  Brush up on your writing skills.  The shorthand you’ve learned from texting leads to some rather bad habits which can make you look bad.

3.  Research the company you are applying to so you can ask intelligent questions and establish a better rapport with your interviewers.

A friend from Texas has experience in both the military as well as research and development in the corporate sector:

1.  Do your research.  Make your career in a viable industry you like.  No one does well in a job they hate.

2.  Be honest with yourself and evaluate what you are bringing to the job.  Jobs exist because there is a business need.  How do your skills answer that need?

3.  If you are going to work for a company, then put yourself into it.  Take ownership, be accountable, work as if the success of the company depends on your performance alone.

Another friend is a radio personality from New York with a broad and well rounded experience in the business world:

1.  When you first walk through the door, find someone you respect that will mentor you.

2.  Find out everything you can about the field you have just entered, e.g., history, statistics, market share, potential, and  know your product.

3.  Dress for the job you want, not the job you have and remember that FILO means “First In, Last Out”; people will notice.

As for me, I offer the following:

1.  Pay attention; learn as much as you can.

2.  Tell the truth; do not fabricate an excuse or answer.

3.  Consider someone other than yourself; thereby promoting teamwork and the concept of sacrifice for the common good.  In other words, try to get along with your fellow workers.

You’ll notice, there is nothing magical or complicated in the advice given here, just some rather simple lessons which have proven beneficial over the years.  Regardless of the advice given you, whether it is included herein or found elsewhere, you must always remember one important fact, it is only advice; nothing more, nothing less.  Whether you believe the advice is valid or not, YOU are the person who must decide to make use of it, not your advisors.  They are not the ones who will be held accountable for the ultimate decision, YOU are.  As any attorney, accountant, or financial advisor worth his salt will tell you, they are paid to give you advice, but only YOU can make the decision.  Let’s just hope you are getting good advice.  As for me, if someone like Johnny Bench says my catcher should wear a cup, by God my catcher is going to wear a cup.

Keep the Faith!