I’ve reached the point where I am officially no longer in the youngest generation at my job and it’s made me start thinking about the things I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. Things I’ve learned the hard way and wish I could have learned sooner. So here they are in case someone else missed that class as well:
1. Never accept the first salary offer. This one is hard, I’m still not good at negotiating salary; I listen to some of my friends in awe as they tell me how they negotiated what they’re worth. Sometimes the offer is really all that you’re going to get, but that’s usually not the case. Do your research, ask friends, colleagues, family, the internet (glassdoor.com is a great resource for certain industries like mine), etc. Figure out what you’re worth and also have a backup of other things they could offer you if they can’t reach your desired salary (parking, phone, vacation, etc.) Women, we can’t stop getting paid less if we don’t start asking for more. And on that note, you can and should negotiate your salary if you realize that you’re being underpaid. It’s not a “snooze, ya lose” situation. Put together an argument that shows your contributions and why you should be paid more, put it in writing, and get it done.
2. If someone is leaving your company and you really want to work for/with them, you have to ask them. Most companies will make employees sign legal documents that prevent them from “poaching” employees, but that only works one way. If you ask someone for a job or send them your resume to keep you in mind, they can’t get in trouble for poaching.
3. Your mentors will rarely be the people you ask to be. When I first started out I was hungry to learn as much as I could and guidance on how to navigate the tricky ad world. I asked several people in my early years if they’d mentor me, they all said yes, and none of them followed through. The people who mentored me, and continue to, weren’t people I asked to do it, they were the ones that I naturally created relationships with and continued those relationships with after we’d ceased working together. The flip side is, if someone asks you to mentor them, try to do it. It’s a huge compliment and there’s a good chance you’re being a total dick by blowing them off.
4. You can’t fight other people’s battles. There’s a lot of struggle and complaints that happen in office environments. A lot. It can be easy to get caught up in it, especially when you’re friends with the people in bad situations. You can always lend an ear or advice, but you have to let them be the ones to solve it or try to solve it. This one has always been really tough for me.
5. You can and should speak up when you’re uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a conversation in the agency world with a group of (usually) guys and it’s gotten offensive/inappropriate and I’ve just played along because I was trying to “be cool” and not be “that girl”. It’s bullshit. Be that fucking girl. No one else likes it, and people will respect you more for shutting that shit down than supporting it.
So what’s the advice that you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out?