This week is the last week of my internship. The past 6 months I’ve been interning for a tenant rep who specializes in restaurants. I’ve gotten the chance to eat a lot of free foods from some really cool places around DFW, meet Top Chefs, and learn the ins and outs of real estate. My boss (whom I respectfully refer to as “the most interesting boss in the world” [see twitter hashtag]) has given me some nuggets of great advice that I think are helpful for any young adults entering the career world. So for all you soon-to-be graduates out there, here are some words of wisdom from my boss:
1. Manners are everything.
It is amazing how much a smile and a polite greeting can affect the outcome of a deal or professional relationship. Clients like to be respected and not treated like they are unimportant (ala basic customer service skills). In the tenant rep business, we tour a lot of restaurant space and deal with the stress of competition as well as the volatility of the market. Sometimes things don’t go our way, mistakes are made, and problems arise. Being humble, polite, and respectful not only sets the client at ease, but shows them you care about their business and are going to do your best to get them the best deal. People don’t not want to work with arrogant people. Prove your ability by your performance and not by your words. Say “yes ‘mam” and “yes sir” and own up to your mistakes.
2. Fake it ’till you make it.
Sometimes, you will walk into a client meeting or lunch meeting and feel completely unprepared and incompetent. For all us soon-to-be college graduates, it can be really intimidating working with adults who have had careers longer than we’ve been alive. Just fake it. I don’t mean make up statistics and answers to questions (you should NEVER do that.). I mean fake your confidence. During my internship, my boss and I would be leaving a lunch meeting with a potential client and he would look at me and say that he was hadn’t known what to say the entire meeting. I was shocked. I had listened to the conversation at lunch mesmerized my how much the client and my boss knew about the real estate industry. After telling my boss this, he looked at me and told me that he had no doubt I could have done just as good of a job. Simply take control of the conversation and believe in yourself. As a theater kid, I look at situations like these as opportunities to play the part of the classy, competent career woman, and it surprisingly works. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in an interview and calmly answering questions while thinking to myself “HOLY CRAP! THESE ARE INSANE QUESTIONS!”. Just take a deep breath, tell yourself you can do it, and realize it is not the end of the world. Believe in yourself.
3. Prepare to be on someone else’s schedule.
The working world is never going to go exactly as you planned. If you are a business student like me, our career lives will consist of hundreds of outlook calendar reminders and e-mails. Sometimes you will be stuck on a project simple because you’re waiting on someone to return your call with the information you need. And you know what? You can’t make them get it to you any faster. The one thing you can do is make sure you’ve got everything squared away at your end. That way, when they finally return your e-mails, you can quickly get back on schedule. With clients, you can quickly impress by getting ahead of the game on the aspects you control while waiting on them to do their part. They will be impressed by your initiative while unaware you’ve been driven crazy by their tardiness.
4. No shame in name dropping.
Seriously do it. Success is all about who you know. I can’t tell you how many times during my internship we sealed deals based on a mutual friend of my boss and the client, a frat brother of his referred us, or he had met some dude at a party. This is why being respectful to others is an important part of life (see #1). Go out, meet people, be friendly, and have fun. Don’t burn bridges and don’t be in situations where burning bridges are necessary.
5. Time kills deals.
In the real estate world, taking things slow often kills them. People get lazy, forget, or competition sweeps in all stealthy-like and steal a space right from under you. In other work environments, you can lose the opportunity of a raise/promotion, grabbing another client, or getting a project completed by not taking an opportunity when it comes to you. You should never just wait for the heck of it. Carpe diem. Seize the day! The world may be an oyster, but if you wait to take the pearl, someone else may grab it first.