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The Greatest Lesson I Learned From My First "Real World" Job


Guys, I did something crazy. When I graduated college, I chose a job that had nothing to do with my major.

Well, I majored in psychology, which some argue relates to everything. But most just say that I got a B.A. in BS.

Instead of doing something reasonable like going to graduate school, or doing anything related to counseling, I accepted a financial planning position in a Fortune 500 company.

Crazy! I know.

I mean, what I spent thousands of dollars (sorry, Dad) and hundreds of hours studying still applied, right? Instead of counseling families on their emotional turmoil, I was just counseling them on their financial planning.

Honestly, it was a great experience. I was able to make a significant impact on dozens of families, and the money wasn't bad either.

As you might imagine, though, going from an arts background to a business career path was quite a shock. Where's the deep contemplation? Where's the creativity? Anyway you draw it, finance is always arranging funds to minimize risk and maximize return - and there's only so many ways to draw that.

It did teach me, however, that no matter what field you go into, you'll never know everything.

Obviously, no one person knows everything about anything. And no one ever will! It's beautifully frustrating, and sadly it's the same way in every job choice or career path. For instance, I've been in marketing since leaving the world of finance, and I can't foresee ever learning everything in this arena either.

Learning curves are steep and never-ending.

But in all the conversations and time I spent in that financial planning position, there's one great lesson I learned. One that I'm particularly thankful for, and that I'll undoubtedly take with me everywhere I go. And that lesson is this:

It is indescribably important to always be candid and to be open, to be transparent and vulnerable.

If you're not thinking, "How does that work? Just about everything I've been through has taught me to keep my thoughts shut in. When I open up, it never ends well," I'd be surprised. It's a perfectly reasonable thought!

I'm not going to tell you you're wrong, because I've found that candor and transparency are two of the greatest attributes any person of influence can possess. Here's an example.

When I was helping families with their financial planning, I had to ask them a lot of very pointed, very personal questions. If you've ever been in a conversation like this, or even just spilling your feelings out to a close friend or significant other, then you understand the amount of trust that has to be present for these conversations to go well.

How in the world could I expect clients to answer these questions if there wasn't mutual trust?! Every single one of them had to trust me enough to simply tell me the truth!

Somewhere along the way I learned that if I'm going to ask a person a deeply personal question, if I'm going to ask someone to trust me, I have to be able to trust them back. That means that every single question I ask a client, I have to be willing to honestly answer in return.

Candor and transparency were key to that position, and I believe they're also key to everything we do, wherever we go.

Anyone can get hired by lying during an interview. But what's going to happen week one on the job? Your relationship with that person and that company are likely going to crumble, which will also negatively affect any employment in the relatively near future.

Here's a more likely example:

You and a good friend are having a heart-to-heart. They're sharing their troubles, their joys, their most personal of thoughts. It feels great to have someone invest so much in you! Then they ask you the same questions.

What are you going to say?

Are you going to be open and honest? Or are you going to come up with some lame excuses and false tales? Of course you'd be honest! Why would you intentionally ruin that relationship?

Now apply this concept to daily life - to work, to family, to relationships. If you want to build connections, if you want to be successful - however you want to define "successful" - you need to be open with others.

Be willing to talk about things that make you feel uncomfortable. I understand this is hard to do! They're called "the difficult questions" for a reason. But putting yourself out there in the middle of the firing range does two things.

One, it shows the other person that they can trust you. We always get caught up in worry about what another is going to think of us once they learn the truth. This is nonsense! Many of these situations, I understand, involve some all-too-real conditions of anxiety and depression. But too often our worry in what the other thinks of our "real" selves is largely illegitimate. Chances are that person will think higher of you knowing you can be open.

Whether you're in a coffee shop or a board room, when you give an open answer, you prove you can be trusted.

The second thing putting yourself out there does is give you confidence. Putting yourself out in the open like a fish in shark-infested waters is one of the most difficult internal struggles any person goes through!

In doing so, you're also proving to yourself that you can be open and honest with who you are, what you think, and your abilities. That's huge!

How many people can truthfully say they're comfortable with their thoughts enough to share them? I'll tell you who: too many politicians, and not nearly enough of the people you and I interact with daily.

The greatest lesson I learned from my first job in what they call "the real world" was to be candid and transparent with everyone I have a conversation with. In doing so I've built some great relationships, and created several opportunities that I would otherwise not have had.

Prove to others that you can be trusted. Prove to yourself that you can be comfortable with who you are.