Rookie Mistakes: 4 Life Lessons You Can Learn From My First 6 Months in the “Real World”

Posted by on October 24th, 2012

I’m quickly approaching my six month anniversary in the working world and, along with copious amounts of business cards and an internal clock that stubbornly wakes me up before 9:00am every Saturday, I’ve acquired a bit of worldly wisdom. Granted, most of that wisdom has come from making traumatizing, cringe-inducing mistakes, but in the spirit of over-sharing, I invite you to laugh at—and learn from—a hand-picked selection of said slip-ups.

The Moral: Plan Ahead

The Mistake: As I was cold-calling media outlets to pitch a client as an expert source, I found myself establishing a nice rhythm. Dial number. Scroll through the spreadsheet to read the reporter’s name. “Can I please speak to…?” Pitch the story. Until I came to a name I can only describe as a puddle of consonants, as though someone fell asleep on a keyboard and called it a name. To this day I maintain that it is physically impossible to quickly read and then say the words – “Can I please speak to [insert random characters here]?”- without laughing. With a name like that, you’ve got to plan ahead.

The Moral: Value Your Time

The Mistake: I work in Midtown East. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment in Washington Heights. This was a mistake.

The Moral: Be a Team Player

The Mistake: For the first twenty-something years of my life, I was assured that using the first-person singular pronoun is a perfectly acceptable way to communicate. “I’ll be right back.” “I like your shoes.” “I’m thirsty.” But in a client-serving business, you work on collaborative teams—so in the professional world, it’s not “I,” it’s “we.” “We’ll be right back.” “We like your shoes.” “We’re thirsty.” Suffice it to say it took “us” several schizophrenic emails to fully internalize this best practice.

The Moral: Always Weigh the Consequences of Your Actions

The Mistake: When I moved into my cubicle, I took the opportunity to act like a fifth grader at summer camp and make new friends by stocking my desk with candy and snacks. (Fine, this was only 25% of the reason I stocked my desk with candy and snacks…)  Well, it turns out that what seems like a good idea in the Duane Reade line is a bad idea when you find yourself staring down a bag of chocolate for eleven hours a day. Enter: gym membership.

So I guess it’s true that the “real world” presents a steep learning curve. And sometimes the curve feels more like a cliff. But I’ll take some degree of comfort in the fact that my own professional rookie mistakes have revealed life lessons we can all learn from. You’re welcome.